For the second year in a row Verizon has claimed the title of the world’s most valuable telecoms brand following an 8% increase in brand value to US$68.9 billion. This brand value growth has not only propelled it back into the top 10 most valuable brands globally in the Brand Finance Global 500 2021 ranking, but has meant the brand has continued to widen the lead over second placed AT&T (brand value down 13% to US$51.4 billion). 15 further US brands feature in the Brand Finance Telecoms 150 2021 ranking, with a combined brand value of US$182.8 billion.
Two years since the beginning of Verizon’s business transformation program, Verizon 2.0 - focusing on the transformation of the network, the go-to-market, the brand, and the culture of the business – the brand continues to make leaps and bounds across the industry. The giant is widely recognised to have the best-in-class network and the widest coverage in the US, with the network’s usage surging during the pandemic, handling a staggering 800 million phone calls and 8 billion texts per day. Verizon is making significant strides in its 5G expansion programme, which now spans over 2700 cities and 230 million people.
Vivo is the 8th fastest falling brand in the ranking, its brand value dropping 31% to US$1.5 billion. Holding the largest telecoms market share in Brazil, Vivo is the leading wireless and fixed brand in the country but has fallen upon hard times over the last year due to the pandemic. However, the brand has made steps towards innovation, using artificial intelligence to provide data to allow the Brazilian government to track the spread of COVID-19 across the nation.
Other telecoms brands in South America have also fared badly, with lower revenues for Argentina’s Personal (brand value US$253 million) causing the brand to lose 53% of its brand value, becoming the third fastest falling brand in the ranking. Personal’s Brazilian neighbour, Oi, is the fourth fastest falling brand, dropping by 35% to US$425 million. The brand has been plagued by financial woes over the last few years, initially filing for bankruptcy in 2016 and recording losses ever since. This has been exacerbated by low levels of consumer recommendation and consideration in Brand Finance’s Global Brand Equity Monitor study, which has caused a drop in brand strength, as Oi’s Brand Strength Index (BSI) score currently stands at 63.0 out of 100. The story is similar for Chilean brand, VTR, which is the 7th fastest falling brand in the ranking this year, down by 31% to US$260 million. VTR’s drop in brand value is predominantly attributed to a slight decrease in revenue and an increase in weighted cost of capital over the last year.
With a brand value of US$51.1 billion, Deutsche Telekom has retained its position as the most valuable telecoms brand in Europe, climbing one spot in the Brand Finance Telecoms 150 2021 ranking to 3rd place. Following an impressive 28% brand value growth, the brand is the fastest growing in the top 10 by far, outperforming the second fastest growing brand, Spectrum, which has increased by 11% to US$21.4 billion.
As the largest telecoms provider by revenue in Europe, Deutsche Telekom has reaped the rewards of its expansion into superfast internet connections and a boost in popularity for its MagentaENIS service package. Last year, the German telecoms brand also completed the T-Mobile and Sprint merger in the United States, which has significantly bolstered its total revenue, even despite the COVID-19 pandemic. With one successful merger under its belt, the telecoms giant is now turning its sights back to Europe to continue its expansion – an endeavour that will more than likely lead to further success in the coming year.
In addition to measuring overall brand value, Brand Finance also evaluates the relative strength of brands, based on factors such as marketing investment, customer perceptions, staff satisfaction, and corporate reputation. Alongside revenue forecasts, brand strength is a crucial driver of brand value.
Taking the sector by storm as the world’s strongest telecoms brand is Indian telecoms giant, Jio, with a BSI score of 91.7 out of 100 and an elite AAA+ brand strength rating.
Despite only being founded in 2016, Jio has quickly become the largest mobile network operator in India and the third largest mobile network operator in the world, with almost 400 million subscribers. Renowned for its incredibly affordable plans, Jio took India by storm through offering 4G to millions of users for free, simultaneously transforming how Indians consume the internet – known as the ‘Jio effect’.
The dominance of the brand across the nation is evident from the results from Brand Finance’s original market research. Jio scores highest in all metrics – consideration conversion, reputation, recommendation, word of mouth, innovation, customer service and value for money - compared to its telecom competitors in India. The brand has no major weaknesses within the sector, and unlike other telecoms brands globally, Jio has shown that it has broken the mould, and enjoys genuine affection from consumers.
