Disney forces its brand to top

The force is with Disney, according to a ranking of the world’s top brands.

The US entertainment group has been named the world’s most-powerful brand, pushed to the top spot by the success of last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, parts of which were shot in Abu Dhabi.

While Apple remains the world’s most-valuable trademark – at a value of a staggering US$149.9 billion, 14 per cent more than last year – Walt Disney is the most powerful in terms of its brand alone, according to Brand Finance.

The UK-based consultancy ranked Disney’s brand to be worth more than $31.6bn, a 3 per cent increase on 2015.

“The most-powerful brand this year is Disney. It was Lego last year, which is second now, and which Disney has knocked off the top spot. This is in part because of the massive success of Star Wars,” said Robert Haigh, the marketing and communications director at Brand Finance in London. Disney agreed to buy George Lucas’s Lucasfilm for $4bn in 2012, a price Mr Haigh said was “shrewdly negotiated” and had help to boost its brand valuation.

The Star Wars franchise itself has a brand valuation of about $10bn, Brand Finance said. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is on course to pass $2bn in takings worldwide next week.

“Although Disney doesn’t have a massive visual presence in any of the Star Wars material, it is Disney that has masterminded the creative process, with the appointment of the director and the way it has been merchandised. And therefore it has reinforced Disney’s brand,” said Mr Haigh.

Brand Finance today released its Global 500, ranked according to both their brand strength – factoring in things like advertising spend, marketing investment and brand equity – as well as their financial performance.

Disney was rated AAA+, higher than Apple. Disney is ranked the “most powerful” when the overall revenue performance of the business is discounted – and is thus a more accurate indication of the brand strength.

Apple remains the world’s most valuable brand despite the recent results in which the tech company said iPhone sales had dramatically slowed. “People are obviously pessimistic about Apple, but in our opinion that is very premature. If you look at their PC and laptop sales, they are holding up pretty well, and they are really bucking the trend in that segment of the market,” said Mr Haigh.

“Although we have just had the worst quarter in terms of sales growth of the iPhone, it’s a bit of a misrepresentation to focus on that figure, because the reason the growth has been so slow is because it has been so utterly phenomenal over the course of 2015. In terms of technological innovation, and commitment to the consistency of its brand, Apple has still got it in spades.”

John Brash, the chief executive of Brash Brands, which has a Dubai office, said: “One day, a purely digital brand like Google or Facebook might pass them, but Apple’s mix of brand strength and product appeal remains unbeatable – for now.”

Just four Arab firms were in the Brand Finance top 500 ranking, with Qatar Airways making an entry in the ranking this year. Emirates remains the most valuable Middle Eastern brand, with a valuation of $7.7bn – a 17 per cent increase on last year.


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Ben Flanagan

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