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New FutureBrand Index reveals boost for brands prioritising innovation and human well-being

  • The pandemic effect has disproportionately affected consumer-facing brands, with many of 2020’s Top Ten displaced by B2B giants.
  • Tech and Healthcare companies benefited most, with ASML Holdings, Apple, Prosus NV and Danaher leading the ranking. Apple is the only company to stay in the Top Five from 2020.
  • Brands offering the “pleasure factor”, such as LVMH, P&G and PepsiCo, were also boosted as consumers seek new ways to feel good.
  • The financial services sector saw a rise in overall perception for the first time in years as global attention moves to fixing the economy and trusted institutions.

The results of the 2021 FutureBrand Index, the annual perception study of PwC’s top 100 companies, reveal extensive changes in the perception of global companies since the start of the pandemic. Today, it is those companies prioritising innovation to impact individual well-being and drive change for good at scale that are truly set to thrive. 

As a result, there is huge change at the top in this year’s ranking, with only Apple keeping its place as one of the Top Five leading brands, where it is now joined by ASML, Prosus NV, Danaher and Nextra Energy. The standout success of Tech and Healthcare companies across this year’s FutureBrand Index also points to the heightened need for connectivity and a focus on improving quality of life after what has been a hugely challenging year for the world.

Top insights:

Looking beyond the pandemic: This year’s FutureBrand Index reveals that today’s thriving companies are those that prioritise innovation to impact individual well-being and drive change for good at scale. This means a significant opportunity for the companies that create the platforms and infrastructures on which human life can thrive into the future.

The Top Five brands: ASML Holdings (#1), Apple (#2), Prosus NV (#3), Danaher (#4) and Nextera Energy (#5).

The Top Five risers: Saudi Aramco (#28, up 63 places), Tata Consultancy (#20, up 45 places), LVMH (#29, up 37 places), Berkshire Hathaway (#50, up 33 places), China Mobile (#45, up 27 places).

Technology leads the way: The Technology sector dominates the FutureBrand Index with three of this year’s Top Five coming from this sector: ASML, Apple and Prosus NV.

Healthcare continues to surge: The Healthcare sector continues to grow as Pfizer and United Health Group surge forward during the pandemic.

A renewed focus on the pleasure factor: Feeling good and the pursuit of simple pleasures has proved important to consumers during a year of uncertainty and crisis. Luxury consumer brands such as Apple and LVMH have capitalised on this, but the likes of Amazon and P&G have also benefited.

B2B companies becoming ‘household’ names: B2B companies that in previous FutureBrand Indexes were seen lower down the list, such as ASML and Danaher, have surged forward as behind-the-scenes Tech and Pharma brands become ‘household’ names and society focuses on the innovation that will help us come out of the pandemic.

Jon Tipple, Global Chief Strategy Officer at FutureBrand, commented: “This year’s research has revealed a huge shift in the way companies work and how they convey their mission to their consumers. Those that look set to thrive in a post-pandemic world, are companies prioritising innovation to consistently impact individual well-being and drive change for good at scale. There are some familiar names and some many won’t expect in this year’s FutureBrand Index. We’ve seen pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer race ahead, as they are seen by consumers as critical to our future and working within humanity’s best interest. Meanwhile, consumers are also looking for the ‘feel good’ factor; in a period of 12 months when so much has been taken away from us, luxury brands like Apple and LVMH have done particularly well.”

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Now in its seventh year, the FutureBrand Index is a global perception study that reorders PwC’s Global Top 100 Companies by Market Cap on perception strength, rather than financial strength, drawing on rigorous research with a global sample of over 3,000 informed professionals who were aware of and knew something about least seven of the top 100 companies of that year. 

Key sector snapshot:


  • Tech has done extremely well: three of this year’s Top Five Risers come from this sector. 
  • However, aside from Apple, consumer tech brands have slipped down the FutureBrand Index while companies which are critical behind-the-scenes enablers of the technology we rely on have risen. This is likely due to their response to the pandemic and societies and economies’ need for technology to survive lockdowns and quarantines.

Consumer discretionary:

  • LVMH has benefitted from increased consumer spending on luxury goods and online shopping jumping 29 places up the FutureBrand Index. Consumer goods and services who rely on physical retail have suffered during the pandemic with Walmart falling 34 places and McDonald’s falling 32. 

Consumer staples:

  • Consumer staples have benefitted from recurring lockdowns with PepsiCo and P&G top risers in the category jumping 24 and 22 places. 
  • As with previous years, ‘Pleasure’ remains this category’s single strongest attribute which is unsurprising for a year when our sources of pleasure were limited to those housed within our immediate four walls. 


  • Healthcare companies have continued on the FutureBrand Index’s trend of 2020 in surging forward and are now perceived as indispensable towards innovating in the future.
  • Pfizer has jumped 15 places up the FutureBrand Index benefiting from its vaccine success as well as the global realisation around the role pharmaceutical companies play in ensuring we are able to operate in the post-pandemic society. 

Financial Services:

  • The sector has had its highest performance score since the FutureBrand Index began in 2014, as a result of the greater need to rely on and trust financial institutions when business has been struggling, incomes reduced and jobs lost. 
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