The annual BrandZ ranking, compiled by research firm Millward Brown, is out and there’s a new number one. Or rather, an old new number one as Apple has reclaimed its long-running title as the world’s most valuable brand, ending Google’s brief stint in the top spot.

Before the search giant took the number one spot last year, Apple had been at the top three years running. Millward calculates the value of a brand by using market data and millions of consumer surveys, to figure out which part of a company’s value is attributable to its brand.

Apple’s brand surged 67% in value this year to a mind numbing $247 billion. That compares to Google’s 9% jump to a still respectable $174 billion.

Yet the jump is extremely large, indicating ranking brands is still more art than actual science.

But by looking back at each company’s track record over the past year does provide some indication as to why the big gap has emerged.

While Apple released a hugely hyped smartwatch and had strong iPhone sales Google scrapped its Glass headset and encountered overseas regulatory troubles that may have dented its brand appeal.

The net effect was Apple beating earnings with Google missing them, along with the perception issue associated with each.

Microsoft and IBM are the next most valuable, showing that tech giants dominate the top ten list, with the study suggesting their influence will only continue to rise.

The entire tech sector brands are valued at $1 trillion, making up a third of the value of the top 100. The industry has also seen a 24% increase in value over the past year.

It’s not just American tech companies, either. Chinese Internet giant Tencent, Facebook, Alibaba and Amazon were among the tech and e-commerce companies that fell just outside the top ten, showing the rise of Chinese brands that may still be largely unfamiliar to most Americans.

Nigel Hollis, the chief brand analyst at Millward, said convenience is the most important factor driving brand value. People want a product that makes their life easier, in a way that sets itself apart from competition. Tech companies are excellent at this, he says.

“[The top brands] really meet their needs and come across in a way that people really appreciate, that they love,” Hollis said.

“It’s so difficult for brands to find ways to differentiate themselves and that’s where technology can offer a significant advantage.”

The effect can be seen in Amazon and Alibaba, two online-only marketplaces, which occupy the two top spots for the retail industry.

Yet the top-ranked brands also show that despite talk of some legacy corporations struggling to stay ahead, these companies still dominate global forces as a whole.

McDonald’s, for example, had the number 9 spot despite a 5% decline in its brand value. While the fast food empire is struggling to woo younger audiences in the United States, it remains the top fast food powerhouse thanks to a strong overseas presence overseas.

Marlboro is another old brand that might not be a first guess for a top 10 brand, but the number of tobacco smokers across the world remains high. The cigarette company saw a 19% increase in the past year, to reach a value of 80 billion.

“Marlboro is the biggest, the most salient of the tobacco brands and, for many people, the most meaningful and different,” Hollis said.

Facebook, coming in at number twelve, was the fastest-growing brand with 99% vault in value. Hollis attributes its rise to its addictive nature and its savvy acquisitions.

“If you look back in time, people we’re going, ‘Oh they’re never going to make it,’ but they’ve made a fantastic transition to mobile,” Hollis said. “Compare that to Twitter, a brand that has not quite had the success that people expected.”

The Full Top Ten List

1. Apple
2. Google
3. Microsoft
4. IBM
5. Visa
6. AT&T
7. Verizon
8. Coca-Cola
9. McDonald’s
10. Marlboro

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