The 13 technology brands in this year’s Best Global Brands report represent more than one third (33.5 percent) of the table’s USD $1.7 trillion total, making technology this year’s leading sector by value. Today’s top technology brands have gone beyond the introduction of a successful product or service—they have delivered on the true measure of innovation: the ability to change the behaviors of the many.
Top Riser Facebook, for example, has succeeded in changing the way people around the world connect and stay in touch, while new entrant PayPal has evolved the way people and businesses transact. The ability to influence actions relies not only on an innovative offer, but on communicating the value or benefit of that behavioral change to the market.
There are several factors at play that imbue the top technology brands with significant sway over people’s behaviors:
1. Expansive Addressable Markets
The most formidable asset that top technology brands possess is the size of their addressable markets. It’s predicted that 70 percent of the world’s population will own smartphones by the end of 2016, for example. So whether you’re a device maker, chip manufacturer, or network facilitator, the market potential is huge.Many of the top technology brands also benefit from a low barrier to entry, especially in comparison to sectors like automotive and luxury. Anyone can get into a relationship with Google, Apple, Facebook, or Amazon for free—or close to it—allowing these brands to grow their user bases with relative ease.The accessibility and reach of technology brands on the consumer side also fuel growth on the enterprise side, as the number of connected users contributes to the burgeoning big data pool and the ever-billowing cloud. Even long-standing technology brands like Intel, founded in 1968, have kept well afloat in the face of waning PC sales across the industry by refocusing on data center innovations and cloud computing.
2. Geared for Rapid Growth
Technology brands don’t only benefit from broad markets, but an inherent ability to evolve more rapidly than other, more entrenched brands. The resources that the top technology brands have amassed, along with the relative lack of industry regulation (compared to the healthcare or auto sectors, for example), allow them to reinvent their products or services with greater ease. Improvements to software can happen quickly, requiring minimal input from their customer bases—testing and iterating ideas is core to the ethos of these brands.
Built-in agility gives technology brands the advantage of being able to pivot into different product or service categories as they evolve along with people’s needs and expectations. This is illustrated by successful startups like Uber, which has evolved from a car hailing app into a provider of multiple services. Furthermore, these fast-moving technology brands are not just catering to people’s needs but raising the bar for what’s possible—not just meeting but setting the speed of life.
3. Seizing More Than the Moment
Technology brands are ones with which we interact in multiple contexts, many times per day. As the top technology brands move beyond their core product or service and into our homes and vehicles, they’re also partnering with larger platform brands and developing multitiered relationships with users that span the ingredient, interface, and infrastructure levels. These relationships grant brands access to much more than our phones.
Some of these brands work as ingredient brands in select contexts as well as master brands commanding their own experiences. The ability to do both demonstrates the strength of the platforms and propositions they have been able to build. Top brands demonstrate that their technology is no longer something that exists simply on our desktops and in our pockets—it’s the thread that connects almost every context of our lives.
Following the Tech Leaders
Organizations in any category can follow the lead of Apple—number one for the third year in a row—by developing product strategies with a succinct brand proposition to center their business. Adobe’s understanding of how people work, both across organizations and at home, has lead to an expanded service portfolio that goes up the value chain in the enterprise sector and gets closer to the user through a suite of mobile apps. Few have leveraged their core service platforms like Amazon, however. What was created as a shopping platform now powers content and entertainment services, and the lessons learned in building that platform gave way to a successful cloud service business.
The success of these businesses and the strength of their brands have driven growth beyond the technology realm. Brands in all sectors of this year’s report are embracing technology brands as business partners, platforms, or both. Finance and retail brands, for example, are placing their bets on technology brands’ mobile payment solutions (e.g., Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay), while automakers are enhancing their in-car experiences with connected services like Apple’s CarPlay.
Pointing Toward the Future
Top technology brands have also become the savviest of marketers by harnessing the equity built into their brands to hint at what lies beyond their current products and services. Many have seeded their next big bets publicly, preparing audiences for what may come next or positioning themselves as visionaries.
As technology becomes more a mirror of the self, developments will continue to evolve around automation. New entrant Lenovo, for example, has moved beyond the PC world with a slew of new smart products—from watches to shoes—powered by the open-innovation cloud platform that the brand itself is helping to develop.
Automation extends to our very thinking with advancements in artificial intelligence (AI). The leading technology brands are harnessing AI to develop deeper interface dependencies—Amazon with Alexa, Apple with Siri, and Facebook with M. Emerging AI is getting even smarter, more anticipatory, and anthropomorphic, with the ability to develop more intimate relationships with users.
From human to superhuman—AI has the potential to not just enhance individuals’ lives, but to advance the capabilities of an enterprise, as we’ve seen with the continued applications of IBM’s Watson.
The concept of “privacy exchange”—trading personal information for perceived value—may also have a watershed effect on the amount of data people expose, which will allow AI to become more nuanced, while putting pressure on more brands to develop AI as part of their own ecosystems.
Locking the Top Spot
Four of the Top Risers in this year’s Best Global Brands report illustrate the acceleration of the technology sector: Facebook spiked 54 percent, Apple jumped 43 percent, Amazon rose 29 percent, and Adobe is up 17 percent. It is difficult to imagine brands outside of the tech sector enjoying the same speed of growth and performance that our top brands are. Their combination of reach, culture, and integration—along with their position as harbingers of what’s to come—will keep the top spot locked up for some time.
Authored by Antoine Veliz & Forest Young at Interbrand