Google is the daddy
The Googleplex, home of the world's most valuable brand. Image courtesy of Keso.
According to new research from WPP released this week, and to which adliterate was given a sneek preview, Google is now officially the most valuable brand on earth - at $66,434m ahead of GE, Microsoft and Coca Cola.
This is the second year that WPP and Millward Brown have produced a ranking of the world's most powerful brands (using a methodology that is markedly different to other brand equity studies), however it is the first in which Google has reached the top spot.
And yet more proof, if it were needed, that while brands always win the speed at which the brandscape is being rearranged at the moment means no-one can be complacent about their position in peoples' hearts, minds and wallets.
For the brand valuation geeks I have summarised the WPP approach but you can always cut out the middle-blog and go straight to the study here.
WPP's methodology uses three stages to determine the global value of a brand.
The first thing they do is to isolate the intagiable earnings from the brand by taking the global corporate earnings that are attributed to the brand name in question, these are the branded earnings. Then the intangiable earnings are derived by removing applicable taxes and a capital charge.
The second stage is to calculate what portion of those intangible earnings are driven by the brand - the brand contribtion if you like.
This is the share of income that comes from the most committed customers (not from people who buy purely on price or other soley functional criteria). To do this they use the % of customers that are bonded to the brand or for whom the brand has advantage, as derived from WPP's BrandZ study. This is critical because it means that you are not simply giving a value to the brand name but to the emotional power the brand has.
Finally a number of weighting measures are introduced like presence in high growth economies and the brand's voltage (this is what I call brand potency - essentially how dynamic the brand is and therefore how likely to grow in the future). This stage provides a multiple that favours brands that have positive momentum and are in the right place.
This leaves you with the global valuation of the brand, simple as that.
Here are the top ten brands.
Of course we could debate the philosophy of trying to add a value to an intagiable concept that lives entirely in people's minds but that's annother post.
i'm sure the media story of these results will be about Google's ascendancy, its meteoric rise, and so on. But what's more interesting is the resilience of some decidedly old world brands - GE, Marlboro, Citi, IBM, all still hanging tough in the top ten...
Posted by: Ian at April 25, 2007 05:53 PM
We could also debate how you determine commitment to the brand but that might just be another post too.
Posted by: John Dodds at April 25, 2007 06:53 PM
Like Ian, I am intrigued by the almost universal coverage that Google has received in contrast to the other stories from the Top 100. For instance, the only coverage I have seen of the stunning turnaround at M&S comes from the Economic Times of India (well apart from http://www.mb-blog.com of course). Now that story is testimony to the resilience of a well-liked brand and the power of mass-market advertising to rekindle a brand's fortunes.
Posted by: Nigel Hollis at April 26, 2007 02:59 PM
If I were a brand investor, I would slightly downweight the Google brand for being far less unassailable in its dominance than, say, eBay.
Barriers to entry are relatively low (unlike Amazon, for instance), and there is no Metcalfe factor as with eBay where sellers and buyers both gravitate towards the largest marketplace. (Moreover while eBay is a genuine 2.0 business where buyers and sellers benefit from each other. Google isn't quite - advertisers piggyback on searchers.)
There are already several other search engines which are considered as good as Google. Google's dominance rests then rather heavily on web users' habitual behaviour. It is hence vulnerable to 1) consumer activism and organised boycotts or 2) a new business model where ad revenues are shared with users or part-donated to a user's chosen causes.
Warren Buffett bought into Coke not so much for its brand as its distribution. "You could give me a billion dollars in marketing money and I couldn't wrest the #1 spot in soft drinks from CocaCola" he argued.
If you gave me a few $bn, I think I could have a stab at unseating Google - starting with the purchase of Wikipedia.
Posted by: Rory Sutherland at April 26, 2007 11:09 PM
Hold on Rory - i'll have quick whip around.
Posted by: richard huntington at April 27, 2007 12:13 AM
What on earth makes Rory think that Google might be brought down by consumer activism any time soon? What comparable businesses have been brought down by consumer boycotts? Why would any consumer boycott of Google gain mass traction?
