Interbrand, a New York-based brand consultancy, has released it annual Best Global Brands report. Topping this year’s list, for the second year in a row: Apple at number one; the brand was valued at $118.9 billion, increasing its brand value by 21 percent since last year’s study, and Google at number 2. The Mountain View-based tech giant was valued at $107.43 billion, having increased its brand value by 15 percent. Coca Cola, IBM, Microsoft, General Electric, Samsung, Toyota, McDonald’s, and Mercedes-Benz round off the rest of the top 10 spots.
As for fashion, there are a handful of houses on the 2014 list, the most highly ranked being Louis Vuitton at number 19, despite a 9 percent drop on value. Interbrand commented on the Paris-based design house’s position, stating that while Louis Vuitton is one of the most famously counterfeited brands, it continues to “repositioned to protect and elevate” its luxury status. The study also notes the recent opening of new stores in Venice and Munich, the launch of a new line of handbags under the direction of Nicolas Ghesquière, and the brand’s substantial social media presence. Specifically noted was the brand’s nearly 18 million Facebook fans, 3.8 million Twitter followers and almost 70 million YouTube views. Here is where the other fashion houses on the list fared …
Number 21 H&M (+16 percent) – H&M’s brand is driving impressive growth and enabling the company’s global expansion. The brand is on track to increase new store openings by 10-15 percent a year. This year, H&M plans to open 375 stores-mostly in China and the U.S. The brand is also expanding its online presence through HM.com, which currently serves parts of Europe and the U.S. Despite aggressive expansion, H&M continues to maintain ethical industry practices and has been honored as one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies of 2014 by Ethisphere. It has also recently been ranked the #1 user of certified organic cotton worldwide.
Numer 22 Nike (+16 percent) – Nike is a proven brand leader, and, in recent years, has demonstrated market leading innovative thinking around its product initiatives. Whether co-creating through NIKEiD, connecting with users on Nike+, or analyzing data to rethink product design, Nike has succeeded in turning a traditional company into a data-driven, customer-centric brand.
Number 36 Zara (+12 percent) – Once hailed as “possibly the most innovative and devastating retailer,” Zara, the leading purveyor of inexpensive fashion, appears to be shifting its positioning from affordable chic to fashion front-runner. The secret to its success stems from Zara’s vertically integrated management of its supply-chain, which enables the brand to deliver up-to-the-minute looks to consumers within days. Simply put, Zara is able to provide high fashion for all-and fast. Unlike its competitors, Zara has not engaged in collaborations with upscale designer labels, it is not particularly active on social media, and it does not invest much in traditional advertising.
Number 41 Gucci (+2 percent) – In a time of accelerating global change, Gucci continues to keep pace and consistently manage its dual identity as both a modern and heritage brand. It has repositioned to own the category of “jetset chic,” a more exclusive space within the luxury market. Corporate citizenship and digital innovation are equally important to Gucci. The counterfeit culture, a challenge common to many of the most iconic luxury brands, still poses problems for Gucci and it continues to face off in court with Guess over trademark infringement issues.
Number 46 Hermès (+18 percent) – The culture of excellence is what differentiates Hermès-craftsmanship, creativity, and quality run like a red thread through all its métiers. This brand’s relevance to luxury customers remains strong in all geographic areas, with double-digit growth from 2013 through Q1 2014. In addition to opening two new stores in China and Japan, another retail milestone was achieved when the Hermès-backed Shang xia brand opened its first overseas store in Paris. In 2014, the company made a significant investment in talent and restructured internally in order to reinforce the brand’s positioning and values. Alongside this, Hermès expanded its distribution and production network, as part of its long-term growth strategy.
