Toyota Leads ‘Best Global Brands,’ But Audi, VW, Nissan Rise Most – Forbes

Posted: Saturday, October 18, 2014

Toyota remained the most valuable automotive brand worldwide for the 11th straight year in Interbrand’s new ranking of the 100 Best Global Brands. But Audi Audi, Volkswagen and Nissan comprised a trio of “top risers” that are pushing the envelope and mixing the picture for car brands worldwide.

“The auto industry in general has done pretty well” in the new ranking, Jez Frampton, global CEO of Interbrand, told me.

Automakers generally “have gotten smart in recognizing that they have to build strong brands for the future,” he added. “To succeed in the new world of mobility, they have to reposition themselves in slightly different ways, and so their attempts to build brands have become much more sophisticated.”

Toyota held sway in the industry once again, at No. 8 in the overall list that was headed by Apple Apple, Google Google and Coca-Cola Coca-Cola. Toyota moved up from No. 10 overall last year, Interbrand said, based in part on campaigns such as “Let’s go places” and “Go fun yourself.”

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“Traditionally perceived as a solid, trustworthy brand that is perhaps better known for its high-quality products than its personality, Toyota’s campaigns … are clearly designed to add a more exciting and playful dimension to its communications,” the New York-based firm said. In fact, adding “excitement” to the brand across the board – also to be reflected increasingly in its products and pace of new launches – is a top priority of Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda, grandson of the founder.

Toyota also has made gains in areas ranging from workforce diversity to mobile technology and alternative powertrains, including its new fuel-cell vehicle.

Frampton was especially impressed by Audi’s 27-percent increase in brand value, to $9.83 billion, a percentage rise that led its industry as Audi ascended to overall spot No. 45 from No. 51 in 2013.

“Audi is building stronger experiences with its customers and owners in part through embracing the digital experience in dealerships” and even in shopping malls, he said. “It sticks out in the auto industry. Audi isn’t just putting configurators on its web sites. It recognizes that the way we want to experience things as consumers depends on where we are and who we’re with and what we’re doing. There’s a greater recognition of how people buy automobiles.”

Meanwhile, sibling brand Volkswagen also was a “top riser,” with its assessed brand value shooting up by 23 percent, to $13.72 billion, and rising three spots to No. 31.

“Volkswagen has been working on its green credentials,” Frampton explained, as Interbrand cited VW’s “Think Blue” sustainability initiative as well as its strong performance in China this year, even while sales lagged elsewhere, including in the United States.

Nissan was the other biggest riser among car brands, with its brand value increasing by 23 percent, to $7.62 billion, and its place on the overall list rising to No. 56 from No. 65 the year before.

“Nissan has really exhibited its leadership with innovation in terms of electric vehicles, with the largest number on the road, and with deep commitments to autonomous driving as well,” Frampton said.

Overall, he added, “as differences among actual vehicles become narrower and narrower, the real differentiation that can be created in the auto business is through brands, what it means to you as and owner and user of the vehicle, and the way it expresses you among your peers and among people who see you driving.”

Interbrand’s take on the other highest-ranking automotive brands included these observations:

Mercedes-Benz, No. 10 overall: The brand has “revitalized itself” with new models and fresh expressions of its brand. “Continuing to provide the comfort, performance and safety consumers have come to expect from the brand, while also offering dramatic styling and innovative new features, it’s no wonder Mercedes-Benz’s models still captivate.”

BMW, No. 11 overall: “Has been able to build on its premium status, while driving sustainable mobility forward” with its electric-vehicle program including the all-new i3 all-electric and Tesla-fighting i8 plug-in hybrid, Interbrand said. Also, over the last few years, “a focused brand strategy, internal clarity, and external brand consistency have all contributed to BMW’s success.

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