His second 'vulnerability' makes more sense, and it points up the question of how deep consumers' attachment to Google is. (But Google does have distribution strengths: sitting on someone's homepage, or at the top of their bookmarks, or in the corner of a browser - these are forms of distribution, aren't they?)
Posted by: Ian at April 27, 2007 08:30 AM
Interesting how different a 'qualitative' list would be (I think)were such a thing possible (it isn't); these are surely not the best loved brands in the world; it is surely a list devised by accountants, which far from measuring the 'emotional power' of these brands is mainly looking at their revenue.
Posted by: Dominic at April 27, 2007 10:46 AM
please don't mention that kind of thing dominic it only encourages the mighty Kevin Roberts and his "fantastic lovemarks theory" to get involved... and in so doing take us all 'forward' to the 80's
Posted by: jemster at April 27, 2007 12:33 PM
Going to have to challenge you on that one.
Consumer measures of equity sit at the heart of the valuation i.e. the higher the degree of loyalty to the brand then the higher contribution of the brand to the business.
While the list has its merits, there are further ways to skin the data. If you go to www.brandz.com you will see further analysis, one piece ranks brands by their overall contribution and the list is very different. What that list shows is the phenomenonal power of luxury/premium brands.
Hope you are well
Posted by: David Muir at April 27, 2007 01:15 PM
I kinda agree with Rory on this one. Googles dominance and value seems to have arisen from habit as opposed to any form of exercisable emotional choice. I think search is quite apathetic. It is purely designed to fulfill a need and with limited understanding of the 'product' among most consumers, there is no desire to review options. Frankly, I couldn't care less which engine provides my answers.
Movement and transportation is a functional need, but not everyone drives a Ford or Kia because the value of choice in this instance is important.
If people were to make the effort they would experience a better product in MSN Live. So ironically it is about the desire to search for an alternate!
Google is convenient and irrespective of research, convenience alone is not enough to facilitate genuine brand value (no Tesco's analogy please).
Put another way, should Google change its name tomorrow, it wouldn't make a blind bit of difference to the financials. Were the same to happen to Apple, I think their FD might have a few problems. That is the hallmark of a great brand.
Posted by: mm at April 28, 2007 03:13 PM
i wonder how many of the brands that are in the top 10 most creatively awarded lists, are in this list too? (my, i'm being cynical tonight). adil
Posted by: sidekick at April 29, 2007 09:57 PM
David, I'm thriving thank you, though sadly getting addicted to blogging: isn't this one great? Bullmoresque, I think, in a really good way. Back to the Heated Debate, I concede that other ways of cutting the data may be more revealing (comparing like with like) but I still think (with a couple of exceptions) these brands lack 'emotional power':I think you have to explore so called 'consumer bonds' qualitatively, taking into account brand imagery/ personality etc.; though that competition would be more a ranking of judgement than of fact (ie more like gymnastics or diving than athletics, but none the worse for that).
Posted by: Dominic Scott-Malden at April 30, 2007 11:02 AM
"Google is convenient and irrespective of research, convenience alone is not enough to facilitate genuine brand value (no Tesco's analogy please).Put another way, should Google change its name tomorrow, it wouldn't make a blind bit of difference to the financials. Were the same to happen to Apple, I think their FD might have a few problems. That is the hallmark of a great brand."
I find this sort of sentiment baffling. Remember, we're talking about one of the biggest, most dynamic and successful brands in the world, one that most sensible analysts predict is going to be big and successful for a long time to come. It's certainly way more successful than Apple.
If your theory of what makes a 'great brand' doesn't fit Google, then I'd gently suggest it's the theory that needs to change, not Google.
Posted by: Ian at April 30, 2007 04:34 PM
Google is a search engine. Google isn't a conversation. Brands that fail to converse will always encounter problems.
I couldn't give a toss about its size, dynamics or anything else. You see, reports I'm reading warn about the impeding threat of copycat search engines and potential for cheaper PPC rates. So the lifelong assumption that it will have a successful future isn't actually the case.
