The biggest brands in the world aren’t always the ones you think they are


As another brand list is published, with Apple inevitably at the top and with the usual suspects - McDonalds, Toyota, Google, Facebook, Coca-Cola, etc - in close pursuit, it would appear that these surveys are confusing brand and company. These aren’t interchangeable terms.

Apple, Google and Toyota are some of the biggest companies in the world, but are they truly the biggest brands? What’s our relationship with these brands? How much do we care about them? How loyal are we to them?
I may decide to buy a Toyota car. They seem nice enough, and have a great reputation for reliability, but if Honda launches a rival model that gets better reviews I’m unlikely to stick with Toyota. My brand loyalty stretches only so far. I’m fickle (like most people).
Are these really the biggest/best brands in the world? What criteria are we using to make these lists? There seems to be an undue emphasis on the monetary value of the companies on this list. A brand shouldn’t have to represent a financially successful company to be the best and biggest.
As professionals working in the branding world it’s important to make these distinctions and not apply such simplistic and one-dimensional judging criteria. Letting financial turnover influence the list so heavily excludes some of the most exciting brands in the world.
Recently Red Bee worked with what I’d consider to be one of the world’s biggest brands. A brand recognised globally but, as its main goal isn’t profit, you won’t have ever seen its name on a biggest brand list. It has some of the most loyal and passionate brand advocates you’ll ever encounter. They engage with the brand from childhood and hold it dear until old age.
They engage with the brand in dozens of different ways, across dozens of platforms - far more than any of the biggest brands we listed above. Its brand loyalty and engagement are on an entirely different scale. What brand am I talking about? It’s one of the world’s “galactico” football clubs. 
What’s fascinating is that, despite being a sports club, they no longer talk about themselves in those terms. They refer to themselves as a brand and they operate as a business whose main responsibility is managing this brand. For them their brand is everything. Their fans worship their brand and they’ll remain engaged with the brand for life. You simply don’t change your brand loyalty in this sector.
Their popularity is also enormous. They’re popular all over the world and have a truly international audience. Putting some figures to this, over 80 million people follow their YouTube channel and 77 million people follow them on Instagram. Putting this into context, if we look at the so-called “biggest brand’ in the world, Apple, it can boast just 10 million followers on YouTube and 18 million on Instagram.
Other “biggest brands”, like Coke for example, have even lower levels of social engagement.
When you look at our sporting client’s business objectively, it’s clear that they aren’t just a football club either. They’re now incredibly multi-disciplinary, operating in many sectors in a way few companies and brands do (or even could do). They’re a broadcaster. Through social media, YouTube and their television channel they create and output content 365 days a year. They’re a retailer selling a huge range of sports goods, in both their own branded stores and other outlets. They’re a tourist attraction, an events company, a community group, a publisher, a fashion company, a food retailer. It’s an incredibly diverse business that runs all these divisions under a single, all-encompassing brand. 
Working with them was an absolute dream. They’re at the cutting edge of branding and they understand the power their brand has. They’re visionaries looking forward, happy to experiment with new ways of communicating and unafraid to adopt any form of new technology to increase their reach and audience. They’re way ahead of most companies on the biggest brand list.
So next time you see a list of the world’s biggest brands, have a look at that list and see how many brands are on there that you actually care about. Brands are much more than the profit they generate. The biggest brands in the world probably aren’t even on that list.

Simon Crabtree, Design Director