These 15 Billion-Dollar Brands Are the Most Valuable in the U.S.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but that's nothing compared to what the most valuable brands are worth.

The cumulative value of the top 500 brands in the United States is more than $2.5 trillion, according to a report from brand valuation and strategy consultancy Brand Finance. The firm's annual ranking of the top U.S. brands found that while the number of billion-dollar brands in America declined to 505 in 2015 from 519 in 2014, their total value increased by 3%.

Technology is the most valuable sector, with 22% of the brands listed being tech companies. Unsurprisingly, Brands on the list include Apple (AAPL) , Google (GOOG) (GOOGL), Intel (INTC), Oracle (ORCL) and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ). Twitter (TWTR) and Facebook (FB) are the biggest "tech winners," having increased their brand's values 185% and 146%, respectively, from 2014 to 2015.

For some brands, an increase in brand value may have come at the cost of a competitor. According to Brand Finance, online travel brands like Priceline (PCLN) and Tripadvisor (TRIP)  gained at a cost to traditional hospitality names like Hilton (HLT) and Hyatt (H). Likewise, changing consumer preferences in the fast food arena have helped Chipotle  (CMG) increase its brand value by 124%, while that of McDonald's (MCD) has declined 15%.

Brand Finance analyzed more than 2,000 business and consumer brands in the U.S. across 16 sectors to create its 2015 Billion Dollar Brands Club list. It utilized several criteria to determine the value a company would be willing to pay to license its brand as though it did not own it – essentially, deciphering the dollar amount a specific name, trademark or logo adds to a product or service. Brand Finance also assigns each brand a rating that ranges from D to AAA, which benchmarks the strength, risk and future potential of a brand relative to its competitors. The company's complete methodology can be found here.

Here are the top 15 brands on the list. All of the top 15 brands in the United States are worth more than $25 billion, and cumulatively, they are valued at more than $750 billion.

Take a closer look at America's 15 more valuable brands in order from least valuable to most valuable. Click through to see which brand is No. 1.

15. Intel, $25 Billion

Intel (INTC) announced a $16.7 billion bid to buy chip company Altera (ALTR) on June 1 to strengthen its server-focused subsidiary, Data Center Group. Some perceive the deal, which is expected to close within six to nine months, as an accelerated shift away from PCs.

Acquisitions aside, Intel is a powerful brand worth $25 billion -- 16% of its total enterprise value. Its brand worth increased 9% from 2014 to 2015, and Brand Finance gives it a AAA- rating.

14. Bank of America, $25.7 Billion

The brand value of Bank of America (BAC) has declined 4% over the past year, though it is still worth $25.7 billion and given an AA+ rating. Its brand makes up 17% of its enterprise value.

Bank of America's reputation has taken a few hits lately. A financial regulator ruled in May that the company must pay $30 million for violations related to military service member accounts, and its Merrill Lynch unit was recently fined $11 million by the SEC to settle short sale violations. Bank of America was also among the banks fined a total $6 billion for manipulating foreign exchange rates, though it avoided a guilty plea

13. Citi, $26.2 Billion

Citi's AA+ brand rating matches that of Bank of America, and its value has increased 7% over the past year. Its brand value comprises 16% of its enterprise value.

Goldman Sachs analysts recently pointed out that Citigroup (C) stock is trading cheaper than 96% of stocks in the S&P 500 on earnings-per-share and upgraded their rating from buy to neutral. Like Bank of America, Citigroup was involved in the currency trading probe, but unlike Bank of America, it had to submit a guilty plea.

12. Walt Disney, $30.7 Billion

Walt Disney's (DIS) brand value jumped 30% from 2014 to 2015 to $30.7 billion. Brand Finance gives the media and entertainment giant a AAA rating and lists its brand value at 27% of its total enterprise value.

The company had a stellar 2014, with its revenues reaching a record $48.8 billion for the year. It continues to perform well in 2015 and exceeded analyst estimates with its May earnings report. Expectations are high for its December release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the excitement around which, according to CEO Robert Iger, is "unlike anything we've ever seen before."

11. Wells Fargo, $34.9 Billion

Wells Fargo (WFC) has taken some heat recently regarding allegations that bank employees opened accounts without customers' permission in order to meet sales goals. But company CEO, John Stumpf said, "In a large institution, we're not going to be perfect, and when we are not perfect we try to make it better," at an investment conference discussing the issue.

Stumpf is at the helm of one of the most valuable brands in the U.S., worth an estimated $34.9 billion -- up 15% from the year before. It has an AAA- rating, and its brand is worth 12% of its enterprise value.

10. IBM, $35.4 Billion

Legacy tech giant IBM (IBM) is still working to carve out its space in the current market. And while its brand value has declined 15% over the past year, it is still worth $35.4 billion -- 16% of the total enterprise -- and has an AA+ rating.

