Cook Tim
Apple CEO Tim Cook. Apple has been named the most valuable brand in the world. Reuters

Brands are possibly the most important thing a company can sell. Products are important, yes, but consumers also need to feel that they're buying into a respected and trusted club. That's why market research firm Millward Brown releases its annual BrandZ Top 100 list of the 100 most valuable brands in the world. According to the study, the top 20 global brands are overwhelmingly American and tech-focused.

Predictably, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) stands as the most valuable brand in the world, valued at $185 billion in 2013. Apple’s value grew only 1 percent since last year, though the tech giant stood as number one in 2012 as well. Apple’s biggest competitor, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), clocked in at second place, while other tech companies like IBM and Microsoft also claimed spots on the list.

Of the 20 most respected brands, five were tech companies and four were telecommunications providers, while regional banks, credit card providers and retailers each claimed two spots on the list. Surprisingly, tobacco brand Marlboro, made by Altria (NYSE:MO), formerly Phlip Morris, also made a spot in the top 10. By and large, though, the top 20 list represented the increasing importance of tech brands in the global marketplace, though more traditional business avenues like retail remain popular as well.

While the top 20 most valuable brands were overwhelmingly American, there was still room for several non-American brands as well. China Mobile, The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, and British telecom Vodafone all made appearances in the top 20 list, and non-American companies comprise a much larger portion of the top 100.

Perhaps most importantly, non-American brands are on the rise. Chinese tech company Tencent, number 21 on the list, jumped 16 places on the list since last year and grew 52 percent in value. Many other fast-growing brands are non-American as well, including Samsung and the Agricultural Bank of China. As non-American brands continue to rise throughout the lower ranks, it seems likely they will reach the top tier.

See the world’s 20 most valuable brands below, and check out the full list at Millward Brown’s site.

  1. Apple
  2. Google
  3. IBM
  4. McDonalds
  5. Coca-Cola
  6. AT&T
  7. Microsoft
  8. Marlboro
  9. Visa
  10. China Mobile
  11. General Electric
  12. Verizon
  13. Wells Fargo
  14. Amazon
  15. UPS
  16. Industrial and Commercial Bank of China
  17. Vodafone
  18. Walmart
  19. SAP
  20. MasterCard