Consumer Technology

New products and services satisfy consumer demand

Monetizing keeps investors happy

With a 24 percent rise in value, technology tied with retail as the fastest growing category in the BrandZ™ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands 2015 report.

Brands sought a delicate balance between satisfying customers with new products, services, and mobile apps, and satisfying Wall Street by monetizing their offerings. In a competitive and volatile category, brand became even more important to reassure customers and inspire loyalty.

On the strength of the iPhone 6, Apple returned to first place in the BrandZ™ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands in 2015. The numbers spoke volumes, literally. For its first quarter, Apple reported profits of $18 billion, the best performance of any company ever, driven by sales of almost 75 million iPhones.

The success of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus mirrored the decline in the rate of tablet sales, suggesting that tablets are being squeezed, as consumers increasingly use large-screen phones for mobile computing needs.

Apple, the world's most valuable brand as well as its largest company by market capitalization, became part of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, an achievement that recognized both Apple's success and the impact of technology brands generally.

In addition, Chinese technology brands increased in brand value, despite the slowdown of China's economy. Telecom equipment provider and mobile phone maker Huawei entered the BrandZ™ technology ranking for the first time. With the record IPO of Alibaba (please see the retail category story), the impact of Chinese brands became even more apparent in the West.

Slight rankings shifts

Google dropped to second place in the BrandZ™ technology ranking, as heavy investment spending increased costs and revenue slowed, in part because of the strong dollar.

Microsoft rose one slot, to third place, on the strength of three things: a shift in focus to the cloud, a more collaborative corporate philosophy, and an aura of optimism surrounding the installation of a new CEO. (Please see the B2B story.)

Number five in the BrandZ™ technology ranking is the Internet portal Tencent. Often compared with Facebook, Tencent became China's most valuable brand. Baidu, China's leading search engine, grew 35 percent in Brand Value, while for the first time, Chinese consumers conducted the majority of their Internet searches on mobile devices.

In sixth place, Facebook almost doubled in Brand Value. It acquired WhatsApp and continued to monetize its audience, successfully increasing revenue from mobile advertising sales. Although membership growth slowed, the user base of about 1.4 billion, plus the users of WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger, kept the brand relevant to a younger audience.

Top 20 Chart

Apple brand strength prevails

The iPhone success, paired with the related rollout of Apple Pay and the subsequent launch of Apple Watch, quieted the debate about whether Tim Cook could sustain the Apple of Steve Jobs' eye.

In a separate and portentous move, Apple collaborated with IBM, opening up an enormous opportunity to sell its phones, laptops and other devices to businesses without having to create its own enterprise sales force.

Having always sold premium products, Apple became more explicit about its luxury positioning with the introduction of the Apple Watch, and announced plans to refurbish Apple stores with sales counters and displays suggesting department store exclusivity.

At the same time, premium positioning also presented Apple with one of its fundamental competitive challenges, as Chinese brands such as Huawei and Xiaomi and Indian makers like Micromax offered quality smart phones at much lower prices.

Apple's Brand Power remained a major advantage. Consumers were drawn both to the efficacy, ease of use and design of Apple products, and to the allure of the brand itself.

Google positions for future

Based on its advantages in consumer data and analytics, Google also pursued business-to-business initiatives. In addition, the brand continued to develop a driverless car and Google Fiber, while pausing its Google Glass effort.

The company announced that it would create its own Google-branded telecom network for its Nexus phones, using third-party Wi-Fi capacity from T-Mobile and Sprint. The deal followed by about a year Google's purchase of Nest Labs, makers of thermostats and other devices that learn to predict settings based on consumer use.

These initiatives positioned Google for the emergence of the connected home, as a brand that owns the portals that distribute data and the devices that collect and analyze it.

In a synergistic way, this information about how people live in their homes could help Google's online advertising business, enabling the brand to further personalize messages.

Hardware, software and services

Samsung was also well positioned to benefit from the connected home and the Internet of Things because of its broad product range, which includes mobile devices as well as TVs, refrigerators and other appliances.

Samsung introduced its Galaxy S6 smartphone with a curved screen to compete with the iPhone 6. It followed the S5, which received a mild reception from consumers and Samsung found itself competing both with Apple at the premium end and the price-driven brands like China's Xiaomi.

