How 15 Of The World’s Top Brands Got Started


Photo: Antonio Manfredonio

The world’s top 25 brands were started by normal people with extraordinary determination. But, as you’ll see, everything started as nothing.Find out how your favourite brands rank against each other and discover the incredible stories about how they started.

The rankings and brand values were determined by Interbrand, the world’s premier brand ranking organisation.

If you want to find out more about how they ranked 2010′s biggest brands, you can do so here.

Nike, Brand Value: $13.7 Billion

American Express, Brand Value: $13.9 Billion

H&M, Brand Value: $16.1 Billion

Samsung, Brand Value: $19.5 Billion

Founder: Lee Byung-chul

Founded: 1938, South Korea

How it started: Samsung started as a grocery store when Lee Byung-chul opened Samsung Sanghoe in 1938. The business prospered and he moved the headquarters to Seoul in 1947. However, when the Korean War broke out, he was forced to leave. So he started a sugar refinery and a woolen mill under the parent company, Samsung.

In the 1960s, the South Korean President Park Chung-hee implemented policies to protect conglomerates (Samsung included) from competition. Park banned foreign companies from selling electronics in South Korea until 1979, when he was assassinated. This gave Samsung 18 years to fine-tune their products and become one of the biggest electronics providers in the world.


Marlboro, Brand Value: $20.0 Billion

Louis Vuitton, Brand Value: $21.9 Billion

Founder: Louis Vuitton

Founded: 1854, Paris, France

How it started: At the age of 14, little Louis decided to move to Paris from his hometown, Jura. He made the 249-mile journey by foot, picking up odd jobs along the way.

Once he got to Paris, he became an apprentice Layetier (trunk-maker) for prominent households. Because of his well established reputation, Napoleon III appointed Louis as the Layetier to his wife, Empress Eugénie de Montijo. Through this experience, he gained advanced knowledge of what people wanted in quality luggage.

In 1854 (age 43), Louis opened his first luggage store in Paris. He aimed to serve wealthy, travelling Parisians and created one of the most luxurious brands in the world in the process.


Cisco, Brand Value: $23.2 Billion

Gillette, Brand Value: $23.3 Billion

Founder: King Camp Gillette

Founded: 1901, United States

How it started: In 1895, while working as a travelling salesman for a cork company, King noticed that bottle caps were used once and thrown away. Then the bottling companies had to buy more bottle caps. This made him recognise the value in using this business model to create recurring revenue.
He also noticed that every man on the planet had to sharpen their razors daily. King envisioned an inexpensive, double-edged blade that could be clamped over a handle, used until it was dull, and then discarded.

Over the next six years, King perfected his safety razor despite pessimistic scientists and toolmakers telling him that it was impossible. In 1901, he created the American Safety Razor Company (renamed Gillette Safety Razor Company in 1902) to raise $5,000 (equivalent to about $150,000 today) so he could begin manufacturing his invention.

The company began selling the safety razor in 1903 and sold 51 razor sets (at $5) and 168 blades (at 20 for $1) for a first-year revenue of $263. The following year, they received their patent and sold 90,884 razors and 123,648 blades.


Mercedes-Benz, Brand Value: $25.2 Billion

Founders: Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler

Founded: 1871, Germany

How it started: In January of 1886, Karl Benz unveiled the world's first automobile, a motorised tricycle dubbed the Benz Patent Motor Car. A few months later, Gottlieb Daimler rolled out a four-wheeled vehicle powered by his Daimler engine. Although they were only 60 miles apart, the two were unaware of each other's early work.

40 years after the first two vehicles were invented, the companies merged to form Daimler-Benz AG. The Mercedes-Benz brand was born.


Toyota, Brand Value: $26.2 Billion

Founder: Kiichiro Toyoda

Founded: 1937, Japan

How it started: In 1924, Sakichi Toyoda invented the Toyoda Model G Automatic Loom to efficiently manufacture textiles. The Japanese government encouraged Toyoda Automatic Loom Works (Sakichi's company) to develop automobiles a few years later. So Kiichiro, Sakichi's son, travelled to Europe and the US to investigate automobile production.

After returning, Kiichiro established an Automobile Department within Toyoda Automatic Loom Works and produced its first Type A Engine in 1934. A year later, they were selling their first Model A1 passenger car and G1 truck.

Toyota Motor Company split off from Toyoda Automatic Loom Works in 1937 but the Toyota Group still makes textiles and sewing machines that are sold worldwide.


Disney, Brand Value: $28.7 Billion

Nokia, Brand Value: $29.5 Billion

Founder: Fredrik Idestam

Founded: 1865, Tampere, Finland

How it started: In 1865, Nokia started by making paper -- one of the original communications technologies. Fredrik Idestam built a wood pulp mill on the banks of the Tammerkoski River. An engineer by trade, Fredrik developed a new, cheaper paper manufacturing process that revolutionised the paper industry. His big break was winning a bronze medal for this invention at the Paris World Exposition in 1867.

After a century of mergers and acquisitions, Nokia got into mobile communication in the early 1980s.


McDonald's, Brand Value: $33.6 Billion

General Electric, Brand Value: $42.8 Billion

The Coca-Cola Company, Brand Value: $70.5 Billion

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