2013 Ranking: 1
Adspend: US$1.4 billion
The legal wrangling with Apple continues, but in terms of perception among Asian consumers, Samsung is still comfortably ahead. It sits atop the rankings for a third consecutive year, having emerged as the top brand in all markets except Japan (where it failed to make the Top 100), Taiwan and Vietnam. In the latter two markets, it came in a respectable fourth and second.
In terms of categories, smartphones remain its strongest point. Here, the brand dominates the rankings in the majority of markets, but notably has not yet conquered China, where Apple still has the edge. Samsung comes top in the non-smartphone mobile category, but again ranks second to Apple in tablets, and to Sony in TVs. Household appliances are still strong: it comes in just behind LG in the refrigerator category.
The Korean brand’s performance in recent years has been undeniably impressive. The question is: can it sustain it for another year? Its mobile phone sales are flagging — its recently posted figures were the lowest in five quarters. Samsung is keen to be seen as an innovator, and has bet big on the Galaxy S5 to help remain ahead of Apple at the top end, but it is expected to launch a new flagship model in the second half of 2014.
Last year, the brand also took steps in the smartwatch market with the unveiling of the Galaxy Gear. Although many are still not convinced as to the appeal of smartwatches, Samsung has the potential to own that space, which — if it takes off — could justify the brand’s claims to being a leader, rather than a follower, in the development of new technologies. It is also investing in health tracking technology in the form of the Simband.
At the same time, much of Samsung’s success must be attributed to its pricing and strength at point of sale. There are also inconsistencies in its product and branding strategy. The Galaxy S5 is a cutting-edge handset, but its investment in the mobile printing space (which includes a printer that plays music) is questionable. And its advertising for the Gear under the line ‘Are you geared up?’ (suggesting lightheartedly, but awkwardly, that the device makes male wearers irresistible to women) has so far drawn laughs rather than awe from many observers online.
Change could be on the horizon. Samsung is currently reviewing its US$14 billion global creative and media business. Its priority is understood to be creative innovation and digital best practice. More examples of well-directed product advancement, combined with a stronger push in emerging smartphone markets and a more consistent branding strategy will stand Samsung in good stead for a fourth year at the top — but it must outsmart Chinese competitors, which are growing fast thanks to cheaper, yet feature-rich, devices aimed precisely at new users.
2013 Ranking: 3
Adspend: US$671 million
The Japanese giant has a good deal to be happy about in terms of consumer perception, if not business results. It climbs back up to displace Apple and is the top-ranked brand at home, in Taiwan and Vietnam. It rises from fourth to third in Australia. In South Korea—its weakest market—it falls three places to ninth.
TV and home audio are the categories in which Sony really shines, albeit amid declining sales in those sectors (the company plans to spin off its TV division later this year). It comes second in the personal portable music player ranking. But recent branding activity in the smartphone arena has not been as successful as hoped: there, it ranks eighth, after Motorola and Huawei.
Sony’s positive performance in the rankings has been driven by a greater sense of optimism. But stability is still lacking: it posted a loss of US$1.3 billion for the year to March, and is to jettison its struggling Vaio PC business.
2013 Ranking: 3
Adspend: US$671 million
Three years on from the death of its visionary founder, Steve Jobs, Apple retains an enviable brand, culture and product lineup. What has been notably lacking over the past 12 months, however, is innovation.
Sales growth continued to decline, and the brand has swapped places with Sony, proving that consumers are fickle if you don’t keep them entertained. It falls most sharply in Japan—where it topped the rankings last year—and Taiwan, where it moves from third to eighth. It trails Samsung in smartphones, but it does top the computer, tablet and personal portable music player categories.
It is too early to suggest that Apple is losing its allure, but the brand now faces stiff competition not just from Samsung, but also from the likes of Xiaomi. The iPhone 6 alone will not be enough. Diversification is needed, and all eyes are now on its acquisition of Beats, which could spur that.
2013 Ranking: 4
Adspend: US$778 million
Holding on to fourth place for the third year in a row, Nestlé stands out as the only non-tech brand in the top five. While it has been steadily diversifying beyond FMCG towards health & wellness, acquiring Wyeth in 2012 and Galderma this February, it is its food brands that remain nearest and dearest to the hearts of consumers from Asia’s developing nations.
Last year, Asia-Pacific represented the giant’s strongest organic growth region at 7.4 per cent, with Indonesia, Malaysia and Japan as some of its strongest markets. In the Top 1000 rankings, Nestlé ranked in the top three for Hong Kong, China, India, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines. It also managed to raise brand recognition from eighth last year to sixth in South Korea. Despite its strong performance in Japan, it may have more to do in terms of brand recognition there, where it slips from 18th place last year to 19th.