Amid the rapidity of change, young brands such as Instagram, Snapchat and Tumblr challenged relatively youthful brands like Facebook; Facebook met this threat by acquiring Instagram and WhatsApp. In another effort to engage young users, Facebook enabled developers to create clever apps for using photos, video and audio.

Twitter ended 2014 with 288 million users as user growth slowed, but revenue growth increased. With around 330 million users worldwide, LinkedIn continue to exceed revenue and profit projections.

Brand Building Action Points

1.

Focus on consumer needs and wants. Technology is most successful when it enhances outcomes rather than trying to change consumer behavior; when it makes our everyday activities faster, smarter, bigger, more enjoyable or immersive.

2.

Make yourself as agile as possible. You’ll need to react faster than ever to remain competitive. Ensure you offer routes into your brand that are channel- and platform-agnostic. Make it easy for consumers to research you, find you, try you and buy you.

3.

Work harder to create an ongoing dialogue with your customers. Give them plenty of reasons to stay with you, and to repurchase, renew and upgrade.

4.

Give customers reasons to say positive things about you. Enable them to co-create solutions with you for new products, renewed products or improved approaches for interaction of brand and consumer.

10-Year Trends & Analysis

Being different drives value

The technology category was a primary driver of the BrandZ™ Global Top 100 Brand Value rise over the past 10 years. Technology grew 175 percent in Brand Value, compared with 126 percent for the Top 100 brands over all.

Technology brands comprise almost one-third of the total value of the BrandZ™ Top 100 Most Valuable Brands in 2015, compared with one-fourth of the value 10 years ago. The average value of a technology brand is $57 billion, about twice the $27 billion average value of a non-technology brand.

Business-to-consumer brands grew 328 percent in Brand Value, while business-to- business brands grew 81 percent. Brand churn, with the entrance of new, high-value consumer brands, explains the contrast in growth rates. Brand churn also points to the need to constantly innovate to remain a contender in the technology category.

These six business-to-consumer brands from the BrandZ™ 2015 technology ranking are new since 2006: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, along with Chinese entrants Tencent, Baidu and Huawei. No new business-to-business brands appeared in the ranking, but a few dropped out.

Differentiation was a key growth factor. Apple, which had promoted the brand with the phrase "Think Different," substantially increased its Difference score over the past 10 years, when its innovations included smart phones and tablets. Google's Difference score declined slightly; apparently the brand's innovations aren't as obvious to consumers.

It is no coincidence that Apple and Facebook, the two brands rated highest in Difference, are also among the fastest risers in Brand Value. Apple's brand value increased 1,446 percent over the past 10 years.

Differentiation is a key value driver

Future View

  • Some successful brands, like Apple, are excellent at building tribes of followers who feel an emotional connection to the brand but also an obligation. One reason these customers keep buying the brand's products is because they'll lose too much personal history or entertainment if they don't. This walled garden approach works until either consumers revolt or someone smart finds a way to smash the wall. The more sustainable approach: Focus on building the brand, not on launching products and assuming loyalists will obligingly purchase them.
  • Consumer technology brands primarily adopt a "brand through product" approach to marketing. They work off the premise that one's latest product is the strongest current message about the brand. This approach is not sustainable, as more products come to market on shorter lifecycles. Instead, brands will need to embrace a “branded house” approach (think automotive market), with marketing that builds a higher purpose and position for the brand, under which individual product campaigns will live on smaller budgets through more targeted channels.
  • Major brands that fail to commercialize successfully could implode under the weight of stock-market pressures. Consumer-facing brands with business revenue streams, like Google or Facebook, need to monetize in ways that don't compromise the experience for the consumer user. These kinds of brands face the mortal risk of entering a vicious cycle where the more they commercialize, the more users they lose and the less valuable their platform becomes.

Up 24%


Technology - Top 20 Total Brand Value
$1.0 TRILLION


Category Definition
The technology category includes business-to-consumer and business-to-business providers of hardware, software, portals, consultation and social media platforms. The diversity of the technology category reflects the convergence occurring as brands develop integrated systems of products and services.


BrandZ Top 100 2015

BrandZ Global 2014 Report Top 100 Report

Top 100 Chart

Top 100 Infographic


Methodology and valuation by Millward Brown

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