Business Technology

Business-to-business brands reinvent, reorganize, and begin to recover

Cloud transition continues but shows results

Business-to-business technology brands showed financial improvement following several years of playing catch-up, transitioning enormous, complicated global enterprises to the cloud from business models based on hardware and devices.

Many of the initiatives seemed more iterative than innovative, but they were part of a long-term business reinvention process that included workforce reduction. Brands competed fiercely on price but also collaborated when necessary, sometimes blurring the boundary between consumer and business.

These efforts to reposition companies for the cloud and restore sustainable growth helped drive sharp rises in value for some brands, with Intel up 58 percent, Microsoft up 28 percent, and HP up 18 percent.

Intel's chip business had weakened with the decline of the PC market. Intel's share price recovered sharply with strong sales of server and PC chips. Cloud providers, which are a growing Intel revenue stream, may have driven server chip demand. Intel also developed chips for mobile phones and focused attention on the emerging Internet of Things.

The Microsoft improvement reflected a change in leadership, corporate culture and business model. In a dramatic effort to sharpen focus, HP split the company into two new public corporations - one focused on the cloud and infrastructure, the other on devices.

Two brands entered the BrandZ™ Technology Top 10: Huawei, the Chinese telecom equipment provider and mobile phone producer, and Adobe. A maker of graphic design software and a digital advertising solutions provider, Adobe rejoined the Global Top 100, having ranked in the Technology Top 10 in 2008.

Huawei enjoyed strong profit growth as it continued to provide economical telecom solutions to governments and enterprises around the world. Adobe boosted profits by providing cloud subscriber-based digital marketing solutions, from design to channel optimization.

Culture change brightens brand

Microsoft announced plans to distribute the next version of its Windows 10 as a free upgrade for the first year to people who already own Windows. The initiative ensures a high adoption rate and the Microsoft brand looks more generous.

Microsoft also made other free software available and released Windows for iOS, the Apple operating system. These initiatives depended on having desirable products, cultivating customer relationships, and then finding opportunities to sell customers more premium products to improve their businesses or enrich their lives.

This business model may not seem radical, but it is a departure from Microsoft's former culture, which was more sales driven and protective. It is indicative of the company's more flexible and collaborative approach under its new CEO.

Top 20 Chart

Subscription models

Microsoft's initiatives reflect a wider B2B trend, as customers chose to pay to use a technology product, rather than pay to own it. SAP, for example, took a major step in its transition to the cloud from its business model of earning revenue from long-term licenses for software.

SAP introduced redesigned software for managing management functions, like finance and logistics, in real time. Called S/4 HANA, the software can be installed on client computers, or it can be accessed from the cloud, or used in a hybrid of both options.

Oracle also continued its transition to the cloud with the purchase of TOA Technologies, and the company introduced a server designed for compatibility with its software, but at a competitive price. Cisco's rebound was based on its switching business, which drives almost one-third of the company's revenue. (Switches are the hardware devices that connect devices to a network.)

Cisco's share price improved based on the company's business evolution and the perception that the brand is well positioned as a provider of network and Internet infrastructure as enterprises transition to the cloud and the Internet of Things. Cisco collaborated with many companies, including Microsoft, on a cloud project.

HP Reinvention

As part of a five-year turnaround effort, HP split the company into two businesses. One of the new businesses, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, will focus on some of the growth areas of B2B technology, including: cloud, big data, security and mobility.

The other business, HP Inc., will leverage the company's traditional manufacturing strengths, in PCs and printers for example, to develop business in related emerging technologies such as 3D printing.

By splitting the company into two brands, HP intends to compete with more agility and sharper focus. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise primarily will be a B2B brand, facing competitors such as IBM and Oracle, while HP Inc. is more consumer focused.

Both companies will operate with a "Playing to Win" strategy adapted from P&G, in which the companies compete only with the products and in the markets where they're well positioned to succeed.

IBM links with Apple

IBM announced massive investment in cloud, analytics, mobile, social and security technology. It made several important acquisitions, and as part of its shift to the cloud, sold its mainframe business to Lenovo. Revenue from new businesses increased substantially, but during this transition, not surprisingly, net income declined for 2014.

IBM entered a partnership with Apple. The linkage of these two iconic brands enables IBM to design business applications for Apple devices. Apple gains a strong inroad into B2B and an opportunity to sell more devices.

Apple is not the only consumer-facing brand active in B2B. Businesses look to Google for analytics. Using Gmail or Google Analytics is free or less expensive than a package of solutions from a traditional B2B brand. Using Google also creates seamlessness between the technology used at work and home.

Amazon leveraged the enormous computing power used for its online retail business to provide cloud services for business. Chinese e-commerce leader Alibaba opened a data center in the US that will provide B2B cloud services. Both Amazon and Alibaba appear in the BrandZ™ retail category.

Brand Building Action Points


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.


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.


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.


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

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 Kantar Millward Brown

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