Hardly surprising

IBM brand blog main

The annual BrandZ rankings were released last week and headlines shouted about Google dislodging perennial leader Apple as the world’s most valuable brand.

Sandwiched between Apple and Microsoft, a traditionally B2B brand quietly, and confidently, took bronze.

IBM’s ranking might have raised one or two eyebrows, but on the whole passed people by. This, in itself, is an illustration of the expectations now placed upon brands by consumers and businesses alike. “Brand value” is about much more than a healthy balance sheet – or the number of times you pass the Golden Arches when you drive into town. That’s something IBM has always understood.

Industrial evolution

From Apple and the music business to Google and advertising, technology brands continue to disrupt and transform industries. That’s why they occupy four of the top five slots on the BrandZ list.

If you look at how IBM is faring against Google and Apple, and how large consumer brands like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s (and its Golden Arches) are being pushed out, it’s actually quite incredible. It shows how strong IBM’s brand really is.

IBM has the remarkable ability to keep reinventing itself – but it will always be IBM. The brand’s capacity to understand what’s going to happen next, to adapt and to keep taking advantage of new opportunities is staggering when you consider that the business is over 100 years old. The others who made the top four don’t even come close in this respect.

There’s the whole matter of “business” too. The traditional divide between B2B and B2C isn’t as obvious as it used to be. In fact, it’s fast disappearing. Everyone is a human being and we all wear a collection of hats – for work and play. That’s part of the reason why awareness of IBM’s brand is so great, despite its lack of presence on the high street. People “experience” IBM inside and outside of the office. They live it.

Trust and integrity

Trust is perhaps the most important element in any brand-customer relationship. As the world increasingly revolves around data, this becomes more and more evident; who are you going to trust with your personal information? IBM has a long-standing reputation of using data to provide solutions that help solve global problems. Facebook as a brand may slip because of bad press around privacy. Rightly or wrongly, that will continue to be an issue for the social media giant moving forward.

Trust comes hand in hand with integrity. And the way a company behaves is, of course, crucial when it comes to what we truly mean by brand value. A number of companies have come in for criticism of late for pretty unethical practices like tax avoidance, and consumers are starting to say “I won’t stand for that”. They’re not just saying it with words either; they’re taking their business elsewhere. In every respect, brand value takes a hit.

When you’ve been in business for more than a century, responsibilities like paying taxes are built into your ethos. It’s about taking a long-term view of the world and supporting it. The notion of not paying tax says “I don’t really care about the future”. You could argue that governments don’t necessarily spend the funds wisely, but ultimately it’s about looking after people. You don’t have a business if you don’t look after people.

What’s the point?

Millward Brown’s report asserts that brands must stand for a purpose beyond profit in order to increase their brand value. The IBM Smarter Cities Challenge is an obvious example of a brand doing something for the betterment of the global community. Through the initiative, IBM is truly investing in what it believes in. It doesn’t just say the world needs to get smarter in an attempt to make money. It invests time, funds and expertise in encouraging people to be smarter for the greater good.

Brands have responsibilities, and this mindset has been engrained in IBM from day one. That’s why it comes as no surprise to see the brand ranked so highly last week.


  • Branding
  • IBM
  • Brand value