Most traditional measures of a company’s value are based on financial metrics. But if you want to gauge a brand’s potential to succeed in the future, it pays to keep in mind more human factors, such as brand trust, story, and authenticity.
That’s basically the idea behind the FutureBrand Index, put together by the brand strategy consultants of the same name. It takes the top 100 companies ranked by market cap and re-rates them based on how people perceive the brand across 18 different metrics. The rankings are based entirely on brand perception, drawn from a survey of 3,004 members of the “informed public” in 17 countries. The thought is that a company that values things like sustainability and innovation is more likely to continue to grow down the road: 21 of these companies rated high enough to be designated as “future brands.”
Although Apple is the most valuable company in the world by financial measures, like last year, Google comes in at the top of the list. This year, Apple did move up a few spots to take the number two slot, coming in the strongest in the trust category. Biopharmaceutical giant Abbvie, whose products include drugs for cancer and age-related disorders, leaped into the top five from last year’s 20th spot.
In general, compared to previous years, tech companies are still strong, with Microsoft and Samsung also making it into the top ten. This make sense: Since so many average consumers use their products, awareness of them is high (as it is of Disney, which ranks number four). Despite growing concerns about customer privacy, Google came in at the top of the rankings thanks to strong performance in categories that looked at innovation, purpose, authenticity, and pleasure. A relatively high 50% of people surveyed agreed strongly that Google is indispensabile–a higher number than Apple.
But healthcare companies have moved up the charts: Three health-related companies in the top 10, including Abbvie, Gilead, and Celgene. This is in line with the emerging theme of companies that help humans fulfill their potential being more heavily rewarded in the 21st century. An aging population in the U.S., Japan, and several other major developed economies may also play a role.
The index also ranks countries based on the companies headquartered there. In these rankings, U.S. companies have dropped in perception terms, while China is on the rise. Two Chinese brands, Ping An and Tencent, both have the same favorable perception levels as Facebook. This is likely to continue in future, as China’s own brands get wider recognition. On the other hand, as U.S. companies like Apple expand into China, the trend might also reverse, for individual companies at least.
According to the figures, innovation is the most important criteria for a FutureBrand company, and–surprising no-one–finance and oil are still the most hated sectors, with companies like Wells Fargo, Exxon Mobil, and Philip Morris in the bottom ten. Also to no surprise, Comcast is the company that comes in dead last in the category of trust.
FutureBrands seems committed to the idea that customer perception is as important as share prices. “Being responsive to currents in society at large, they offer a degree of foresight and in many cases seem to contradict the market verdict,” says Tom Adams, global head of strategy at FutureBrand.
The key seems to be aligning the corporate message with what the company actually does. Adams again: “Companies are poised to reap the benefits of Future Brand status, if only they can get the balance between the purpose they express and experience they deliver right, or address weaknesses in how they are perceived on key attributes.”
This last seems important. After all, why actually change company policy when all you need to do is address how your weaknesses are perceived? Which seems like an excellent job for a brand strategy consultant like FutureBrand.