Shenzhen and London, 11th May 2021: Chinese brands have showcased incredible resilience to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the latest report by Brand Finance – the world’s leading brand valuation consultancy.
The total brand value captured in the Brand Finance China 500 ranking of the country’s top 500 most valuable brands has remained stable year on year and now stands at US$1.94 trillion. Brands at the forefront of the nation’s successful response to the health emergency and those powering the transition of consumption online – across the pharma, retail, and media sectors – have performed particularly well and recorded the highest brand value increases, while the banking and tech sectors still dominate in terms of the combined value and number of brands contributed to the top 500 ranking.
The latest iteration of the annual study by the London-based brand valuation consultancy is being unveiled at the opening ceremony of the Shenzhen Brand Week today, following the National Brand Day celebrated in China on 10th May each year.
David Haigh, Chairman and CEO of Brand Finance, commented:
“We have been tracking the impressive development of Chinese brands for over a decade and I am honoured that Brand Finance has yet again been invited to launch our study into China’s 500 most valuable and strongest brands at the Shenzhen Brand Week.”
With 134 brands represented in the Brand Finance China 500 ranking, the Greater Bay Area is home to more of the nation’s top brands than any other region in China, while Shenzhen in particular is known nationally and globally as a vibrant tech hub. The tech sector is represented by 86 brands in the top 500 ranking – more than any other industry, with hundreds other brands powered by technological innovation.
David Haigh, Chairman and CEO of Brand Finance, commented:
“Shenzhen and the Greater Bay Area are the perfect location for a discussion about Chinese brands and their development. Shenzhen-based WeChat is now the world’s strongest brand, ahead of Ferrari and Coca-Cola. Tencent, Huawei, and Ping An – all from Shenzhen – feature among the nation’s top 10 most valuable brands. The city is developing fast and its brands are its best ambassadors.”
ICBC reigns supreme
Banking continues to be the nation’s most valuable sector by a considerable margin, with its 85 brands featuring in the Brand Finance China 500 2021 ranking accounting for 22% of the total brand value. Chinese banks have been largely impervious to the issues plaguing their counterparts elsewhere in the world, which is largely attributable to the banking sector’s role in China’s timely and effective response to COVID-19, which included regulatory policy adjustments for asset management, wealth management, and inter-banking, as well as increased investment into digitalisation.
Despite a 10% drop in brand value to US$72.8 billion, ICBC remains China’s most valuable brand. As the nation’s biggest bank, ICBC continues to fare well with consumers, regardless of the bank’s depreciating brand value due to the pandemic’s negative impact on its investment portfolio return. Nonetheless, the brand maintains a healthy lead ahead of China Construction Bank (down 5% to US$59.6 billion) and Agricultural Bank of China (down 3% to US$53.1 billion), which come in at 3rd and 9th places in the ranking, respectively.
Two further banks feature in the top 25: Bank of China (down 4% to US$48.7 billion) and China Merchants Bank (down 8% to US$21.0 billion).
David Haigh, CEO, Brand Finance, commented:
“Chinese banks have scored extremely well in Brand Finance’s Global Brand Equity Monitor research this year, ranking highly for attributes such as recommendation. This is undoubtedly an effect of China’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has allowed its economy to continue functioning relatively unscathed, allowing space for banks to grow further.”
Pharma jumps 123%
The pharma sector has recorded the greatest cumulative brand value growth in the ranking, up a staggering of 123% year-on-year, with the sector’s brands at the forefront of the nation’s successful response to the health emergency. This impressive jump has been bolstered by solid performances across the board, as well as from the eight new brands that have entered the ranking this year, with Huadong Medicine (brandvalue US$451 million) the highest new entrant in 360th spot.
Leading the way as the sector’s most valuable brand is Sinopharm, which has recorded a 58% brand value increase to US$3.2 billion, simultaneously jumping 35 spots to 108th position. Sinopharm is making major strides in the global race to produce COVID-19 vaccinations and has since developed a vaccine with a high efficacy rate, which has already been distributed to millions worldwide.
Guangzhou Pharmaceuticals Corporation (up 74% to US$1.5 billion) and SPH (up 50% to US$1.4 billion) are the second and third most valuable pharma brands, respectively.
Changing purchasing habits propel growth across retail
The retail sector – and more specifically e-commerce – is one of the few sectors that has truly benefitted from the pandemic, with brands experiencing an unprecedented surge in demand as consumers turned online following store closures. Over Q2 and Q3 of 2020, e-commerce platforms experienced the highest revenue growth since 2016. Retail is the second most valuable sector - with 17 brands featuring and accounting for 10% of the total brand value - and also the second fastest growing sector, recording a cumulative brand value growth of 54%.
The nation’s top four e-commerce brands – Taobao, Tmall, Alibaba.com and JD.com – have all seen significant brand value growth. Taobao (brand value US$53.3 billion) and Tmall (brand value US$49.2 billion) have entered the top 10 for the first time following 44% and 60% brand value increases, respectively.
