The Top 100 Most Powerful Brands of 2020

Top 100 Most Powerful Brands of 2020

Each year, Tenet Partners analyzes the data in the CoreBrand® Index (CBI) to determine the Top 100 Most Powerful Brands based on high awareness and positive brand perceptions. The full annual report we released earlier this year reflected the Top 100 BrandPower rankings based on data obtained through the end of 2019.

The events of 2020 have upended life as we know it and as a result, drastically changed the way brands are perceived. Because of this, we’ve updated the Top 100 BrandPower rankings to take into account additional data from Q1 and Q2 of 2020. These reflect the ongoing impact of the pandemic, adding current context to the comprehensive analysis that can be seen by downloading the full report.

The Essential Brand Rises

The Essential Brand Rises


When the future offers incredible uncertainty, it offers incredible opportunity as well. Some might even say uncertainty is the foundation of opportunity. Today the opportunity for many brands begins with answering the question, what matters now? To consumers? Investors? The C-suite?

The pandemic has caused many to reset their expectations for what normal means. We haven’t yet entered “end times,” but radical societal and economic shifts are forcing consumers to reevaluate what they absolutely need. Just as businesses are rethinking operations, communications and strategy, people are asking, what core products must I have in my home? What entertainment earns a spot on my queue? What services should I spend my money on today if I might lose my job tomorrow? Consumers will gravitate toward essential brands.

What is an essential brand, and how can a brand become essential? As the crisis unfolds and life metamorphosizes through confusion, fear, optimism, determination and rebirth, clear indicators of essentialness appear.


At a basic level, essential is different than too-big-to-fail. When comparing this economic uncertainty to the 2008 financial collapse, this time around consumers and business customers alone will choose which brands survive the recession. Because even if propped up by government support or private cash infusions, some organizations may not weather temporary or prolonged disruption without significant contraction or transformation. Take the cruise industry — while Carnival (#85 on the Tenet 100 Most Powerful Brands) and Norwegian have taken on billions in debt to withstand whatever adversity a dark 2020 brings, it won’t matter if adequate numbers of travelers don’t have the confidence to set sail. No, an essential brand needs more than cash. They require one, a deep understanding of what matters emotionally and functionally to consumers and two, the ability to activate that understanding.


Essential brands create societal impact beyond their product or service, offering comfort and clarity amidst confusion, and solving critical needs. They deliver authentic and unequivocal care for their workforce, and expand sales even as sectors contract.

These actions, hallmarks of successful organizations in good times, become more important in uncertain times when many organizations wait for the future to wash over them. Essential brands mobilize quicker to outside stimuli. As uncertainty around the pandemic gained momentum, essential brands immediately assessed and adapted.

On March 21, Best Buy, a new entrant for 2020 at #69 on the Tenet 100 Most Powerful Brands, shifted to “enhanced curbside service” to protect workers and customers. For reference, only California, Illinois and New York had enacted stay-at-home orders at that point. This helped the retailer maintain 70% of its monthly retail sales YOY, though it still had to furlough 51,000 workers in April.

Microsoft, a top 10 innovator on the Tenet 100, deserves mention for continual investment in its cloud capacity before coronavirus took hold. This allowed for mostly disruption-free access to Teams, even as daily “minutes-in-meetings” tripled in March YOY. The fact that Microsoft still had capacity to offer free trials is a testament to its foresight.

What if your business model doesn’t allow planning ahead? Wendy’s promises fresh, never frozen beef. But as meat production slowed due to plant closures, Wendy’s temporarily suspended burger sales at thousands of locations. Around the same time, McDonald’s (#28 on the Tenet 100) announced it was boosting marketing spend by $100 million, no doubt enticing some of Wendy’s customers to make the switch. Two lessons: adaptability grows more important as the landscape becomes less forgiving and increased marketing spend during crises positions brands to leverage unforeseen opportunity.

Like Wendy’s, Amazon (#12) was also forced to temporarily reduce product availability as it prioritized deliveries of medical supplies and household staples. The difference between the two scenarios is that Amazon has made its service so essential over the years that it was unable to meet consumer demand — a victim of success rather than poor planning. In fact, as companies were shedding millions of jobs, Amazon, with sales up 30% in Q1, added 175,000 workers in March and April. Walmart (#54) filled more than 150,000 openings in under a month.

As essential brands rapidly adapt their “what” in the crisis, some are reevaluating their “why.” This is the highest level of adaption, to question one’s role in consumers’ lives. It is far more difficult (and risky) than donating to a worthy cause, running an empathetic TV spot or temporarily producing personal protection equipment or hand sanitizer. However, reprioritizing brand values can generate incredible new energy internally and externally, attract new buyers and create deeper loyalty among existing ones.


