Meet the World’s Best Brand Guardians

Brand Guardians - Reed Hastings

The Brand Finance Brand Guardianship Index 2021 has been released and we have details of the top brand guardians and how they may inspire your brand leadership.

This year’s world’s top CEO according to the Brand Finance Brand Guardianship Index 2021 is Mastercard’s Ajay Banga. Since taking the helm of Mastercard, Banga has embraced technological innovation, ensuring the brand remained relevant despite a period of rapid change in financial services. Banga also champions the idea of financial inclusion, and has leveraged his influence to build strategic partnerships with financial institutions worldwide to help fight poverty.

Close behind him is the second highest ranked brand guardian, Jensen Huang of Nvidia. In the past 5 years, graphics- and chip-maker Nvidia has witnessed rapid brand value growth due to Huang’s leadership, as well as the recent acquisition of ARM which is expected to deliver huge synergies and further momentum to Nvidia’s AI capability growth. Huang established Nvidia in 1993, and has since built a brand with innovation in its DNA. A well-known philanthropist, Huang has donated US$30 million to Stanford University to establish and engineering centre, and US$5 million towards cancer research labs in Oregon.

The third best brand guardian in 2021 is Reed Hastings of Netflix. In January, Netflix announced it has surpassed 200 million subscribers for the first time. Hastings has openly shared that Netflix today was his vision from day one, the DVDs were always a substitute for the future potential he knew the internet offered. Netflix’s working culture is famously open and non-hierarchical, guided by Hasting’s ‘no rules’ rules. Netflix continues to invest billions of dollars in original content development, refreshing the international offering to subscribers. In the past 5 years, Netflix’s brand value has grown by an average of 40 percent per year and the platform has become a household brand across the world.

“Covid-19 has presented perhaps the greatest challenge to all CEOs this year. Leaders have had to both protect the financial interests of shareholders and protect their people from the very real threat to health and life posed by the pandemic. It has required resolve and vision to safeguard – and in some cases grow – one of these leaders’ most important assets, their company’s brand,” comments David Haigh, CEO of Brand Finance.

The top 10 list is as follows:

#CEOCompanySectorCountry BGI 
1Ajay BangaMastercardCommercial ServicesUnited States77.3 
2Jensen HuangNvidiaTechUnited States77.2 
3Reed HastingsNetflixMediaUnited States75.8 
4Yong Zhang “Daniel”Alibaba.comRetailChina74.1 
5Rajesh GopinathanTCSIT ServicesIndia74.0 
6Mukesh AmbaniRelianceMultipleIndia73.9 
7Marc R. BenioffSalesforceTechUnited States73.5 
8Takahiro HachigoHondaAutomobilesJapan72.6 
9Huateng Ma “Pony”Tencent (QQ)MediaChina72.4 
10Jean-Paul AgonL’OréalCosmetics & Personal CareFrance72.0 

Interestingly, only eight of the top 100 brand guardians are female, due to a continued shortage of female leadership in major corporations across the globe. The female brand guardians in the ranking include six from American companies and two from Chinese companies. This is an improvement from only four in 2020. Susan Patricia Griffith of Progressive is the highest-ranked female brand guardian, at 28th this year.

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