Apple. Chances are when a consumer anywhere in the world hears this word, they are just as likely to think of well-designed, best-in-class phones as they are the fruit. Apple achieved the number one ranking on the Kantar BrandZ Most Valuable Global Brands 2022 list and is on track to become the first trillion-dollar brand. With a brand value of $947.1 billion, Apple stands out for its high degree of differentiation and continued diversification across its hardware, software and services portfolio. Apple is a phone, a watch, a laptop, a tablet, a streaming service, a protector of digital privacy, all of which resonate with consumers. With a 55% increase in brand value, Apple rose one position to secure the number one spot on Kantar BrandZ global rankings for the first time since 2015. Considering that Google and Amazon fill the number two and three spots this year, Apple’s advancement is no mean feat.
Newer dimensions like streaming added to brand value
What’s behind the move to number one? Even with supply constraints, Apple booked record revenue and profits in 2021 on the strength of both its products and services. By the end of that year, Apple reported some 785 million paying subscribers for its entertainment, cloud, and app services. On the hardware side, it now has 1.8 billion active installed devices worldwide. In March, Apple TV+ became the first streaming service studio to win a Best Picture Oscar, for its film CODA. In the regulatory realm, Apple’s new data collection policies for its iOS software championed users’ privacy and reshaped the advertising and social media industries as profoundly as any government regulation. When so many companies failed to deliver to consumers throughout the pandemic, Apple fulfilled its brand promise.
Product differentiation is key
Even among top brands, Apple stands out for its high degree of differentiation and control. By manufacturing its flagship A15 and M1 processing units in-house, Apple gained even more pricing power and logistical flexibility in the market as others struggled with chip shortages and related supply chain issues. Just as important, Apple’s hardware advances have powered consumer-facing breakthroughs in areas like computing speed and camera processing. These breakthroughs were then brought to eye-popping life by the brand’s best-in-class marketing communications team, which has protected and expanded the brand’s edge in measures of Difference. As compared to other companies assessed, Apple scored an index of 129 among consumers for “great advertising.”
What do we mean by difference in brands? Kantar’s BrandZ measures how meaningful, how different, and how salient brands are to consumers. This Meaningfully Different framework reveals the value as brand equity accumulates in the minds of consumers. This includes impact on penetration and market share, willingness to pay and future growth potential. Our metrics are the summary of the mental connections the consumer has to a brand. Apple’s brand superpower lies in its Difference. No other brand in the Kantar BrandZ Global Top 100 has a higher score (theirs is an index of 197) for this crucial attribute. Just as Apple focused on this quality in their landmark 1997 advertising campaign admonishing consumers to “think different” and comparing themselves to Einstein and Gandhi, this brand positioning clearly continues to resonate and translates into absolute brand domination. Apple founder Steve Jobs believed that his customers were just a bit different and the current brand rankings prove his inclination was not just a slogan but a brand promise. Apple had an index of 133 for “distinct look and feel” and 128 for “unique.”
Premium pricing adds to brand value
"Strong brand affinity underpins a customer’s willingness to pay and has never been more important for organizations looking to offset spiking inflation,” said Martin Guerrieria, Head of Kantar BrandZ. Here too Apple shows its mettle: while rivals like Samsung and Google may deeply discount their hardware, Apple holds firm and continues to command higher prices for its watches, laptops, desktops and phones. They created an ecosystem built on premium pricing. Apple did, however, enter the more affordably-priced phone market by creating the SE series that retails starting at $429, while the iPhone Pro continues to create new benchmarks in what consumers will pay for a phone. This price differentiation allows them to deliver on a range of consumer needs while still being considered a premium brand.
Kantar has identified four fundamentals that are essential for strong brands: a range of well-designed products, delivery of a great product experience, fitting easily into consumers’ everyday lives and effective brand communication. Think of how Apple’s brand stores with their “genius” personnel solved problems for frazzled consumers suddenly working from home. Check your watch to see how many steps you have taken and the time. Enjoy how your kids are safely Zooming with grandma via an iPad. Take the best picture you ever have with a phone that automatically optimizes lighting and image. Enjoy an amazing and heartwarming movie with your whole family. Apple clearly delivered on their brand promises and earned their way to being the most valued brand in the world.