The path to essentialness requires innovation, an attribute ranked in the annual Tenet 100 brand report. Innovation during crisis could be game-changing new products or services, rapidly developed digital-first or digital-only business models, proactive steps to safeguard the safety and confidence of your human capital, or low-tech solutions like Best Buy’s curbside pickup or Harley-Davidson’s (#21) limited-time home delivery.

Number 7 on the Most Innovative list for 2020, Walt Disney was forced to push back many movie releases. But it quickly organized to televise star-studded sing-alongs, an unexpected treat for families spending many hours together at home. Today, there’s also great value in delivering expected experiences, consistently and without compromise — no matter the state of the world. Colgate-Palmolive (#18) put flexible supply-chain contingencies into action within a day of coronavirus hitting Asia, increasing production in Latin America to back up China, Europe, and the U.S. as the crisis spread. Wall Street took notice of this agility with the corporate brand’s stock dropping only 3.5% in a two-month period when the S&P 500 fell by 18%.

Innovation can be reformulating products for longer shelf life, or adopting subscription or allocation models that assure product availability. Service providers that want to become essential will instill customer confidence by finding ways to safely perform services in their homes. Going forward, essentialness will be the mother of invention.


Sometimes, opportunity arrives unannounced and vanishes unnoticed except by an observant few. Then, there are instances when opportunity arrives like a crack of lightning. This is one of those moments in which the brave will venture out into the storm, survey the damage and prepare for brighter days.

A message from our CEO

A message from our CEO


As the United States moves through the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact on corporate brands continues and will for the foreseeable future. Companies in diverse sectors are experiencing extremes brought on by the new realities of isolation and remote work.

Most notably (and unsurprisingly), the sector that is outpacing the broader market in BrandPower is tech. For the first time in the history of our tracking study, Coca-Cola relinquishes its long standing #1 ranking to Apple. Considering that Apple essentially accomplished this in 20 years speaks volumes.

The rapid march of Amazon up the rankings is notable too. In just two quarters, Amazon has risen from #12 to #8, upsetting competing businesses along the way. Beyond traditional retail, the sector that is folding under the weight of Amazon’s unrelenting momentum is transportation. Both FedEx and UPS dropped 4 and 3 positions respectively. All those Amazon trucks and vans on the road are imprinting a new brand on the physical landscape once dominated by others.

From all estimates, the pandemic will drag on until vaccines become widely available: we can expect the major impact to last for another 12-18 months. During this period, corporate brands will continue to experience increased volatility and reputation risk. This is already being seen in the retail sector, where record numbers of bankruptcies are emerging. To add to the economic strife rattling the economy, as of October travel, tourism and entertainment remain depressed. Cruise lines, airlines, hotels, restaurants, live entertainment, theaters and other related businesses are still struggling to restart under the current protocols and more importantly, are fighting to reestablish consumer trust.

For the fortunate winners, ever-increasing opportunity seems to be cementing their futures. The challenge for many of these organizations, especially in tech industries, is how to manage downside risk as the environment normalizes in the years ahead. These brands have the potential to gain too much power in the eyes of the government and consumers. History shows that this can create unforeseen backlash, sending brands that have experienced nothing but growth into uncharted territory. 2020 continues to be a landmark year and as we enter 2021, we expect volatility to be the new normal for brands across all sectors.

Hampton Bridwell
CEO, Tenet Partners

View our original launch message here.

Invest in your brand. Invest in your future.

Invest in your brand. Invest in your future.

A company’s brand is one of their most, if not the most, valuable asset they have. As emerging examples, companies such as Aviation Gin and Allbirds depend on the power of the brand to drive their business growth. To many, the brand is the company itself (Coke, GE, Nike, Mastercard), as it represents the myriad factors that contribute to its success. A brand is driven by the perceptions customers have adopted based upon its reputation, its favorability, and its perceived value. And these factors are driven by most everything a company does from the story it tells to the core values that define it, from the way it manages its daily operations to its ability to live up to its promises, from how it positions itself in the marketplace to how it meets consumer expectations—the very essence of a company becomes inextricably bound to its brand.

When a company gets it right, trust, affinity and allegiance are born, critical factors in driving favorable consumer and investor behavior.

When a company understands the role the brand plays in driving its success, it is better positioned to target and remedy weaknesses, and maximize brand-building opportunities. At Tenet Partners, we’re able to derive the intelligence and insights necessary to measure a brand’s value with a precision that allows a company to shape it, manage it, increase its value and gain the competitive advantage over time.

The most powerful brands of 2020 accomplish this by:

  • Aligning business strategy, brand innovation and marketing efforts.
  • Creating brand clarity through a well-defined ‘story’ throughout all communication channels—consumers, employees and investors.
  • Possessing an unwavering commitment to delivering consistent results for customers over time.