As well as being a standout brand for brand strength, Jio is the fastest-growing brand in the ranking in terms of brand value, bucking the negative trend across the industry, with a 50% increase to US$4.8 billion.
Despite recording a 23% drop in brand value, China Mobile (brand value US$37.6 billion) remains the region’s most valuable brand, followed by China Telecom (down 34% to US$13.3 billion) and China Unicom (down 15% to US$7.9 billion). Despite ranking in the Brand Finance Telecoms 2021 top 20, China’s top three telco brands experienced more significant losses in brand value than any of their Chinese counterparts.
Overall, there was a cumulative brand value loss of 29% year-on-year across the board, with seven out of the nine Chinese brands in the ranking dropping in value.
There are several reasons for China’s diminished performance within the sector, namely declining subscriber numbers – including large scale cancellations of work phone numbers – and torrential rain resulting in some of the worst floods in the region in over two decades. In Q1 2020 alone, China Mobile lost four million users, while China Unicom lost 7.5 million users. Moreover, the mid-year floods affected nearly a quarter million people, with 41,000 homes destroyed as rushing waters eroded buildings and telecom infrastructure.
Etisalat has been crowned the MEA’s strongest telecoms brand, with a Brand Strength Index (BSI) score of 87.4 out of 100 and a corresponding AAA brand strength rating – the only brand in the region to achieve this rating.
Thanks to its strategy over the last few years and its recent achievement of becoming the fastest network on the planet, the brand was in a position to respond immediately to the 'new normal' of the pandemic, providing solutions and flexibility in a way that connected emotionally with consumers. Etisalat Group is turning its sights on transforming into a truly global player.
stc’s brand has evolved and grown following its successful masterbrand refresh and extension into Kuwait and Bahrain at the beginning of last year. The company continues to execute its DARE strategy successfully and has strengthened its positioning as a company that enables digital life. Its commitment to digital transformation has been shown with stc pay, recognised as the first tech unicorn in Saudi Arabia.David Haigh, CEO, Brand Finance
stc is the region’s most valuable brand, its brand value up an impressive 14% to US$9.2 billion, simultaneously jumping 5 positions to 13th. stc has recently doubled the capacity of its network, never compromising on customer service – something the brand prides itself on. The brand has also achieved a AAA- brand rating for the first time because of its brand and business transformation.
MTN is Africa's most valuable telecoms brand despite recording a 19% brand value loss to US$2.7 billion. Over the last year, Africa’s largest mobile operator has celebrated solid profits and impressive subscriber growth, which currently stands at over 250 million across 23 countries.
Despite being touted as one of South Africa’s greatest corporate success stories, the brand has been hitting the global headlines recently and has been placed under increased scrutiny following allegations that it paid bribes to militant Islamist groups in Afghanistan. This is not the first time the brand has come under the microscope - most notably its 2015 Nigerian fine - and MTN will, once again, rely on its strong brand and its far-reaching market share to maintain its position as South Africa’s most valuable brand.
As with all big telcos globally, MTN is being squeezed from all sides as OTT messaging apps like WhatsApp are impacting voice and SMS revenue, and challenger brands offer comparable data services at below-market rates, leading to fierce price competition and decreasing margins.
Four brands from Oceania feature in the ranking, with Australia's Telstra the highest ranked in 20th position. Increasing competition has caused the value of the Telstra brand to drop by 15% to US$6.8 billion, reaching its lowest point since 2014. The story is similar for Optus which decreased by 16% to US$2.7 billion due to a drop in forecast revenue and external economic factors. Optus retains the ranking as the strongest brand in the region.
In contrast, New Zealand’s Spark has recorded a healthy 10% brand value increase to US$604 million, simultaneously climbing 10 spots in the ranking from 121st to 111th. Spark launched its commercial 5G network in the capital last year, partnering with Auckland Transport to demonstrate what the future of Auckland’s CBD could look like with the power of 5G behind it.
iiNet is the only new entrant from the region to enter the ranking this year, with a brand value of US$257 million and nabbing 148th position.