Stock Etisalat latest 2020
Flying high... Brand Etisalat is rated as the "strongest" in the region right now. Its 2020 showing also did enough to place the UAE telco among the Top 25 global brands on the basis of strength. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Gulf energy giants Aramco and ADNOC managed to retain their status as the Arab world’s most valuable brands for 2020 despite the global oil industry enduring one of its worst phases brought on by the pandemic.

But Aramco and ADNOC did enough to ensure they had a firm grip on their branding, according to the latest annual update of global and regional powerhouses brought out by Brand Finance. Aramco’s brand value shed 20 per cent during the year to be at $37.5 billion, while in ADNOC’s case, the dip was by 6 per cent to $10.8 billion.

That’s still pretty good going during a period when US crude oil futures had dropped below $0 a barrel – for the first time in history – and the world saw demand dropping to unprecedented lows because of the lockdowns against COVID-19.

Defining brand value

Everyone knows about perceived value when it comes to brands. What Brand Finance does is place a value based on several factors. In simple terms, brand value is the "net economic benefit a brand owner would achieve by licensing the brand in the open market".

And 'brand strength' is the efficacy of a brand’s performance on intangible measures relative to its competitors. 

Who's at the top globally
Apple's gone past Amazon in what could be deemed as an upset win by many. Amazon had a bumper year by all counts, adjusting to the changes in rhythm brought about by the pandemic. But Apple did enough, according to Brand Finance, to be the world's most valuable label.

Apple is now valued at $263.4 billion as against Amazon with $254.18 billion. (In the 2019 rankings, Apple was behind Amazon and Google.)

'Under Tim Cook’s leadership, especially over the past five years, Apple began to focus on developing its growth strategies above and beyond the iPhone – which in 2020 accounted for half of sales versus two-thirds in 2015," Brand Finance reports. "The diversification policy has seen the brand expand into digital and subscription services. On New Year’s Day alone, App Store customers spent US$540 million on digital goods and services."

Inherent strengths

Amidst all these seismic events, Aramco and ADNOC did enough to justify their brand status.

“Aramco is the hidden giant of the oil industry whose brand has finally emerged into the light of public attention,” said David Haigh, CEO of Brand Finance. “It has always been known as a B2B brand - but has aspirations to become a well-known consumer brand.

“At present its scale is huge but its brand equity is at an early stage of development. We believe that over the next decade the brand will grow from strength to strength as it enters the world stage.”

As for ADNOC, the Abu Dhabi energy major pulled in billions of dollars in new investments through strategic alliances with global names, such as the stakes sales it did for its pipeline business.

“Today, ADNOC plays a critical role driving local industry growth, supporting Abu Dhabi’s soft power position globally and advancing the UAE’s sustainable economic development goals,” said Haigh. “ADNOC’s enduring brand strength reflects the strength of its reputation as an industry leader in both cost and carbon efficient oil production, a critical driver of innovation and technology in the UAE and a partner of choice for local and international investors.”

2020 Brand Finance
Check out the world's most valuable brands - there were a few changes in the rankings. Image Credit: Brand Finance

All in the connections

The UAE’s telecom major Etisalat has also hit the right notes in terms of brand strength. Of course, during the pandemic phase, its networks were put to the test. And the telco saw off those challenges.

Etisalat is the Middle East’s “strongest brand” for the first time and overtaking Emirates airlines, with a Brand Strength Index (BSI) score of 87.4 out of 100. It has won a corresponding AAA brand strength rating – the only one in the region to achieve this rating. This immediately raises Etisalat to be among the Top 25 brands globally for BSI.

“When COVID struck in 2020, Etisalat led from the front ensuring business continuity, robust e-governance, enablement of smart cities and remote learning, to help drive the digital future of the UAE," said Haigh. "Staying relevant and enabling the nation with the fastest network on the planet, Etisalat has earned its place as the region’s strongest brand.”

ADNOC navigated its way through a terrible year for oil with brand value to spare. Image Credit: Supplied