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2023 FutureBrand Index: Innovation-focused, people-centric companies will be the successful brands of tomorrow

by | Oct 3, 2023 | Public Relations

Consumer expectations for the brands and businesses they engage with and purchase from have, as we know, ballooned well beyond the perennial criteria of old: price and quality. In fact, those diehard measures aren’t even among the considerations that define today’s highly regarded brands and those of tomorrow, the latest brand indexing rankings from business transformation firm FutureBrand reveal.

The 2023 FutureBrand Index reveals that it’s the forward-thinking companies who are prioritizing technological innovation around products and services essential to people’s lives that reigned supreme in this year’s rankings. The data, compiled with research partner QRi Consulting, suggests that the future of brands hinges on their ability to stay clear of the ‘Purpose Void’—a place where an ever more informed and enquiring public banishes organizations that fail to practice what they preach—and demonstrate genuine corporate purpose through tangible impact.

The index assesses how future-proof the world’s 100 most valuable companies are. The most notable risers on the list—including Microsoft, Unilever, Nestlé and Amazon—are known for their ability to fulfill more fundamental human needs amid increasing levels of global uncertainty caused by climate change, international conflicts, inflation and the rise of AI.

“In a world where safety and security are scarce, brands must become beacons of progressive responsibility and purpose-based action. They need to act as ‘trust lighthouses’ that can ease people’s concerns and shine a light on a better future,” said FutureBrand global chief strategy officer Jon Tipple, in a news release. “This is especially important as many customers, from business-to-business buyers to end consumers, want to interact with organizations that put forth products and services that can make a difference in our individual lives and the world in general.”

Leaders of the pack

Tech rivals Apple (No. 1) and Samsung (No. 5) share the Top 5 with business-to-business companies posing the backbone of people’s everyday lives. CATL (No. 2) is enabling the future of transport with its EV batteries, while the microchips produced by TSMC (No. 4) power everything from smartphones to AI. Finally, NextEra Energy (No. 3) develops renewable energy solutions in a world teetering on the edge of a climate crisis.

“If in the past the world’s top brands were those promoting well-intentioned, but softer sentiment through warm words, today we observe brands which marry corporate purpose with real, positive impact climbing up the ranking” Tipple added. “They deliver reliability at a time when trust is eroding in many areas of our society. With trust in government, media and other institutions declining, companies that practice what they preach have an opportunity to gain an increasingly meaningful role in people’s lives. Our survey respondents ranked the index’s top-performing companies high in areas such as having strong principles, acting ethically, having a clear sense of the future, and inspiring change for the better.”

The newly released research focuses on 100 companies with the largest global market capitalization, as determined by PwC. The index—which is based on research around brand perception and includes an in-depth survey of business professionals in 15 countries—determines the brand strength of each company on the list based on 18 Experience and Purpose attributes, such as:

  • Consistency (delivers a consistent experience to customers)
  • Resource management (acts ethically to maintain a sustainable environment)
  • Indispensability (people depend on the brand)
  • Innovation (creates products and services that are genuinely useful)
  • Trust (is a trusted brand), and
  • Well-being (contributes to people’s well-being)

Key index insights:

AI investment polishes leading brands’ haloes

Actively investing in emerging technologies such as AI is an essential factor driving a company’s brand perceptions success. Leading AI software and chips supplier Nvidia ranks in No. 8, while ASML, which provides equipment chipmakers use to produce AI chips, came in No. 9. Other brands forging ahead in AI also jumped up the list, including Microsoft (No. 6) and Intel (No. 22).

Consumer brands make a comeback

Over the last two years, the FutureBrand Index has tracked B2B businesses as they have marched up the Top 100. But with economic and geopolitical uncertainty persisting into this year, consumer brands have leapt back up the list. Amazon (No. 16) jumped 15 places YoY, a sign that its inflation-proof pricing models and commitment to speed and convenience are more imperative than ever before. In addition, Unilever came in No. 18—a rise of 13 places since it was last featured in the index in 2021, and Nestlé (No. 20) returns to the Top 20 for the first time since 2015.

Corporate responsibility efforts bolster brand ranking

Overall, companies that are known for trust, respect, resource management, and dedication to their mission ranked higher on the list. Companies that displayed a corporate conscience and responsible governance resonated strongly as seen by the performance of NextEra Energy and CATL.

Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Coca-Cola were deemed the most valuable companies in terms of the perception of their diversity, equity, inclusivity, belonging, and accessibility (DEIB) efforts. Apple, Amazon, Tesla, Microsoft and Google ranked as the companies when it comes to implementing more circular business models.  

“The FutureBrand Index points towards a truth: in order to garner high brand esteem, companies must foster agility, spearhead innovation, and embrace an unwavering commitment to corporate social responsibility,” said Lynne Field, head of strategy at FutureBrand North America, in the release. “In this era of corporate mistrust and consumer polarization, the companies that remain true to their mission and deliver what they promise will win in the hearts and minds of their stakeholders.”

Key insights for notable sectors:

Consumer discretionary

  • Consumer discretionary is this year’s dominant sector, as today’s unsettled economic and political environment drives people towards companies providing quality and safety in their everyday lives.
  • Of the 10 consumer discretionary brands in the Top 100 this year, four now sit in the Top 20, including Tesla (No. 7), Nike (No. 12), Toyota (No. 15) and Amazon (No. 16).

Information technology

  • After two years as the index’s top sector, information technology continues to be regarded as important, coming in as the second-best performing sector in 2023.
  • Six out of the index’s Top 10 brands are from the information technology sector, including Apple (No. 1), TSMC (No. 4), Samsung (No. 5), Microsoft (No. 6), Nvidia (No. 8) and ASML (No. 9).

Consumer staples

  • The sector has also shown a strong performance among this year’s Top 100, with companies experiencing growth in brand attributes that “make lives better.”
  • Unilever and Nestlé have launched into the Top 20 this year, coming in No. 18 and No. 20, respectively. Anheuser-Busch InBev has similarly catapulted up the list (up 25 places to No. 39), while L’Oreal has risen 16 places to No. 42.

Energy & utilities

  • Despite a persistently challenging market for energy and utility firms, there were some huge jumps up the Top 100 within the sector this year.
  • Last year’s leader NextEra Energy remains in third place—a testament to its work developing renewable energy solutions in a world teetering on the edge of a climate crisis.

Communications services

  • Companies that play a critical role in keeping people across the world connected via its internet and mobile networks have improved their positions. Most notably, AT&T—one of the Top 100’s biggest risers this year, up 32 places to No. 38.
  • With the hype surrounding the metaverse now somewhat lost to the generative AI boom, Meta Platforms has slid down 12 places to No. 17. Still, the business remains far ahead of its 2021 placement, when it came in at No. 49. 

The FutureBrand Index is a global perception study based on PwC’s Global Top 100 Companies by Market Capitalization list. More than 3,000 business professionals were surveyed between May 31 and June 12, 2023.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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