2013 Ranking: 5
Adspend: US$295 million
Panasonic remains a ‘top-of-mind’ brand for Asia-Pacific consumers, even as it becomes less accurate to describe the company as a consumer-goods maker.
The company formerly known as Matsushita has returned to growth thanks to a restructuring that slashed consumer-focused product lines including smartphones in favour of industrial sectors such as automotive parts. Yet Panasonic is Asia-Pacific’s No. 3 consumer-electronics brand (behind Samsung and Sony) and stands at No. 2 in home audio and No. 3 in televisions, even though the company is desperate to unload its money-losing LCD manufacturing unit.
Appliances remain a point of strength: Panasonic is the region’s top air-conditioner brand and also holds third position in fridges and washing machines. The brand sits in the top 10 in most countries, but trails in the Philippines (19th), India (21st) and South Korea (91st). In terms of marketing, the brand spends most of its consumer ad budget on promoting small appliances such as rice cookers. Earlier this year, Panasonic extended its sponsorship of the Olympics to 2024.
2013 Ranking: 6
Adspend: US$471 million
Last year, LG climbed back up from seventh place to sixth, and there it remains. That may be a bigger achievement than it seems, considering how the manufacturer’s domestic rival, and Asia’s top ranked brand, has set its sights on one of LG’s more profitable business units. Samsung owns about a third of the global smartphone market, dwarfing LG considerably in the sector.
The two are much closer with TV sales, but LG again takes the smaller share. Samsung has used these dominant positions to pry customers away from LG in white goods. LG still grew 2013 sales in that segment and outsells Samsung in the key North American market, but Samsung is spending heavily on advertising and has announced a goal of becoming the world leader in appliances, which can only mean more work ahead for LG.
Both companies appear to be grabbing market share from other regional incumbents, but how long can LG fend off Samsung, at home or globally?
2013 Ranking: 8
Adspend: US$93 million
Nike moves up another notch this year. Its strategy to ‘reset’ the marketplace, especially in emerging markets, seems to be working.
It has created more productive retail spaces, more focused product assortments, and more cutting-edge branded experiences, particularly around technology. Previously plagued by inventory issues, it made changes to balance supply and demand, also selling directly to consumers without going through wholesalers. That segment, including the launch of the Nike+ FuelBand in Japan, was a bed for testing new merchandising concepts that were then profiled at Nike’s wholesalers.
In the rankings, Nike fares strongly in China, Japan and Korea, but is weakest in Singapore, where it ranks ninth.
2013 Ranking: 7
Adspend: US$413 million
Although Canon is the leading camera brand in every country save India (where Nikon is), it sufferred its third straight single-position decline on the overall ranking, from seventh to eighth.
On the bright side, the company introduced some new models that are widely seen as improvements on recent fumbles, and appears well-positioned to capture the prosumers who are still buying cameras. Meanwhile, in the computer hardware category, Canon holds second position overall.
Since the company doesn’t make computers, the fact that it vanquishes brands such as Lenovo and Dell in this category testifies to Canon’s strength in printers, where it is the No. 1 brand overall and in seven individual countries. The company recently raised its profit forecast for the year, although the weak yen must get some of the credit for the stronger margins.
Canon continues to invest heavily in out-of-home advertising, but would likely benefit from a move towards bolder communications.
2013 Ranking: 9
Adspend: US$306 million
Ever since it overtook Louis Vuitton for the top luxury spot in China in 2012, Chanel has held its place at No. 9 in the top 10.
By maintaining exclusivity, investing in beauty and educating the market on its heritage, Chanel successfully won over China, where this year it ranks fourth and in neighbouring city-state Taiwan (second). The brand is also well-loved in Korea where it ranks fifth. However, with the exception of Thailand, where it came in at fourth place and Vietnam (ninth), the brand is less well-placed in Southeast Asia, ranking 25th in Singapore and as low as 79th in Malaysia. It also has to work on recognition in Asia’s second largest market, India, where it trails in at 150th.
2013 Ranking: 10
Adspend: US$192 million
Adidas sits comfortably in 10th position again, with progress made in the fiercely competitive running and football categories.
Brand growth was fuelled in part by its Fifa World Cup product campaign, which involved fans with its colourful Samba collection, including a boot from each of its key ranges: adizero f50, Predator, Nitrocharge and 11Pro. Its strategically important sports-lifestyle labels, Originals and NEO, accelerated from mid single-digit sales in the first nine months of launch to 12 per cent.
In Greater China, adidas continues to lag behind Nike, but is benefiting from a sound understanding of the local approach to fitness, backed by its retail footprint of more than 7,600 stores. Its brand equity is especially strong in India, Taiwan, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines.