Harley-Davidson, one of America’s most beloved brands, fell from its 2014 #5 position to round out the Top 10 this year. The company has been working to move the customer experience needle with unexpected innovations like Project Livewire – a proof-of-concept electric motorcycle – and the introduction of smaller models. Nevertheless, Harley has been struggling in its largest market, the U.S., as motorcycle industry sales have remained flat. This, along with adverse events in 2014, took a toll. At the height of riding season last summer, the company issued a major recall of near-new motorcycles due to a front wheel locking problem – recalling 66,421 Touring and CVO Touring bikes. The recalls, along with increased competition from rivals and the aging of the company’s core baby-boomer customer base, are likely indicators of why Harley’s Familiarity and Favorability scores both decreased this year.
Despite American Express dropping one place to number nine this year, the company continues its lead as the number one financial services brand. This year, the company’s BrandPower score reached its highest level since the 2009 financial crisis. The company has made a significant shift, shredding its once-exclusive “members only” image and embracing a brand positioning that lends itself to being more inclusive and accessible to the mainstream. Its landmark holiday “Small Business Saturday” turned five this past year. Since launch, American Express has spent millions of dollars promoting the initiative – and helped to generate billions of dollars of revenue for thousands of retailers across the country, in a perfect example of how investing in customer engagement can drive business results. The company is also going after a whole new demographic, through a partnership announced this year with Walmart, AmEx launched a new product called BlueBird. Aimed at the “new middle class,” it offers a prepaid card as an alternative for consumers who don’t have a savings or checking account.
PepsiCo Inc., the world’s largest snack maker and second-largest beverage company, fell one place to number eight this year. A diverse portfolio of high-profile brands, including its namesake soda, Gatorade, Mountain Dew, Tropicana, Fritos, Lays, Cheetos and Quaker Oats has significantly helped the company in recent quarters. PepsiCo’s snack business is a key driver of the company’s continued success, contributing to nearly half of its net sales. The company has long championed the adoption of new technologies, digital innovation and customer engagement as consumers continue to change the way the engage with media. For example, Frito-Lay’s “Crash the Super Bowl” customer contest, launched in 2006, has been a wild success and has resulted in some of the most memorable Super Bowl ads – content co-created by the customers themselves. The contest was opened up to international consumers in 2014, generating thousands of entries.
Microsoft re-enters the Top 10 Most Powerful Brands this year, having jumped from its eleventh-place a year ago. Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s newly appointed CEO, is on the brink of successfully turning the fallen brand back into the technology powerhouse, which prospered under the leadership of Bill Gates. Since being named CEO in February 2014, Nadella has made a concerted effort to build Microsoft’s cloud and mobile business, including the introduction of new versions of its Office suite to reflect customers’ increasing preference for mobile devices over PCs. During the first quarter of 2015, the company posted an impressive triple-digit growth in its cloud services, which include its Azure cloud platform, Dynamics CRM service and Office 365 productivity suite for enterprise.
Johnson & Johnson, one of the world’s largest healthcare manufacturers, dropped two places in the Most Powerful Brands rankings. For over a hundred years, the company has built a strong reputation as the maker of iconic products like Band-Aids, Baby Shampoo and Tylenol. The company is innovating in ways that may cast it in a new light, having joined forces with Google to develop a robotic-assisted surgery platform. However, J&J’s reputation has been hurt by serious questions about the quality of some products in recent years. Since 2009, J&J has recalled millions of bottles of Tylenol, Benadryl, Motrin and Zyrtec. The recalls prompted J&J to shut down a factory and have cost it more than $1 billion in lost sales.
The tech giant jumped five places this year and rounds out the top five Most Powerful Brands. Both its Familiarity and Favorability scores have increased, due in large part to its innovative products and outstanding market performance. The company’s market capitalization reached a record high, breaking the $700 billion mark this last year. According to a survey of Apple analysts conducted by Fortune, the company expects to sell an estimated 22.6 million units of the Apple Watch in 2015. Apple’s new head of retail (former Burberry CEO) Angela Ahrendts favored a new approach to launching the highly anticipated wearable. In an Apple first, she encouraged customers to “get in line online” and forgo the crowds and in-store experience to purchase the Apple Watch.
The Walt Disney Company climbed two spots this year, with a BrandPower score at its highest level since 2009, reflecting a decade of good leadership and smart brand investment. Under CEO Robert Iger, the global media giant mended its once contentious relationship with Pixar and bought the company in 2006. Other notable acquisitions made during his tenure include Marvel Entertainment in 2009, and Lucasfilm in 2012. A key part of Disney’s strategy is investing in blockbuster storylines that can be leveraged across its multiple business units. Case in the point: The box office success of Frozen, which went on to win an Oscar and become the highest grossing animated feature of all time, also helped to bring in more than $1 billion in retail revenue over the last year.
Over the past few years, Bayer’s BrandPower score has been on the rise – having jumped eight places since 2010. That soon may change, however. While its Familiarity (degree of awareness) score has remained stable year-over-year, Bayer has experienced a steep decline in Favorability (positive perception). This is a noticeable red flag, indicating that the pharmaceutical and chemical company’s overall corporate reputation – the perception of its management, its ability to drive growth and secure earnings into the future – is not as strong as in years past.
Strong communications investment including heavy TV advertising and a refresh to its corporate brand identity – a move Hershey claims will help strengthen its leadership position for the next 100 years – helped keep the famed candy company at #2. The maker of iconic brands such as Reese’s, Kisses, York Peppermint Patties, Twizzlers and Almond Joy also enjoys a positive market perception through efforts such as responsible ingredient sourcing and initiatives to improve the lives of cocoa farmers. The company is a regular recipient of awards and recognition for sustainability and good corporate citizenship.
Tenet Partners’ #1 Most Powerful Brand since the ranking debuted in 2008. The 125 year-old Coca-Cola Company never rests on its laurels and continues to evolve around the ever-changing needs and wants of consumers. After falling 11 years in a row, Coke’s U.S. soft-drink volumes rose 2.5% last summer, thanks in part to the hit “Share a Coke” campaign that will return this year. Also, last year, the company responded to health-conscious consumers by introducing Coca-Cola Life, a reduced-calorie cola naturally sweetened with cane sugar and stevia leaf extract.
Headquarters 11 West 42nd Street Penthouse Floors 31/32 New York, NY 10036 212 329-3030