Number 58 Cartier (+8 percent) – Cartier, the brand that both stands the test of time and sets the standard for timeless luxury, had a good year for growth. While Cartier’s position as the “jeweler of kings and the king of jewelers” remains strong, the brand is now focused on increasing its relevance by introducing 120 new watch models-in order to become “prince of watchmakers.” With over 300 boutiques, the retail experience is one of the prime assets of the brand, and one in which it continues to invest to maintain consistent customer experiences. Cartier also invested in its digital strategy by launching a full e-commerce platform on its website in 2013, key to maintaining Cartier’s growing presence and increased relevance in the post-digital world.
Number 59 Adidas (-2%) – As an Official Partner of the World Cup, the adidas brand was highly visible during the event, but did not gain quite the competitive edge expected. The competition is fiercer than ever, and adidas–like its competitors–will have to constantly respond to market changes, challenges, and opportunities. The brand plans to expand into key emerging markets, enhance its retail presence, and strengthen its communications. To boost relevance, adidas will be increasing its efforts around targeting millennials, including next-generation athletes. Partnerships with pop stars and athletes like Pharrell Williams, Kanye West and Lionel Messi prove that adidas is, in fact, “all in” on this strategy.
Number 70 Prada (+7 percent) – Prada continues to strengthen its position as the premium-chic global brand by owning the sweet spot between old-school Italian quality and contemporary edginess. Resisting the temptation to simply reinterpret its archives, as many fashion brands do, Prada continues to look ahead. The new Prada Technical Academy, a school with classes taught by retired employees, will reinforce the brand’s links with exquisite craftsmanship and serve as an investment in emerging talent. In addition, the company plans to open 50 Prada menswear stores to leverage growth in a segment that currently accounts for only about a quarter of its sales.
Number 71 Tiffany & Co. (+9 percent) – Tiffany has strong brand equity. Its ability to command higher prices and drive sales, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, continue to fuel growth. The company is appealing to a broader consumer base with its lower cost and more contemporary collections. It remains to be seen if this strategy will diminish the premium image of the brand over the long-term. Though a joint venture with Swatch caused the brand some problems, costing Tiffany USD $449 million in damages, the ruling does not appear to have impacted the brand’s short or long-term business plans.
Number 73 Burberry (+8 percent) – Retail expansion continued with the opening of its new Asia-Pacific flagship store in April 2014. From catwalks to content, Burberry continues to blur the physical and virtual worlds by seamlessly integrating offline and online experiences. The London launch of the innovative retail concept, Beauty Box, marked the brand’s first all digital payment mechanism and features an RFID-enabled digital nail bar. Burberry’s digital innovation collaborations include partnerships with WeChat and with Google. Another Burberry first was the opening of its virtual Tmall store, which now provides an authentic presence in China’s hot e-commerce market, where counterfeiting poses a threat.
Number 83 Ralph Lauren (+9 percent) – Leadership changes such as the appointment of Valérie Hermann-former Yves Saint Laurent CEO-to focus on strategy, merchandising, and distribution indicate the brand’s commitment to maintaining clarity, and to expanding into the global luxury market. Ralph Lauren’s growth strategy includes strengthening e-commerce, increasing global presence-particularly in Asia and Europe-and merchandise innovation. The latter will involve the brand building up its accessory business to compete in the luxury market.
Number 97 Hugo Boss – A new entrant in 2014’s Best Global Brands ranking, Hugo Boss, the German luxury group, is growing both in terms of sales and in the number of directly owned stores–the latter of which now account for 54 percent of sales. Though the brand is best known for menswear, womenswear is now a key growth area. The hiring of a new Boss Womenswear Artistic Director Jason Wu in the summer of 2013 (Wu has designed for Michelle Obama and other female celebrities) reflects this strategic focus.
Number 99 Gap (+5 percent) – Gap tends to find the most success when it sticks to its model of authentic, casual style and Americana. Along with the rise of “normcore,” a simplified approach to essential style, the back-to-basics retailer’s profits exceeded expectations. To strengthen internal commitment, Gap increased employee salaries-which prompted U.S. President Barack Obama to praise Gap’s efforts and buy his family gifts from the retailer.