Alibaba.com’s brand value has been boosted by an eyewatering 108% to US$39.2 billion, simultaneously propelling the brand from 22nd to 13th – a result of a huge spike in demand. The story is similar for JD.com, which has enjoyed an 82% brand value increase to US$23.5 billion, following a 30% rise in its annual shopper count – its fastest pace in two years.
Although smaller than the big four of Chinese e-commerce, Pinduoduo is the nation’s fastest growing brand, up 148% to US$6.3 billion and jumping 60 places in the ranking to 63rd. Founded only six years ago, the brand’s business model of a discount retailer based online has proved the recipe for success and it now boasts an incredible 720 million monthly active users.
Media sector surges 33% as life turns online
COVID-19 has changed the way in which people consume media, with social life being forced online – a shift that has provided a considerable boost to the nation’s home-grown digital platforms. Media is the third most valuable sector in China, with the 35 brands in the ranking accounting for 10% of the total brand value. Total brand value for the sector has grown an impressive 33% year-on-year.
In addition to measuring overall brand value, Brand Finance also determines the relative strength of brands through a balanced scorecard of metrics evaluating marketing investment, stakeholder equity, and business performance. According to these criteria, WeChat is China’s strongest brand – and the world’s strongest brand according to the Brand Finance Global 500 2021 ranking - with a Brand Strength Index (BSI) score of 95.4 out of 100 and corresponding elite AAA+ brand strength rating.
Alongside revenue forecasts, brand strength is a crucial driver of brand value. As WeChat’s brand strength grew, its brand value also enjoyed a rapid boost, increasing by 25% to US$67.9 billion and jumping five spots to claim 2nd place among the nation’s most valuable brands.
As one of China’s home-grown tech successes with very strong equity, WeChatenjoyed high scores in reputation and consideration among Chinese consumers, according to Brand Finance’s Global Brand Equity Monitor. WeChat has successfully implemented a broad and all-encompassing proposition, that offers services from messaging and banking, to taxi services and online shopping – the all-in-one app has become essential to many users’ daily lives.
During the pandemic, WeChat ran several government-mandated health code apps to keep track of those travelling or in quarantine, providing access to real-time data on COVID-19, online consultations, and self-diagnosis services powered by artificial intelligence to over 300 million users.
David Haigh, CEO of Brand Finance, commented:
“A beacon of innovation, WeChat has demonstrated the importance of the continuous strive for technological advancement, particularly in the face of adversity. The brand has performed extremely well this year, and it will be instrumental for WeChat to keep up this momentum to achieve similar successes in the years ahead.”
A video sharing app that enjoyed a colossal boost in popularity during the pandemic, TikTok/Douyin (brand value US$18.7 billion), has taken the ranking by storm as the highest new entrant in 24th spot. TikTok/Douyin focuses on optimising the content you see, as opposed to other social networks that are simply built on relationships between people who know each other. The app gives preference to material that corresponds to the hottest topics, meaning consumers – to achieve more engagement – are likely to build content that aligns with those trends. This in turn encourages advertisers to join the app to promote their products.
Other gaming and video sharing apps have also seen some of the biggest increases in brand value this year, including Bilibili (up 106% to US$1.9 billion) and 37 Games (up 85% to US$1.4 billion).
Focus on investment and infrastructure development pays off
Despite the global pandemic turmoil, Chinese brands have shown no signs of slowing down with regards to deferred investment and infrastructure development, which has in turn supported brand value and sector growth.
Utilities giant State Grid (down 3% to US$55.2 billion) has retained its position as the most valuable utilities brand in the world, as well as 6th most valuable Chinese brandSupplying power to over 1.1 billion people, equating to a staggering 88% of the population, State Grid is the world’s largest public utility brand. Following President Xi Jinping’s bold pledge to make China carbon neutral by 2060, State Grid has outlined its plan to support the nation’s clean energy drive through the development of new infrastructure - including wind, solar, and hydro power - as well as the promotion of electric energy to replace coal and fossil fuels.
Real estate brands have also been recording solid results this year, with the sector’s cumulative brand value up 7%. Sector leader Evergrande has recorded a slight 2% dip in brand value to US$20.2 billion, however. Still, with over 870 projects across more than 280 cities in China, Evergrande continues to dominate the real estate space, with considerable market share and thus solid revenues.
The story is similar for engineering & construction brands which have grown by 16% cumulatively. CRECG (up 32% to US$14.9 billion), CRCC (up 31% to US$15.9 billion), CSCEC (up 22% to US$30.4 billion), and CNBM (up 22% to US$7.1 billion) are the standout brands across the sector recording the greatest brand value growths.
Note to Editors
Every year, Brand Finance puts 5,000 of the biggest brands to the test, evaluating their strength and quantifying their value, and publishes nearly 100 reports, ranking brands across all sectors and countries. China’s top 500 most valuable and strongest brands are included in the Brand Finance China 500 2021 report.
