World's most powerful brands: Star Wars sends Disney into hyperdrive

Disney is now the world's most powerful brand, thanks to Star Wars' record-breaking success.

According to brand valuation and strategy consultancy Brand Finance's latest Global 500 report, Disney has over taken Lego to become the world's most powerful brand in 2016.

Disney's strength is founded on its rich history and original creations, however its now dominant position is the result of its many acquisitions and the powerful brands it has brought under its control. These include ESPN, Pixar, The Muppets, Marvel, and perhaps most significantly, Lucasfilm, the creator of Star Wars.

Since its release, Star Wars Episode VII 'The Force Awakens' has broken countless box office records, becoming the fastest to take US$1 billion (S$1.41 billion), and based on its total box office gross of nearly US$2 billion, is Disney's most successful film - ever. Meanwhile Star Wars toys have generated over US$700 million for the company.

The value of the Star Wars brand is estimated to be US$10 billion, much higher than the US$4.05 billion Disney paid for Lucasfilm in 2012.

Lego Loses Out

On the other hand, Lego has lost its position at the top of the table.

Recently, the Danish company has been beset by a series of controversies which threaten to affect its wholesome image.

It has been fined by German regulators for attempting to prevent retailers from discounting its products, and also accused of colluding in censorship for trying to prevent Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei from using Lego in his work. Lego has since reversed its policy of restricting purchases to be used for political ends following widespread condemnation.

In its brand strength index assessment, Brand Finance also found that Apple is the most valuable brand in the world.

In terms of brand value, Apple has maintained dominance and seen brand value increase by 14 per cent, thanks to the huge success of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s.

The tech giant's revenue for Q4 2015 was a record-breaking US$51.5 billion with profits at US$11.1 billion, while revenues for the year were US$233.7 billion. This is partly responsible for recent disappointing sales growth (the slowest since the iPhone was launched in 2007).

With 74.8 million handsets sold in the last quarter in a saturated market, assertions that Apple has gone rotten are premature.

China's Fantastic 4

Chinese firms are among the top performing from any sector; four of the top ten are Chinese, including all four of the top performing brands.

WeChat's user base grew over 40 per cent between late 2014 and late 2015 and is now over 650 million, with 70 million outside China. While it is often compared to Whatsapp, WeChat also offers video-gaming and payment services. Brand value for WeChat rose 83 per cent to US$6.5 billion this year.

Real estate firm Evergrande Real's brand was found to be the fastest growing brand this year, having added 112 per cent to its brand value between 2015 and 2016.

VW Goes into Reverse

Not surprisingly, Volkswagen is among this year's worst performing brands. The scandal-ridden brand is down in value by US$12 billion to US$18.9 billion, leading to a fall in rank from 17th in 2015 to 56th this year.