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Analysis of the BrandZTM Top 20 Risers reveals three drivers of brand value growth: the influence of technology; the purchasing power of China, despite an economic growth slowdown; and the ability of strong brands to outperform difficult categories.

Six of the Top 20 Risers are technology brands: Facebook, Apple, Intel, Tencent, Baidu and Microsoft. The brands come from both business-to-consumer and business- to-business sectors. While each brand grew in value because of the overall power of the technology category, each brand has its own story.

Facebook almost doubled in value based on key acquisitions that kept the brand relevant with younger users; improved its mobile presence; and grew advertising sales, monetizing an audience of well over 1 billion people worldwide.

After Apple introduced its iPhone 6, the brand reported quarterly earnings of over $18 billion, the highest corporate quarterly profit in history for a public company, which quieted most critics who had questioned the sustained brand power of Apple.

Intel and Microsoft experienced brand value comebacks as they adjusted for success in markets that had changed substantially. Intel shifted focus more to cloud computing, having built a business around microchips powering PCs. At Microsoft, a CEO change signaled a renewed corporate culture more aligned with the flexibility and collaboration that customers today expect. 

Tencent, China’s most valuable brand, fortified its position as an Internet portal where people can talk, text and chat, and also buy and sell products and services. In a year when mobile search exceeded PC search for the first time in China, Baidu, China’s leading search engine, increased its monthly active users of mobile search to over 500 million.

A quarter of the top risers are Chinese 

Five of the Top 20 Top Riser brands are Chinese. Three are insurance brands and two are in technology. The overwhelming presence of Chinese brands indicates that the slowing of China’s economy is relative; the size of the market, with over 1.3 billion people and an expanding middle class, continues to be formidable.

Tencent and Baidu are two of the three top Chinese Internet brands competing with each other. Third is Alibaba, which is a newcomer to the BrandZTM Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands this year.

These three brands are all creating enormous ecosystems to serve the online needs of Chinese consumers, although each comes from an original competence: Tencent, a social network like Facebook; Baidu, a search engine like Google; and Alibaba, an e-commerce site like Amazon.

The scale of China’s market drives some of the success of the insurance brands – China Life, CPIC and Ping An – but at least two other factors are at work. First, the Chinese insurers increasingly are financial services brands where China’s middle-class customers find a wide range of services, including insurance as well as wealth management advice and products. Second, insurance is a relatively new concept for Chinese consumers, who view it from an investment perspective.

Strong brands outperform categories

Without the highest value retail brand, Alibaba, the retail category grew only 2 percent in Brand Value. But the Brand Value of The Home Depot and Lowe’s increased 25 percent and 23 percent, respectively, on the strength of the expanding US economy and the positioning of the brands as home improvement leaders.

The 27 percent brand value rise of Lidl, the grocery hard discounter, reflected the post-recession consumer focus on value for money and convenience, both found in smaller hard discounters at the expense of the large hypermarkets.

In fast food, a category beset by consumer concerns about healthy eating, Chipotle increased 44 percent in Brand Value because it delivered healthier food in a more comfortable fast food environment, and told its story well in innovative brand communications.

With brand value increases of 28 percent and 23 percent, respectively, Dr. Pepper and Fanta grew while much of the soft drinks category experienced the pressure of consumer health concerns around calories and artificial sweeteners. These two brands communicated their uniqueness. Fanta benefited because it’s juice-flavored.

The 43 percent brand value increase of Audi reflected the automaker's success in securing its place as one of the world's three leading luxury car brands. Audi also benefited from its popularity in China, where the brand increased sales 18 percent year on year.

At a time when many apparel brands found themselves squeezed in the middle between value offerings and luxury, Tommy Hilfiger succeeded in communicating the affordable luxury of the brand. In its own way, Geico’s brand communications distinguished it in a commoditized insurance category.

Verizon completed its purchase of the 45 percent of Verizon Wireless owned by UK-based Vodafone. The transaction lifted Verizon’s share price. And finally, the Disney brand again sprinkled the magic dust, this time in the form of the film Frozen, which increased box-office and merchandise revenue and profit.