Tenet Partners developed a standard set of CoreBrand metrics and reporting methods that, in combination with our custom research and advisory services, allow us to more precisely identify specific strategies to increase a company’s ‘brand power.’

The data we used to create Tenet’s Top 100 report for 2020 was collected throughout the 2019 calendar year, and was derived from our CoreBrand Index. Insights are gleaned from surveying and analyzing approximately 500 companies across 50 industries each year for over 25 years.

Tenet is the only company that provides digital access to consistent, highly stable, tracking data that spans decades. Quantitative research from 10,000 consumers and business decision makers measure brand awareness (Familiarity) and perception (Favorability) for each company in our index, which is then combined to calculate a company’s brand strength, or, as we call it – “BrandPower.”

Tenet’s Top 100 Most Powerful Brands of 2020 highlights the strongest brands we’ve tracked throughout the year. The companies that make it on our list have captured high awareness (Familiarity), and positive brand perception (Favorability) in the marketplace. Objective measurements of these core brand metrics often provide meaningful indicators of a company’s management effectiveness, and therefore financial performance.

It is important to note that Tenet’s CoreBrand Index is not a brand value ranking. Though brand valuation is an important metric for ongoing management of a brand; looking solely at brand valuation cannot illustrate the effectiveness of brand management. Many well-managed brands can have a lower brand value for a number of reasons. To this end, the CoreBrand Index is a reflection of excellent brand management.

Our report findings are based upon a full calendar year of data to support our brand rankings, which include over 10,000 interviews with influential decision makers with broad reach. Survey participants hail from the top 20% of corporations in the United States (based on revenue), are carefully screened, and represent investment communities, potential business partners and business customers and highly engaged consumers.

Advice for CMOs today

Advice to CMOs

CMOs field guide to operating in a pandemic


  • Do not live in your fears
  • Do not disappear by going quiet and leaving your corporate brand to the whims of the market
  • Understand your role in the economy and how you can have a positive impact
  • Do not be afraid to tout your contributions and actions to help
  • Communicate aggressively, do not leave your audience in the dark
  • Corporate brands are the culmination of perceptions, impressions can be made quickly but perceptions change slowly over time


  • Make sure all departments are in alignment with the overall goals and game plan
  • The best time to get the most value from advertising is when everyone else is pulling back
  • The companies that communicate successfully will shorten and decrease the negative impacts on their corporate brands
  • Corporate brands are resilient resources that move slowly, they can be boosted to retain value, but value lost will also recover slowly — work hard to retain value


  • Review your corporate vision and mission because these are the center of your brand
  • Reassess your core values to be certain they are in alignment with today’s changing needs
  • Develop real-time insights capability using text analytics and build predictive forecasting models
  • Identify the issues you are hearing from your employees and customers
  • Develop a communications plan that provides a consistent message to all constituencies
  • Establish short-term and long-term goals for the campaign, the coronavirus won’t last forever so plan for the business trending back to normal

Tenet Top 100 Most Powerful Brands 2020

Tenet Top 100 Most Powerful Brands 2019

The Innovation Challenge: Better Decision-Making for Better Outcomes

Innovation is the fuel that propels the most successful companies forward. However, innovation is not an easy endeavor for companies to take on. There are many moving parts. Such a melding of art and science. How does one who oversees a brand provide the focus, the energy and the tools required to make innovation work?

In this white paper, we explore the critical role decision-making plays in achieving innovation success. Every decision can alter the trajectory of a project, whether it’s about redesigning a digital interface, brand imagery or a physical package. There are proven ways to keep innovation efforts on the right track. Here we discuss our four key “pivot points” for good decision-making to help you achieve better innovation outcomes.

To download a free copy of this white paper, please fill out the form below:

Crafting a signature brand experience

The way customers experience brands from end to end is more important than ever. But what’s the best way to craft an experience that’s unique?

Many leading brands are starting to turn to design thinking as a way to create all-encompassing brand experiences. When executed well, this approach is very effective—but getting it right can be challenging.

In this white paper we explore the application of design thinking through Tenet’s proven Co-Magination® methodologies for rapid, collaborative solution development. Through Co-Magination, our clients are able to fast-track the creation of viable, sustainable signature experiences that truly differentiate their brands.

Our brand and innovation experts give insight into:

  • What is a signature brand experience and why is it important?
  • What are the most important best practices for crafting a signature brand experience?
  • What is design thinking and how can it help to capture every aspect of the brand experience?
  • How do Tenet’s Co-Magination methodologies enhance design thinking to make it more efficient and effective?

To download a free copy of this white paper, please fill out the form below:

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