Who needs the iPhone 5? On the day Apple Inc. is to release the newest version of its flagship smartphone, the global brand consultancy Interbrand issued a report this morning suggesting the value of the technology company's brand had grown a whopping 58 per cent in the last year. While that doesn't make Apple the world's most valuable brand – that honour again goes to perennial winner Coca-Cola – this is the first year it has broken into the Top Ten of Interbrand's annual list.
Other big movers include Google (up 27 per cent to the No. 4 slot), Samsung (up 20 per cent to No. 17), Amazon.com (up 32 per cent to No. 26) and eBay (up 16 per cent to No. 36). But the good news isn't restricted to tech firms: Hyundai is up 19 per cent to No. 61, the diversified manufacturer Caterpillar is up 19 per cent to No. 64, Cartier is up 18 per cent to No. 70, and Burberry squeaked onto the list with a 20 per cent jump, to No. 95.
Falling stars include Nokia (down 15 per cent to No. 14), Sony (down 13 per cent to No. 35), and Nintendo (down 14 per cent to No. 48). BlackBerry is down only five per cent, in part because Interbrand's calculations take into account only information up to June 30 – prior to its recent public trials. (Other measures that seem out of date include Hewlett-Packard, said to be up 6 per cent to No. 10.) Interbrand's metrics try to put a scientific frame on the role that a brand plays in a consumer's intent to purchase, therefore ensuring the brand's future cash flows. Its 2011 Best Global Brands list puts the brand value of No. 1 Coca-Cola at $71.9-billion (U.S.), No. 2 IBM at $69.9-billion, and No. 3 Microsoft at $59-billion.
Yet the big story, again, is Apple, whose brand value is pegged by Interbrand at $33.5-billion, putting it at the No. 8 slot.
"What they do and how they've done it is nothing short of fantastic," said Alfred DuPuy, the managing director of Interbrand Canada. "The big increase is a result of the iPad and how they've really dominated that market. Other people have been shown to be pretenders."
Mr. DuPuy suggested Apple's strong brand gives the company unusual latitude. "Because they've established these connections with consumers – forget the emotional connections, let's talk aspirational connections – it allows them to do stuff: They can try the iCloud, try a better version of AppleTV. And even if they fail, nobody really talks about it. That's what's so powerful about it. By doing these other things well, it gives them that much more leeway to figure out what's next, what is that new thing, and if it doesn't succeed, it doesn't hurt them. That's pretty powerful stuff."
A strong brand also permits companies to engage in other activities, like the announcement on Monday by Starbucks that it would launch a $5-million jobs fund. "We would argue that (use of brand power) is pretty world-changing," said Mr. DuPuy. "Howard Schutz is essentially bypassing Washington and saying: Okay, I'm going to use my brand to change the world, because your brand isn't strong enough."
As for BlackBerry, Mr. DuPuy noted it's not all bleak news. "Clearly there's still a brand, clearly there's some growth opportunities for it," he acknowledged. "But in terms of the overall momentum of the brand – you'd certainly feel more pessimistic about it."