The full Brand Finance China 500 2021 ranking, additional insights, charts, more information about the methodology, as well as definitions of key terms are available in the Brand Finance China 500 2021 report.
Brand value is understood as the net economic benefit that a brand owner would achieve by licensing the brand in the open market. Brand strength is the efficacy of a brand’s performance on intangible measures relative to its competitors. Please see below for a full explanation of our methodology.
About Brand Finance
Brand Finance is the world’s leading brand valuation consultancy. Bridging the gap between marketing and finance, Brand Finance evaluates the strength of brands and quantifies their financial value to help organisations of all kinds make strategic decisions.
Headquartered in London, Brand Finance has offices in over 20 countries, offering services on all continents. Every year, Brand Finance conducts more than 5,000 brand valuations, supported by original market research, and publishes nearly 100 reports which rank brands across all sectors and countries.
Brand Finance is a regulated accountancy firm, leading the standardisation of the brand valuation industry. Brand Finance was the first to be certified by independent auditors as compliant with both ISO 10668 and ISO 20671, and has received the official endorsement of the Marketing Accountability Standards Board (MASB) in the United States.
Definition of Brand
Brand is defined as a marketing-related intangible asset including, but not limited to, names, terms, signs, symbols, logos, and designs, intended to identify goods, services, or entities, creating distinctive images and associations in the minds of stakeholders, thereby generating economic benefits.
Brand value refers to the present value of earnings specifically related to brand reputation. Organisations own and control these earnings by owning trademark rights.
All brand valuation methodologies are essentially trying to identify this, although the approach and assumptions differ. As a result, published brand values can be different.
These differences are similar to the way equity analysts provide business valuations that are different to one another. The only way you find out the “real” value is by looking at what people really pay.
As a result, Brand Finance always incorporates a review of what users of brands actually pay for the use of brands in the form of brand royalty agreements, which are found in more or less every sector in the world.
This is known as the “Royalty Relief” methodology and is by far the most widely used approach for brand valuations since it is grounded in reality.
It is the basis for our public rankings but we always augment it with a real understanding of people’s perceptions and their effects on demand – from our database of market research on over 3000 brands in over 30 markets.
Brand Valuation Methodology
For our rankings, Brand Finance uses the simplest method possible to help readers understand, gain trust in, and actively use brand valuations.
Brand Finance calculates the values of brands in its rankings using the Royalty Relief approach – a brand valuation method compliant with the industry standards set in ISO 10668.
Our Brand Strength Index assessment, a balanced scorecard of brand-related measures, is also compliant with international standards (ISO 20671) and operates as a predictive tool of future brand value changes and a control panel to help business improving marketing.
We do this in the following four steps:
1. Brand Impact
We review what brands already pay in royalty agreements. This is augmented by an analysis of how brands impact profitability in the sector versus generic brands.
This results in a range of possible royalties that could be charged in the sector for brands (for example a range of 0% to 2% of revenue).
2. Brand Strength
We adjust the rate higher or lower for brands by analysing Brand Strength. We analyse brand strength by looking at three core pillars: “Investment” which are activities supporting the future strength of the brand; “Equity” which are real perceptions sourced from our original market research and other data partners; “Performance” which are brand-related measures of business results, such as market share.
Each brand is assigned a Brand Strength Index (BSI) score out of 100, which feeds into the brand value calculation. Based on the score, each brand is assigned a corresponding Brand Rating up to AAA+, in a format similar to a credit rating.
3. Brand Impact x Brand Strength
The BSI score is applied to the royalty range to arrive at a royalty rate. For example, if the royalty range in a sector is 0-5% and a brand has a BSI score of 80 out of 100, then an appropriate royalty rate for the use of this brand in the given sector will be 4%.
4. Brand Value Calculation
We determine brand-specific revenues as a proportion of parent company revenues attributable to the brand in question and forecast those revenues by analysing historic revenues, equity analyst forecasts, and economic growth rates.
We then apply the royalty rate to the forecast revenues to derive brand revenues and apply the relevant valuation assumptions to arrive at a discounted, post-tax present value which equals the brand value.
Brand Finance has produced this study with an independent and unbiased analysis. The values derived and opinions presented in this study are based on publicly available information and certain assumptions that Brand Finance used where such data was deficient or unclear. Brand Finance accepts no responsibility and will not be liable in the event that the publicly available information relied upon is subsequently found to be inaccurate. The opinions and financial analysis expressed in the study are not to be construed as providing investment or business advice. Brand Finance does not intend the study to be relied upon for any reason and excludes all liability to any body, government, or organisation.
The data presented in this study form part of Brand Finance's proprietary database, are provided for the benefit of the media, and are not to be used in part or in full for any commercial or technical purpose without written permission from Brand Finance.