January 23, 2020
The annual crop of global brand value rankings makes me think of the board game Snakes & Ladders. Many climb up, but just as many slide down!
For example, who can argue the heft of the mighty Uber brand? It’s very name echoes disruption. Uber has become synonymous with the sharing economy. Business consultants now use it as a verb — as in, don’t be “uberized” — to scare clients into buying their services.
There’s just one problem: Uber’s brand valuation appears to be in free fall.
In Brand Finance’s newly released “Global 500 2020 Report,” which tracks how much brands are worth, Uber dropped nearly 50 spots and out of the top 100. Its brand value fell by one-third. Uber also earned a spot on the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council’s unenviable list of the 20 most bruised and battered brands.
But this story isn’t just about Uber. Among Brand Finance’s top 100 global brands, a whopping 42 slipped in the rankings, including Apple, which came in third this year, down from second last year. A game of Snakes & Ladders, indeed. More tellingly, Apple’s brand valuation fell from $153,634 million to $140,524 million.
Losers came from all sorts of industries, with Telecom suffering the most. “Squeezed by OTT (over-the-top) competition and challenger brands, four out of five telecoms in ranking lose brand value, with AT&T fastest-falling — down 32 percent,” Brand Finance says.
In actual dollars, AT&T’s brand valuation fell from $87,005 million to $59,103 million. Among the top 25 brands, nine actually decreased in value from year to year. Other brands with a poor showing: Verizon, Chase, General Electric, Boeing, SK Group, Siemens, Bosch, Taobao, NTT Group, IKEA, Dell, Audi, Vodafone, SoftBank, to name a few.
What causes brands to take a beating?
While many marketers point to fears of a brand bubble burst, the fault, dear marketers, lies not in our stars but in ourselves. In its list of battered brands, the CMO Council highlighted some of the missteps that often derail brands: advertising and marketing snafus, health and safety concerns, data privacy and service delivery failures, corruption and embezzlement.
Feelings of unfairness seem to hit brands hardest. For example, plagued by huge financial losses, WeWork withdrew from its planned IPO, announced it will lay off 2,400 workers, and awarded former CEO and co-founder Adam Neumann an exit package worth roughly $1 billion.
All of which brings us back to Uber. A string of scandals and allegations of a culture of sexual harassment in 2017 started Uber's slide. Who can forget #DeleteUber trending on social networks? Despite Uber pouring half-a-billion dollars into rebuilding its image, signs point to a brand struggling to recover.
In Uber’s filing prior to its IPO in May, Uber issued a warning. “We have previously received significant media coverage and negative publicity, particularly in 2017, regarding our brand and reputation, and failure to rehabilitate our brand and reputation will cause our business to suffer,” Uber said.
When it comes to safeguarding your brand, Uber’s message is clear: drive safely.
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