Like I said, Google can be replaced and that for me, is not the hallmark of a great brand.
Posted by: MM at April 30, 2007 09:26 PM
Going to have to come back at you again. China Mobile and Toyota are exceptionally innovative and have great emotional warmth. As even Microsoft does these days.
As said the brand contribution ranking is perhaps the most relevant. Again it can be viewed on www.brandz.com.
As to MM's point. Essentially all brands are replaceable, the fact that I can switch a Kit-Kat for a Mars bar doesn't make Kit-Kat worthless.
Another interesting viewpoint is Google's observation that they view the release of new software like Google Earth, Maps, word processing and spreadsheets as advertising (a simple cost of sale).
Posted by: David Muir at May 1, 2007 12:25 PM
switching between confectionary because you fancy a kit-kat over a mars or vice versa is indicative of that market place and the inherent desire to buy something that is rewarding and gratifying.
I've yet to encounter anyone spend the time debating whether or not they fancy using ASK instead of Google.
Now as I write this, I might be coming round to the idea that the Google 'brand' is about removing choice. But, should others get their act together (interested to see 'information revolution' effectiveness ) users might start to value the need for choice and therefore question the Google proposition.
Posted by: mm at May 1, 2007 04:03 PM
Google not a brand? Convenience not a major factor in choosing a brand?
Come on David, you and your friends should know better than that!
Setting aside my research hat, let me talk as someone who uses Google for search, maps, mail, photo management and sharing, language translation. Why? Because a) it is convenient and it works, b) it's free, c) in exchange (yes, in exchange) I get relevant information in the form of ad links: want info on more travel companies in Mongolia? You got it, thanks to the links that accompany gmail.
Do I have an emotional relationship with Google? You bet. It's called "gratitude" and I share it with millions of other people.
Google's strategy may be to remove choice but they do it by providing real value their users in exchange for the right to sell our eye balls. Fair exchange, I say.
Posted by: Nigel Hollis at May 2, 2007 01:57 AM
Odd, Marketing magazine's annual survey of "most loved" brands has Google at No 1, but last year's No. 2, Tesco, has been pushed down to fourth place, with Nokia moving up from third to second and Amazon leapfrogging from 17th to third (quoted on Brand Republic). But we have to question what being 'loved' means. I'm sorry, people DO NOT LOVE Tesco's (for example).
A good example of a brand that people REALLY love is innocent and a brand people REALLY hate is McDonald's. So imagine our surprise when ... check out www.theartofconversation.net
Posted by: kevin at May 8, 2007 04:23 PM
David Muir runs The Channel at WPP and is intimately involved in this study. But he has also written a book about the business advantages of strong brands.
I think its a must read for anyone interested in making the business case to clients or organisational stakeholders about the economic value of brands.
Upfront there is a little too much 'brand strategy 101' for my taste but the section on measurement and valuation is absolutely excellent contrasting the different approaches to brand valuation.
The Business of Brands
Posted by: richard huntington at May 9, 2007 07:29 PM
Sorry if I'm sounding patronizing but this year, I developed a planning tool of my own called the Brand Electrocution Model - one that is based on Ohm's Magic Triangle and the Law of Voltage, where a brand's strength (Potential) versus its weaknesses (Resistance) are weighed to come up with a rating on 5 to identify how active or dynamic (Current) the brand really is.
This would then help you decide what needs to be done and in what areas before jumping onto the bandwagon and shouting out "Campaign, Activation, Direct, Anything, I'm an Idiot so please help me, blah blah".
Strange that you mentioned WPP's "brand voltage", "potency" et al.
I'm sure their model is more precise, thorough and well-researched but any ideas on how I could get a hold of that model?
Posted by: Yousuf Rangoonwala at May 30, 2007 03:11 PM
You will find a link in the body of the post to the Brandz brand equity study which discusses their methodology.
To use the brandz tools you'll need to be part of WPP though - even I no longer have that priviledge.
Posted by: richard huntington at May 31, 2007 10:45 AM