On June 3, IBM announced plans to buy Blue Box, which specializes in cloud computing. This year, IBM has also picked up Explorys (a healthcare intelligence cloud company), AlchemyAPI (a cognitive computing application program interface) and Phytel (a provider of health management software).

9. Coca-Cola, $35.8 Billion

The ninth most valuable brand in the United States, Coca-Cola (KO) saw its worth climb 6% from 2014 to 2015 to $35.8 billion. Moreover, it has an AAA+ rating for its brand, which comprises 33% of its enterprise value.

Coca-Cola has had quite a year in terms of the newsworthy events surrounding the company. AMC (AMC) series Mad Men came to an end with a 1971 Coke commercial, giving the beverage giant a good amount of free advertising. And a corruption scandal at international soccer organization FIFA has put Coca-Cola, an official sponsor of the association, in the spotlight.

8. Wal-Mart, $46.7 Billion

Wal-Mart's  (WMT) reputation among consumers and workers has gotten a boost lately thanks to company-wide minimum wage hikes for associates, deli workers and some department managers.

The retailer's brand value has increased 4% over the past year to $46.7 billion. Brand Finance gives it an AA+ rating.

7. General Electric, $48 Billion

General Electric's (GE) brand declined 9% from $52.5 billion in 2014 to $48 billion in 2015. Nevertheless, it remains one of the top names in America, its brand worth 12% of its total enterprise value with an AA+ rating.

In a June interview with Fortune, General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt said his biggest challenge has been working on the company's transition from a financial services provider and going back to its roots as an engineering and infrastructure company. "I'm probably one of the few CEOs that's done $100 billion in acquisitions and $100 billion in dispositions," he said. In April, GE announced plans to sell most of its finance arm, GE Capital, for $26.5 billion.

6. Amazon, $56.1 Billion

The brand value of Amazon (AMZN) climbed 24% from 2014 to 2015 to reach $56.1 billion -- 40% of its total enterprise value. Brand Finance gives it a AAA- rating.

At least part of Amazon's brand success can be tied to its founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, who was recently named one of the most influential technology executives in the world. He has supervised Amazon's explosive growth from online retail platform to cloud services giant and even content provider with a market cap of more than $200 billion.

5. AT&T, $58.8 Billion

It appears as though AT&T (T) is about to add more to its telecommunications prowess in the weeks to come. The Washington Post reports federal regulators are likely to approve its $49 billion purchase of DirecTV (DTV) , thanks at least in part to AT&T's agreement to abide by net neutrality rules.

The AT&T brand value has skyrocketed 30% over the past year to $58.8 billion. It is also worth noting that the DirecTV brand has a nice price on it as well at $10.3 billion.

4. Verizon, $59.8 Billion

Verizon (VZ) is about to bring another big name under its umbrella. In May, news broke that the telecom giant would buy AOL (AOL) in a deal valued at $4.4 billion, beating out three other suitors to scoop the company up.

Brand Finance estimates that the AOL name is worth $1.4 billion -- a far cry by from the $59.8 billion it assigns to Verizon. Verizon's value has climbed 12% over the past year, and the brand has an AAA- rating.

3. Microsoft, $67.1 Billion

The horizon is looking bright for Microsoft (MSFT) . Not only is the company listed as the third most valuable brand in America, but its CEO, Satya Nadella, has been named the most influential executive in technology. It will soon be rolling out Microsoft WiFi, the details of which were leaked on June 2. The company said it will "bring hassle-free Wi-Fi to millions."

Brand Finance values the Microsoft brand at $67 billion, up 7% from the $62.8 billion listed a year before. It has also assigned the company a AAA rating.

2. Google, $76.7 Billion

It's good to be Google (GOOG) (GOOGL) , the brand value of which has climbed 12% over the past year to $76.7 billion. What's more, the company won't be slowing down anytime soon.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin laid out his case for self-driving cars in a letter to shareholders filed with the SEC Wednesday. "This project and others like it are very challenging, and the outcomes are far from certain," he wrote. "But, just like when we started nearly two decades ago, it is possible to create the technology that allows people to lead healthier, happier lives. And, along with our incredibly passionate employees, I am humbled and excited to try."

Apple, $128.3 Billion

The only brand valued at over $100 billion, Apple (AAPL) has been listed as the world's most valuable brand for four years in a row. Apple's brand value has increased 23% over the past year alone.

The iPhone has become the primary driver of the Apple brand in recent years, and the story on the Apple Watch, launched April 24, is still playing out. Now, it looks as though the tech giant is preparing to dive back into music and will announce a new music streaming service to compete with Pandora (P) and Spotify soon.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.

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