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UK brands soar in value but still trail global giants

Published:  29 September, 2021

The UK’s leading brands are showing positive signs of recovery in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, leaping in value by 22% to reach a new record high of $278.8 (£207 billion), according to Kantar’s BrandZTM Most Valuable UK Brands 2021 ranking. However, growth rates show they are lagging behind the biggest global brands.

The ranking includes a total of three British drinks brands, with Johnnie Walker, BrewDog and Gordon’s all making the list.

Overall, the fastest risers and new entrants reflect the lifestyle habits adopted during the pandemic. The four brands which grew the quickest in the past 12 months were all delivery specialists: Royal Mail, Ocado, ASOS and Deliveroo.

Following its merger in 2020, Just Eat Takeaway ranks at number 11, with a brand value of $6.6 billion. Drinks brand Johnnie Walker came in at number 9 and at Gordon’s 56, both Diageo. Brewdog took the 54th spot. 

On a global scale however, growth is markedly slower than the world’s biggest brands, which swelled collectively by 42%.

Dom Boyd, senior director of offer and qualitative for Kantar Insights UK, said: “With the advent of Brexit, many British businesses are looking to establish themselves in markets beyond Europe, but if they want to compete on a world stage then they need a world class offer. This year’s findings show that British brands continue to trail behind global competitors who have enjoyed a 42% rise in brand value. There’s headroom for British firms to grow, but they’ve got to be bolder,”

He added that Britain’s best-known brands often coast on the “power of their name and heritage”, with some larger corporates being held back by legacy structures and a focus on short-term performance which stifles innovation.

“While agile, younger, and tech-led businesses are bucking that trend, traditional businesses are failing to compete with their entrepreneurialism,” Boyd said.

Many of the entrants on the list capitalised on last year’s social restrictions, where brands were rewarded for prioritising convenience, digital services and at-home comfort.

The next test will be for these high-achieving brands to sustain their performance as people socialise more again and return to work.

“They have got to present a clear and compelling offer which reflects the new and different ways people are living their lives,” said Boyd.

In a positive indication of the resilience of British consumer-facing businesses, overall brand value for the ranking is slightly ahead of 2019 levels. However, alongside Covid-19, many brands are also navigating fresh challenges posed by the new post-Brexit era.

Brands likely to prosper will now focus on replacing complacency with innovation as a key driver of growth, Kantar added. This is demonstrated by the success of some of the UK’s most successful disruptors, such as digital finance platform Revolut which jumped 41% in value, while Deliveroo’s focus on new markets such as grocery helped it to grow by 58%.

“Meaningful innovation doesn’t just mean rolling out new products. It could be taking a different approach to how you position your brand, like Brewdog and Innocent. As well as offering intrinsically high-quality products, their marketing is designed to instil a feel-good factor in buyers and a sense of pride – a clear point of distinction,” Boyd concluded.

Vodafone, HSBC, Shell, Tesco and tea brand Lipton took the top five spots.