Animation: The Top 15 Global Brands (2000-2018)
Time travel back to the early-2000s, and a list of the world’s most respected brands might be surprising.
Tobacco company Marlboro is still one of the top 15 global brands with a value of $22 billion, while companies like Nokia and AT&T also help to round out the group.
Aside from Microsoft, the tech companies at the time were mostly focused on hardware and services. HP was considered a top global brand at the time, and even IBM was still making PCs until the year 2005.
The Platform Revolution
How times have changed.
In today’s animation from TheRankings, you can see how the list of the top 15 global brands has evolved over the last two decades or so.
The visible shift: as soon as Google hits the rankings in 2008 (2:21 in video), it becomes clear that the money is on the software side – particularly in coding software that ends up as a dominant consumer platform.
Shortly after, companies like Apple, Facebook, and Amazon enter the fold, quickly climbing to the top. Here are the final numbers for 2018 in terms of brand value, with data coming from Interbrand:
The Problem with Hardware
What’s the difference between the big hardware firms of old, and the successful ones that dot the list today?
From a business perspective, hardware companies need to have a bold and accurate vision of the future, constantly taking innovative strides to beat competitors to that vision. If they can only make incremental improvements, the reality is that their competitors can enter the fold to create cheaper, similar hardware.
Samsung, which finished 2018 as the world’s sixth most valued brand, is a good example of this in practice. The company has had the top-selling smartphone for every year between 2012-2018 – an impressive feat in staying on top of consumer trends and technology.
Despite Samsung’s success, it remains stuck behind four other tech brands on the list – all companies almost exclusively focused on platforms: Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Apple.
Why are Platforms so Dominant?
Constant innovation is a good barrier to entry if you can keep doing it – but the platforms have an even more bulletproof strategy: being everywhere at once.
Facebook uses the powerful network effect from billions of people as a moat, and then it buys up-and-comers (Instagram, WhatsApp) to cover even more ground. As a result, competing with Facebook is a nightmare – even if you could theoretically acquire new users at $1 per user at a ridiculous scale, it would require a marketing investment of billions of dollars to make inroads on the company’s audience.
Microsoft owns various platforms (Windows, Xbox, LinkedIn, Azure, etc.) that help insulate from competition, while Google’s strategy is to be everywhere you need to search, even if it’s in your living room.
Because platforms have massive scale and are ubiquitous with consumers, it gives them the ultimate pricing power. In turn, at least so far, they have been able to establish the world’s most powerful consumer brands.
The World’s Top 50 Influencers Across Social Media Platforms
Which influencers have the most total social media followers? We tally up follower counts across all major platforms, from Twitter to TikTok.
Visualizing the World’s Top 50 Influencers
In the modern digital world, social media reach is power.
The people with the most followers on Twitter, for example, have a massive platform to spread their messages, while those with large, engaged followings on Instagram are an advertiser’s dream sponsor partner.
Social media can also be an equalizer of power. It’s true that many celebrities boast large followings across platforms, but social media has also enabled previously unknown personalities to turn YouTube or TikTok fame into veritable star power and influence.
Who has the biggest reach across the entire social media universe? Instead of looking at who has the most followers on Instagram, Twitter, or other networks, we ranked the most-followed personalities across all major platforms combined.
Who Has the Most Overall Followers on Social Media?
We parsed through hundreds of the most-followed accounts on multiple platforms to narrow down the top influencers across social media as of April 2021.
Sources include trackers of the most followers on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitch, and TikTok, verified directly on site and with social media tracker Socialblade.
The results? A top 50 list of social media influencers consisting of athletes, musicians, politicians, and other personalities.
|Rank||Name||Category||Total Followers||Biggest Platform|
|#6||Dwayne Johnson||Film & TV||342M|
|#16||Ellen DeGeneres||Film & TV||254M|
|#20||Will Smith||Film & TV||217M|
|#26||Kevin Hart||Film & TV||191M|
|#31||Vin Diesel||Film & TV||176M|
|#39||Whindersson Nunes Batista||Other||144M|
|#41||Akshay Kumar||Film & TV||140M|
|#43||Felix "PewDiePie" Kjellberg||Gaming||139M||Youtube|
|#46||Deepika Padukone||Film & TV||137M|
|#48||Salman Khan||Film & TV||134M|
|#49||Priyanka Chopra||Film & TV||129M|
Unsurprisingly, celebrities reign supreme on social media. As of April 2021, soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo was the most-followed person on social media with almost 500 million total followers.
But there are other illuminating highlights, such as the global reach of music. With large and diverse fanbases, artists account for half of the top 50 largest social media followings.
Also notable is the power of Instagram, which was the biggest platform for 67% of the top 50 social media influencers. This includes hard-to-categorize celebrities like the Kardashians and Jenners, which turned reality TV and social media fame into business and media empires.
