Google last topped the list in 2011, when it was overtaken by the iPhone maker, which has been number one for the last five years.
But snapping at the heels of both is Amazon, which increased its brand value by more than half (53%) to $106.4bn (£85.6bn). If this year’s changes were replicated next year, Amazon would surge to first place in the rankings.
The ranking uses factors including marketing investment, familiarity, loyalty, staff satisfaction and corporate reputation to produce a financial measure of how much value a brand contributes to its owner.
Further down at number 9, Facebook saw an even more impressive boost in its brand value, which grew 82% to $62bn (£49.8bn).
But it is not just the big western tech brands that are powering up the ranking: Chinese internet giants Alibaba and Tencent are the two biggest climbers in the top 50.
Alibaba’s brand value grew 9% to $34.9bn (£28.0bn), pushing it from 60th to 23rd in the ranking, while Tencent’s value was up 124% to $22.3bn (£17.9bn), sending it up 70 places to 47th.
Apple’s value decline is unmatched elsewhere in the list. Some brands suffered a bigger or equal decline proportionally, including BT (down 38%), EE (down 33%) and KFC (down 27%).
But Apple’s absolute drop of $38.8bn (£31.1bn) was more than three times higher than the next greatest, HP, which lost $11.6bn (£9.3bn).
David Haigh, chief executive of Brand Finance, said: “Apple has struggled to maintain its technological advantage. New iterations of the iPhone have delivered diminishing returns and there are signs that the company has reached a saturation point for its brand.
“The Chinese market, where Apple has enjoyed a dominant market share, is becoming far more competitive with local players entering the market in a meaningful way. Samsung has also been successful in taking market share and financial analysts are projecting declining revenues and margins.”
In the rival Interbrand list of the 100 most powerful brands, published last October, Apple maintained its top spot ahead of Google – but the big growth it had enjoyed in previous years almost ground to a halt.
The Brand Finance top ten includes two other leading tech brands – Microsoft (5th) and Samsung (6th), along with US telecoms bands AT&T (4th) and Verizon(7th); retail giant Walmart (9th); and China’s ICBC (10th), which has been the world’s biggest bank since 2013.
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Brand Finance also calculates a second measure, brand power, which determines the proportion of overall business revenue contributed by a brand.