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- 4 May 2010
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The Powers that Be


How do luxury brands stack up? Who’s on top and why?

There’s the awards season, the football season, and it right now seems, is the season for ranking luxury brands. Millward Brown Optimor, a WPP subsidiary, has released its BrandZ Top 100 list, which provides a snapshot of the power struggles that exist within luxury (see list below). The first four companies, Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Gucci and Chanel, haven’t changed position; and all but Tiffany & Co were already part of the top ten last year. In general, it can be said that the brands that successfully upped their value over the past year re-centred their brand position while expanding in Asia.

Vuitton’s unfaltering focus on heritage in the tough times has been applauded, Hermès kept true to its equestrian roots through sponsorship while instigating a smart expansion strategy with its Shang Xia brand in China, and Gucci’s partnership with Christie’s helped consumers to reengage with the brand’s heritage.

The message? The top four remain unchanged, but it doesn’t follow that the waters are calm; these brands remain at the top because they have infrastructure in place that has allowed them to anticipate and adapt quickly to change.

Meanwhile, a report from the Luxury Institute found that among the US’s ultra-wealthy, the top-rated luxury watch brand in 2010 was Blancpain, followed by Vacheron Constantin and then Breguet. Unlike Millward Brown Optimor’s list, Luxury Institute CEO Milton Pedraza believes that the ranking of these watch brands is unstable. Pedraza says the luxury watch industry has been slow to adapt when it comes to direct distribution and innovative brand engagement. He expects big changes in the near future as more luxury watch brands realise that they must engage directly with their consumers to survive. On that basis, the top spot in the Luxury Institute’s list next year is wide open.

Currently Rolex is the only watch brand to make it into the top ten of Optimor’s rankings. If Pedraza is right and change is coming, Rolex may find itself in the company of a few contemporaries this time next year.

The complete ranking is as follows:
1. Louis Vuitton
2. Hermès
3. Gucci
4. Chanel
5. Hennessy
6. Rolex
7. Moët & Chandon
8. Cartier
9. Fendi
10. Tiffany & Co.

Independent – 29 April 10
Financial Times – 28 April 10
New York Times – 28 April 10
Brand Channel – 28 April 10