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26 May 2015

Brands that rule the world 

Forbes has just released its annual list of the most powerful global brands, dominated by a familiar roll call headed by US technology giants.

The survey found that the Apple brand was worth more than double the value of its nearest rival. But surprisingly, European companies had the strongest brands in certain key sectors.

For example, European companies still hold sway over the luxury goods industry, from Louis Vuitton and Hermes in fashion, to BMW, Mercedes and Audi among luxury cars. There were almost no US equivalents – the only US luxury clothing brand to appear was Coach.

European companies were also strong among mass-market retail clothing brands, such as Zara and H&M, as were consumer giants led by Nestlé and Danone.

It's a reminder that whatever the difficulties in the European economy, the continent still boasts world-leading companies and dominates industries including fashion, luxury and consumer branding.

However, European technology companies continue to struggle to develop a global footprint; virtually none featured on the Forbes list. Only one financial services company that made the list has its headquarters on this side of the Atlantic – HSBC.

The Forbes assessment may not be wholly scientific, but it does offer an indication that neither the US nor the European economy is as diverse as might be assumed. In particular, it suggests that while many European firms may have learned to exploit the opportunities of the EU single market, establishing a high global profile is a challenge they have yet to crack.