Apple may be the world’s most valuable brand, but among retailers, e-commerce giant Alibaba tops all others, according to an influential ranking of the brands of the best-known companies on the planet.
Alibaba debuted in the No. 13 slot in the just-released 2015 BrandZ ranking of the world’s 100 most valuable brands, ahead of global heavyweights Amazon and Walmart. Overall, consumer-electronics behemoth Apple was ranked No. 1 in the world, followed by Google and Microsoft.
Alibaba, which qualified for the BrandZ annual list after it went public last year in a $25 billion IPO, today may not have a logo that resonates with consumers everywhere. But Alibaba’s e-shopping platforms, Taobao Marketplace and Tmall.com, generate the lion’s share of online retail sales in China, the largest e-commerce market in the world.
“Alibaba has the most phenomenal bond with consumers,” said David Roth, chief executive of The Store, WPP’s global retail practice (the BrandZ list is produced by WPP’s marketing and brand consultancy Millward Brown). “It fulfills an amazing need,” Roth told the Financial Times. “It’s seen as very entrepreneurial. Alibaba itself, as a brand, has enabled probably millions of Chinese consumers not only to be consumers, but [to] be entrepreneurs and start their own businesses … It is almost an indispensable part of daily life. That is a tremendous place for a brand to be.”
Chinese brands continued to pop up on the BrandZ ranking, now in its 10th year. This year 14 Chinese brands made the Top 100, up from one in 2006. This represents a shift from West to East, according to BrandZ, because it is mostly European brands that have been displaced in the Top 100 ranking by Chinese companies.
“Alibaba shows that you can make products in China and use a Chinese brand,” Andre Spicer, professor of organizational behavior at City University’s Cass Business School in the U.K., told the FT. “It’s become one of those national, iconic brands just like Coke did in mid-20th century U.S.”
In his comments to the FT, Spicer added that this success has been achieved primarily through trust. “By using an online platform, Alibaba was able to create trust between consumers and businesses,” he says. “It represents Chinese online capitalism in some ways, which establishes an emotional connection.”