Traits of the most valuable brands in the U.S.

Think of what you’re doing right now. Reading a blog, that perhaps you found via Facebook or Google. Maybe you’re reading it on a phone made by Apple that you have with a wireless company like AT&T or Verizon. Or you’re on a computer running Microsoft that’s connected to internet service provided by Spectrum or Xfinity. And what might you do after this? Go to Amazon? Order something and pay with a Visa, Mastercard, Amex or PayPal and have it delivered by UPS?

All these products and services are ingrained in our lifestyle, behaviors and routines—which is why it’s no surprise they all are in the top 25 of BrandZ’s top 100 valuable American brands, a ranking of the brands consumers value most.

Creating a highly valuable brand is challenging work that requires skills to make a useful product or service, resources to build and market it, perseverance to support and grow it and some luck to have consumers embrace and value it.

As these top brands have become part of our life, so have their respective brand images. Their names and logos are among the most iconic, memorable and recognizable in the world, each with massive intrinsic value.

What can we learn by reviewing the logos of the most valuable brands in America?

To become one of the most valuable brands in the U.S. you must have a brand image that is recognizable, memorable and resonates with your customers. Following their best practices is useful even for newer and smaller brands.

Logo colors for most valuable brandsMost popular colors in the logos of America’s top brands

Red or blue (or both) appear in 71% of the top brands logos—making them, by far, the most-used corporate colors.

If you understand color psychology, you’ll know why. Red is bold and emotional, characteristics of brands such as Tesla, Airbnb, Netflix and Adobe. Blue is friendly and trustworthy, which are qualities brands such as Facebook, IBM and Geico want to convey to their consumers.

The fact that our national colors are red, white and blue likely contributes to their popularity as well. If you look at other brands outside of the United States, you’ll notice they often use colors found in their flag — such as the prevalence of red and green in Italian companies and products.

Logo colors from most valuable brands

How many colors should be in your logo?

Years ago, most brands picked one color because of the prohibitive cost of printing multiple colors on marketing materials like business cards or letterhead. Today, digital printing and online marketing have mostly eliminated the economic reasons for having only color. But it’s still good practice to choose just one or two colors and use them consistently. It will help make your brand more recognizable and memorable. This is especially important if you’re a new business trying to attract and retain customers.

A majority of the most valuable brands take this approach—more than half have a logo with one color and a third have just two colors.

Number of colors used in top 100 logos

There are a few outliers, the most notable is NBC, which uses 7 colors. The reason for their numerous brand colors is fun piece of logo history. Originally a radio station, NBC introduced the colorful peacock logo in 1956 to bring attention to their color television programming.

Read more about how many colors you should choose.

What logo style is best? Wordmark logo or graphic icon

When people think about a logo, they frequently think of a graphic symbol, and an abstract icon or a monogram letter that represents the brand—such as Nike’s Swoosh, McDonald’s Golden Arches or Starbucks’ twin-tailed mermaid.

But more than 40% of the most valuable 100 brands use a wordmark logo. Rather than a symbol they have logos that are stylized versions of their name set in a specific type and color. Google, Coca-Cola, Morgan Stanley, Subway and Netflix are just a few examples of prominent brands that have opted for wordmark logos.

Wordmark vs symbols in logos

While more than half of the most valuable brands use some sort of graphic element in their logo, it’s not an overwhelming majority. Plus, most brands use graphic icons in conjunction with their name. Very few brands—Nike, Apple and Starbucks for example—can rely on using only a graphic symbol.

But this is not a good practice for a new business. Remember, all three of those brands initially included their name as part of their logo. It was only after many years in business and many millions of dollars spent on marketing that their symbols became recognizable enough to stand on their own.

As a new and unknown business, getting name recognition is critical. A wordmark logo emphasizes your name and often much more affordable for a designer to create.

Ideal business name length for the most valuable brands

Another data point to consider is the name length of these brands, which are overwhelmingly on the shorter side. About one-third have business names that are five or fewer characters. More than 80% have fewer than 10 characters. Overall, they have an average length of about eight characters.

Name length in top logos

Short business names are better for several reasons

  • Short business names create more compact logos, making them highly readable even at smaller sizes such as in social media icons or on mobile devices. If your business name only has five characters, each character can be much bigger than if you had to squeeze in two or three times as many characters in the same space.
  • Short names are easier to say and remember. The shorter your brand name is, the more likely that people will say it in full and remember it exactly.
  • Shorter domain names and social media handles. If you’re lucky enough to secure the domain name and social media handles for your exact business name, your URLs, email addresses and social media handles will be short, making it easier to type correctly and easier to place in large type on marketing materials, business cards, etc.

Getting a .com domain name that is an exact match to your brand name can be difficult. If your name is short, you can always add on a descriptor to your domain name that doesn’t have to become part of your logo. For example, you might choose Ciao as your restaurant name and go with, or as your domain name.

Data source: BrandZ Top Brands

There are many ways to try and quantify and list the most valuable brands. For the purpose of this blog we used the BrandZ 2020 report which focused exclusively on American brands. In their listing, brand names are separated, and are not based solely on company ownership. For example, Google and YouTube share different listings, even though Google is the parent company of YouTube.