Dubai: Saudi Telecom Co (STC) edged past UAE’s leading names to be rated as the “most valuable brand” in the region in the influential Global 500 rankings put out by Brand Finance annually. Emirates airline holds the top spot in the UAE, while etisalat was able to record a 45 per cent gain in its brand value.

But, globally, there was a slight slip up for Apple, being edged out by after five years at the top spot. In its stead comes Google with a brand value of $109.5 billion (Dh401.8 billion), rising by 24 per cent (from $88.2 billion) while Apple’s declined from $145.9 billion to $107.1 billion. (Google occupied the top position back in 2011.) The Brand Finance rankings are based on factors such as the marketing investment, familiarity, loyalty, staff satisfaction and corporate reputation a brand has in its favour and then put a dollar value to that. This sets up the brand power valuation and the proportion of overall business revenue that is contributed by the branding itself.

The choice of STC as the top name for the region might come as a surprise, given the environment in which it did so. The Saudi economy did not have one of its better years, with oil price levels forcing a change of emphasis by policymakers.

STC was assigned a global ranking of 252, rising 11 per cent during 2016 to $6.2 billion, as per Brand Finance’s calculations. “The increase was primarily driven by STC “humanising” its marketing campaigns, and reengaging with its stakeholders with a fresh, more personable outlook,” it notes.

Breadth of service

Emirates homes in on the 264th spot with a brand value of $6.1 billion. The company retained its spot as the UAE’s most valuable brand “due to the carrier’s breadth of service, customer centric approach and wide global network. The company’s Brand Strength Index score even increased from 85 out of 100 in 2016 to 87 out of 100 in 2017, securing it a AAA rating once again.” the report says.

According to Andrew Campbell, Managing Director of Brand Finance M.E., said: “Middle Eastern brands continue to make their mark in the Global 500. The brand value of the four companies from the region represented in our 2017 ranking grew on average by 23 per cent year-on-year.

“We expect more brands from the Middle East to enter our Global 500 in time as oil prices readjust and companies from the region continue to expand into new geographic markets.” Etisalat rose to 293, up from 404th place in 2016. In doing so, its brand value increased 45 per cent on last year to $5.5 billion. The rise came on the strength of “growing user numbers, innovation (i.e. etisalat was the first Middle Eastern brand to trial 5G) and strong profit results in 2016”.

Interestingly, Qatar National Bank made the cut for the first time - in 441th place with a brand value of $3.8 billion.

Media licensing deals

On the global stage, Lego regained its status as the “world’s most powerful brand”, led by gains from media licensing deals and partnerships that have driven growth, such as Lego Star Wars, Lego Harry Potter and Lego Batman.

“A powerful brand can protect a company’s value during turbulent market conditions or challenging times for a business,” said Campbell. “The share price resilience of Samsung and Wells Fargo, after a difficult year, is testimony to how a brand can help a company ride out a storm.

“This is why a brand is such an important intangible asset and should be valued as such. Particularly during M&A scenarios, the fact that brand values are not factored into company accounts can mitigate against fair value being paid. Sellers ought to recognise the full worth of their brand, whilst buyers ought to factor in how far the asset of a brand can be stretched and monetised.”