LONDON — FutureBrand’s annual index of how futureproof the world’s top companies are has found that “purpose brands” such as Disney and Apple now dominate the list of the top 25 brands.

The index, a global perception study of PwC’s Top 100 companies, uses eighteen indicators across six key perception categories of ‘purpose’ and ‘experience’.

Now in its fourth year, the 2018 index includes a record number of “purpose brands” (11 versus three in 2014), while “experience” drivers have grown the most: having a great story (up by 11%), enhancing people’s lives (up by 11%), and wellbeing (up by 10%).

A number of brands have risen through the index this year. Disney (ranked 50th in terms of market capitalisation) has taken the top spot, up three places and toppling Apple, which is now in fourth place. Nestlé has risen ten places since 2016 to 24.

Chinese liquor giant, Kweichow Moutai, meanwhile has entered straight in at number two, thanks to brand experiences such as an alcohol-centred university, and soon a luxury hotel, in line with its premium image amongst younger, affluent Chinese drinkers.

The news is mixed for well-established brands. Apple, Disney and Abbvie have shown their resilience – which FutureBrand puts down to them striking a balance between purpose and experience – but others are sliding down the ranks.

Unilever, for instance, has fallen 19 places in the Index since 2016 and now sits in 50th place. "Indifference” is the over-riding emotion associated with the Unilever brand, and this has increased from 26% in 2016 to 30% in 2018. Google owner Alphabet has fallen 10 places in the rankings to 31, and since 2016, L’Oréal has fallen 27 places to 56.

Big tech companies are falling down the list. Facebook has tumbled 37 places versus 2016, with Microsoft, IBM and Alphabet all dropping 10 or more spots. The report says: “Increasingly perceived as developing technology for technology’s sake, tech brands are struggling to demonstrate the tangible benefits their innovations bring to consumers’ lives. This has been compounded by recent high-profile scandals involving tax avoidance and the misuse of data, with a direct impact on individual trust for major tech companies.”

In contrast, tech innovators in specific sectors like healthcare are doing well. Gilead (up from 10th place to third) and GSK (up from 57 to 27) have risen significantly. The report states: both have invested in digital transformation resulting in a positive impact on perceptions of being both innovative and having a clear purpose. Healthcare companies also outperform their traditional tech counterparts in terms of “wellbeing” – a key driver in this year’s index.”