We were far from surprised when we read yesterday that Apple, according to a new study, is now the world’s most valuable brand. The tech and lifestyle brand crushed Google to reign supreme in the list of the most profitable brands on the planet. Apple reportedly is valued at a jaw-dropping $153.3 billion, while Google falls somewhere in the no small potatoes range of $111.5 billion.
What is surprising is the rest of the list. As we perused the big-name companies, we noticed that many of the brands (although extremely profitable) are not exactly well-loved. Number six on the list, for example, is Marlboro cigarettes. While the brand undoubtedly rakes in massive dough, its overall value to the planet could be questioned. America’s most-used (and most-hated) phone company AT&T and artery clogging specialist McDonald’s also ranked high on top the list. This got us wondering: In order to be a profitable brand, do you need to be unscrupulous as well?
The big business evil empire cliché is a cliché for a reason. Yet we don’t necessarily believe that in order to make big money you have to be a big jerk. Mega-brands like Jet Blue, H&M, Chick-fil-A, Trader Joes and Chipotle are examples of how being well-loved and respected pays off with huge profits. Building a reputation as a nice guy is something that small businesses have relied on for centuries. So it always stands out when a huge company employs friendlier, more personable tactics. With digital engagement and social media, brands who care can reach out to their customers faster than ever before. Pinkberry is one of the large brands that does a great job keeping tabs on their customers on Twitter. The company has been known to give away free yogurt to happy and unhappy customers alike after responding to Tweets.
Walmart, ranked at number 15 on the list, is a brand that is still trying to be liked and to be perceived as likeable. Yet its image problem hasn’t truly gone away, regardless of what a list says or how much money it has brought in. The perception remains that the company is exploitive and a little slimy. So, in the end, maybe a brand’s value is truly subjective.