Since 2007, Google has consistently distinguished itself as one of the Most Valuable Global Brands in Kantar’s annual BrandZ rankings. While the brand had previously enjoyed many years as the overall most valuable brand, it has been holding steady at number two for the last five years (behind Apple). After an 80 percent jump in 2022, Google’s brand value did slip in 2023, consistent with declining brand values across the media and entertainment category.
Source: Kantar BrandZ
Leaders in Media & Entertainment
The overall category decline represents a significant correction in how markets have come to assess many tech and tech-adjacent brands. However, Kantar’s BrandZ valuation approach not only accounts for market valuations, but also how consumers view brands. And what we’ve found this year is that consumers have retained their faith in the world’s biggest brands – including Google. Many top brands have actually strengthened their brand equity over the past year when financial market valuations were declining overall. Having a strong brand has helped Google and other strong brands weather the storm, partially offsetting declines in brand and overall company value during the latest market downturn – a pattern we have seen consistently during bear markets over the past 20 years.
What makes a strong brand? Kantar has found that brand equity is driven by three primary factors: Meaningful, Different and Salient. In 2023, Google was able to make progress across all three measures. Google dominates on Salience – the extent to which a brand is top of mind when consumers have a need – which is no surprise as Google has become synonymous with the search category. The Google brand is also Meaningful – it is a brand that meets consumers’ needs and with which they have formed emotional attachment. Improvements on measures related to corporate citizenship, such as ‘sustainability’ and ‘purpose’ also contributed to improvements on the Meaningful dimension.
Where Google has struggled to stand out in recent years is on being seen as Different – the extent to which the brand is seen as being unique or setting trends. Certainly, this was not always the case as Google in its early stages was seen as innovative and disruptive. However, large brands can be a victim of their own success – what made them different and bold in the past can become ubiquitous and mimicked by others, detracting from a brand’s perceived differentiation or leadership in the marketplace. However, large brands should not be resigned to ceding on Difference due to their size – in fact, the top-ranked brand in the BrandZ rankings was Apple – a company and brand that continues to stand out as very different among consumers.
Source: Kantar BrandZ
Future success may rely on AI
While there are many potential paths to improving perceived differentiation, one approach is to lean into innovation. The emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as the next major technological epoch presents a major opportunity for large tech players to distinguish themselves. Google has indeed been making big bets in the AI space for some time now. According to RS Components rankings, Alphabet acquired the most AI start-ups between 2009 and 2020, possibly assembling the best collection of AI talent worldwide. Included in this buying spree was its 2014 acquisition of DeepMind, a company known for employing some of the best AI researchers in the world. And just a few weeks ago, Google outlined some of the ways AI is being integrated into their product suite, including many features that consumers use daily. AI has been seamlessly integrated into Gmail, Maps and Photos in simple but powerful ways that can really help app users in “moments that matter”, and Google has also released Bard, its response to the much-discussed ChatGPT
With some unknowns around AI as the market adapts to its opportunities and challenges, time will tell if big investments in the technology will contribute to Google’s future brand valuation in a meaningful way, but it is clearly where Google is placing its bets in the short-term and it presents an opportunity for Google to maintain its leadership position through the next wave of technological innovation.
The Health-Tech Opportunity
Large tech brands are increasingly recognizing opportunity in the health and wellness space as healthcare becomes more digital and smart devices can help individuals' monitor and manage their health. With healthcare representing approximately 18% of US GDP, large tech players such as Microsoft, IBM, Google and others have made large investments, and it’s Kantar’s view that addressing health-related needs and pain points represents a tremendous opportunity for large tech brands to become even more indispensable to consumers and to differentiate from competitors. For its part, Google has continued to build out health-related initiatives, announcing new partnerships this year supporting cancer screenings, maternal health, and expanded access for Fitbit users. Google is also working to include healthcare strategy into its primary business lines including search and YouTube. In addition, their “Health Connect” app is also now pre-installed on all Pixel devices, allowing users to connect different health and fitness devices and services together in one location. "The future of health is consumer driven. People will expect a mobile-first experience with more personalized insights, services, and care. That means enterprises including Google will need to evolve to meet consumers where they are," said Karen DeSalvo, M.D., Google’s chief health officer.
Of course, large tech companies like Google must tread carefully here as issues of data privacy and security are paramount. Even still, Kantar research finds that more and more consumers are using mobile devices to track their health and that they welcome new tools to help them better manage it moving forward. While there are challenges, the opportunity for a brand like Google is clear.
Google has become one of the world’s most valuable brands through innovation, delivering indispensable products and services, and good corporate citizenship. Staying on top is never an easy feat for a top brand as they will be subject to more scrutiny and will be the target of startups and disruptors. Nevertheless, Google is making bold investments to maintain and grow its leadership position in the categories where it operates, and also responding to the needs and concerns of the communities in which it operates. Being good at what you do, and doing good for the community, should be a formula for sustaining and growing the Google brand in the years ahead.
Read more about the 2023 Top 100 most valuable global brands and 13 category rankings in the new report, with extensive analysis on how brands can find future growth at www.kantar.com/campaigns/brandz/global