LONDON: Vodafone, HSBC and Shell are the most valuable brands in the UK, an area where smaller players like Virgin Media, Burberry and Next are gaining ground by using their British credentials.

In a new report, Brand Finance, the consultancy, named Vodafone as the intangible asset with the highest net worth, of $30bn. HSBC, the bank, was on $27.6bn, and Shell, the energy group, posted $22bn. Tesco, the retailer, followed on $20.1bn, ahead of Orange, the mobile phone network, on $18.6bn.

More broadly, the study suggested the three fastest-growing brands in the rankings had each successfully emphasised their "Britishness" as a means of driving growth during the last year.

Virgin Media, which provides cable TV, landline and mobile phone services, enjoyed a 64% expansion in its net worth, to a total of $4.7bn, and recently introduced the Union Jack into its logo.

"We have a right to talk about our Britishness and heritage," Jeff Dodds, its executive director, brand and marketing, told Marketing Week. "Our founder, Sir Richard Branson, is one of the most famous British businessmen and we trade in the UK. We wanted to unlock some of our British identity this year."

Burberry, the luxury label, possesses a royal warrant, and regularly works with well-known British models like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Its value climbed by 41%, to $3.1bn.

Next, the apparel chain, saw a lift of 32%, and has given its summer collection a British theme, as well as leveraging its official tie-up with the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Overall, 12 of the 50 most valuable intangible assets are now owned by foreign companies, a group that includes Orange, a unit of France Telecom, and Asda, the UK retail arm of Wal-Mart, worth $9.4bn.

Cadbury, the confectioner priced at $3.6bn by Brand Finance, has also been acquired by Kraft, while Mini, pegged at $2.7bn, became part of BMW in 1994.

"Mini's rich British heritage is extremely important to us because there is a huge amount of goodwill and fondness for the brand in the UK," said Jochen Goller, Mini's UK managing director.

Elsewhere, Marks & Spencer, the high-street retailer, was mentioned in the study for effectively using its British heritage, but the firm does seek to do so selectively.

"We don't want to push patriotism down people's throats," said Steve Sharp, its executive director of marketing. "Britishness is a card in the marketing armoury that we will play when we need to and in an appropriate way."

"In territories where we are developing rapidly, such as India and China, it is less important that we are British. It is more important that we sell great fashions and products of great quality, and that is what they appreciate."

Data sourced from Marketing Week; additional content by Warc staff