For the first time, Apple has topped Interbrand’s Best Global Brands chart in 2013, with its brand valued at $104 billion. It’s raced up the chart, coming from 8th position in 2011 to finally knock Coca Cola off the top perch it’s occupied since the ranking was first done in 2000.
In fact, Coke dropped down to 3rd, with Google in 2nd place with a value of $99 billion. This could mean that teenage boys are drinking less Coke and more Red Bull while searching for inappropriate websites on their iPhones, although Coca Cola probably isn’t too concerned (did you know they sell 1.7 billion Cokes each day?)
It’s interesting to reflect on what we actually mean when we talk about brand “value”. All of the top 5 brands (the others are IBM and McDonald’s) are instantly recognised and evoke powerful mental images of what they stand for. They smash the definition of a “well known brand” under our Trade Marks Act, meaning nobody else can use a brand the same or similar in any category of goods or services without infringing. The rumour that Apple is planning to require you to sign a user agreement each time you want to eat an apple is probably true.
But where did the value come from in the first place? In the case of each of these companies, it clearly came from genuine and unique innovation, and effective monopoly ownership of a field of commerce. Coca Cola’s value derives from its secret formula, without which it would have been overwhelmed by copycats decades ago. The others are tech companies and each has created new fields of consumer demand and then set about owning them. The point is that focusing too much on developing a brand without having something truly amazing to back it up, ie a product for which consumers will kill, might be successful in the short term but the real long game winners are still the people who had a genius idea and backed themselves to score with it.
So, less time workshopping the trade mark, more time workshopping the idea.