Mobile operators grow brand value despite downturn

The brand value of mobile operators grew by almost one third in 2008, more than any of the 17 sectors surveyed in the fourth annual BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands ranking.

The availability of exciting 3G applications and the increased popularity of using the internet on the move through devices such as the iPhone and BlackBerry has been the main driver for the increase of 28% for mobile operator brands, the ranking showed.

Published by Millward Brown Optimor, the consultancy focused on helping clients maximise the financial returns on their brand strategy and marketing investments, the ranking showed that China Mobile is the world’s most valuable mobile brand and seventh in the overall ranking worth $61.3 billion.

Vodafone’s brand value has risen by 45%, propelling the brand into the global top 10 for the first time and second place in the category ranking, making it the UK’s most valuable brand with a brand value of $53.7 billion. AT&T has also experienced tremendous brand value growth, up 67%, and is third in the category ranking with a brand value of $20 billion.

Mobile operators strengthened the customer bond through co-branding arrangements with handsets suppliers. For example Vodafone offered the Blackberry Storm. 02 gained the exclusive distribution for the Apple iPhone in the UK. As a result its brand has increased by 36% (the eleventh largest brand riser in the world) putting it straight into the ranking for the first time at number 77. AT&T also benefited from its affiliation with the iPhone, whose customers generate on average, 30% higher revenue than customers with handsets that provide fewer data use options.

Other highlights from the ranking for mobile brands were: With a year on year growth in brand value of 34%, Spanish owned Movistar moves up one place to number seven in the category ranking; Russian operator Beeline enters the Top10 category ranking this year for the first time, in tenth place just below MTS, the largest Russian brand; the BRIC countries also drove category growth, especially because of opportunities in rural areas without landlines where cellular operators provide the first extensive telephone service. This factor accounted for half of China Mobile’s growth, which, with a brand value of $61.2 billion, ranks first in the category; and AT&T’s brand value improved by 67%, moving the US company up three places in the category ranking to number three.

Millward Brown’s 2009 BrandZ Top 100 ranking identifies the dollar value of brands based on the analysis of publicly available financial data with customer opinion from BrandZ, the world’s largest brand equity study produced by Millward Brown.

Commenting on the ranking, Peter Walshe, global brand director at Millward Brown, said: “Despite the tough economic environment many brands are not just retaining but growing their value. The mobile sector is a great example of an innovation in products and services as well as great marketing. Brand is more important than ever because it can help to sustain companies in tough times. This ranking will help marketers to identify the value that their brand is creating for the business and leverage it to have a direct impact on business growth.”

Overall, Google is number one in the ranking for the third year running and is now worth more than $100 billion followed by Microsoft as number two valued at $76.2 billion and Coca-Cola in third place at $67.6 billion.