Download the Generational Power Report (.pdf)
The Most Followers on Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube
However, it’s not only celebrities that dominate social media.
Personalities that started on one social media platform and developed massive followings include TikTok’s most-followed star Charli D’Amelio and YouTubers Whindersson Nunes Batista, Germán Garmendia, and Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg.
Politicians were also prominent influencers. Former U.S. President Barack Obama has the most followers on Twitter, and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has more than 175 million followers across social media.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump would have also made the list with more than 140 million followers across social media before being banned from multiple platforms on January 8, 2021.
A Generational Look at Social Media Influence
While older generations have had to adapt to social media platforms, younger generations have grown up alongside them. As a measure of cultural importance, this gives Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z a rare leg-up on older generations.
Millennials, in particular, hold the lion’s share of spots in this top 50 list:
|Generation||# of Influencers in Generation||Top Influencer in Generation|
|Gen Z||4||Kylie Jenner|
|Gen X||10||Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson|
|Baby Boomer||3||Ellen DeGeneres|
The average age of the top 50 influencers was just over 37.
In our Generational Power Index (GPI), which measures the share of power generations hold in various categories, digital platforms were a key area where Millennials derived their power and influence. Overall, Baby Boomers—and to a lesser extent, Gen X—still run the show in most areas of society today.
Social Media Influence, Going Forward
As most fans and advertisers know, not all social media accounts and followings are homogenous.
Many influencers with relatively small followings have more consistent engagement, and are often able to demand high advertising fees as a result.
Conversely, most social media platforms are reckoning with a severe glut of fake accounts or bots that inflate follower counts, impacting everything from celebrities and politicians to personalities and businesses.
Regardless, social media has become a mainstay platform (or soapbox) for today’s cultural influencers. Billions of people turn to social media for news, engagement, recommendations, and entertainment, and new platforms are always on the rise.
Which U.S. Generation Wields the Most Cultural Power?
Visual Capitalist’s first-ever Generational Power Index looks at which U.S. generation holds the most cultural influence in American society.
Which U.S. Generation Wields the Most Cultural Power?
This year, our team put together Visual Capitalist’s inaugural Generational Power Index (GPI), which looks at power dynamics across generations in America.
We considered three categories in our quest to quantify power: economics, political, and cultural. And while it turns out Baby Boomers dominate when it comes to economics and political factors—cultural influence is a different story.
Here’s a look at which U.S. generation holds the most cultural power, and how this power dynamic is expected to shift in the coming years.
Generations and Power, Defined
Before we get started, it’s important to clarify which generations we’ve included in our research, along with their age and birth year ranges.
|Generation||Age range (years)||Birth year range|
|The Silent Generation||76 and over||1928-1945|
|Gen Alpha||8 and below||2013-present|
Using these age groups as a framework, we then calculated the Cultural Power category using these distinct equally-weighted variables:
With this methodology in mind, here’s how the Cultural Power category shakes out, using insights from the GPI.
Share of Cultural Power by Generation
Overall, we found that Gen X captures the largest share of cultural power, at 36%.
|Generation||Cultural Power Share|
|The Silent Generation||8.8%|
*Note: figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding.
Gen X is particularly dominant in the film and TV industry, along with news media. For instance, over half of America’s largest news corporations have a Gen Xer as their CEO, and roughly 50% of Oscar winners in 2020 were members of Gen X.
Baby Boomers come in second place, capturing a 25% share of cultural power. They show particular dominance in traditional entertainment like books and art. For example, 42% of the authors on the NYT’s best-selling books list were Baby Boomers.
However, these older generations fall short in one critical category—digital platforms.
The Dominance of Digital
Why is digital so important when it comes to cultural power? Because digital media becoming increasingly more popular than traditional media sources (e.g. TV, radio).
In 2020, Americans spent nearly 8 hours per day consuming digital media, nearly two hours more per day than they spent with traditional media.
This divide is expected to grow even further over the next few years. With younger generations dominating the digital space, Gen X may soon lose its place as the top dog of the culture category.
Celebrity 2.0: The Social Influencer
As audiences flock to online channels, advertisers have followed suit—and they’re willing to spend good money to gain access to their target demographics.
In fact, spend on influencer marketing has steadily increased in the last five years, and it’s expected to reach $13.8 billion by the end of 2021.
This shift to social media advertising is redefining the notion of celebrity, and who reaps the financial benefits of content creation. For instance, six-year-old Vlogger Like Nastya made an estimated $7.7 million per month from her YouTube channel in 2020. And keep in mind, this estimate is purely based on YouTube revenue—it doesn’t even include corporate partnerships and/or merchandise sales.
With all these shifts occurring, culture as we know it is at a crossroads. And as we continue to move towards a digital dominant society, those who hold power in traditional realms will either adapt or pass along the torch.
Download the Generational Power Report (.pdf)
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