Apple Holds Top Spot in 100 Most Valuable Brands, Failure to Look Forward

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The 2013 version of BrandZ's Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands put Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) in first place with a valuation of $185.1 billion, ironic, given the company's trouble. The research shows how brand research often fails to take into account current circumstances and those of the likely short-term future.

Apple's stock price by itself shows how investors have devalued the company and its products. A month ago, its share price was down 40% from its 52-week high. BrandZ would argue that the drop does not matter. The research firm's methodology is such that Apple's troubles could be swept under a rug:

It is the only study to combine measures of brand equity based on interviews with over two million consumers globally about thousands of global 'consumer facing' and business-to-business brands with a rigorous analysis of the financial and business performance of each company (using data from Bloomberg and Kantar Worldpanel) to separate the value that brand plays in driving business revenue and market capitalization. Consumer perception of a brand is a key input in determining brand value because brands are a combination of business performance, product delivery, clarity of positioning, and leadership. The ranking takes into account regional variations since, even for truly global brands, measures of brand contribution might differ substantially across countries

However, that explanation is inadequate. Apple's brand valuation was higher by 1% year-over-year in the current study, which makes the BrandZ number even more questionable.

The most useful contrast among the top brands in the study, at least as far as how odd the results are, is that Google Inc.'s (NASDAQ: GOOG) brand value was only up 5% to $133.7 billion. Google's success over the past year, in contrast to Apple's, would argue powerfully for a much better increase.

As for the balance of the top 10: International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM) ranked third with a valuation of $112.5 (down 3%). It was followed by McDonald's Corp. (NYSE: MCD) at $90.3 billion (down 5%), Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO) at $70.4 billion (up 6%), AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) up 10% to $75.5 billion, Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) down 9% to $69.8 billion, Marlboro down 6% to $69.4 billion, Visa Inc. (NYSE: V) up 46% to $56.1 billion, and China Mobile Ltd. (NYSE: CHL) up 18% to $55.4 billion.

The valuations are not meant to track stock price alone, or a foundation of value based in financial results. However, the values at least should not be entirely offset by these things. As such, Visa's revenue last year was up from $9.2 billion to $10.4 billion, and net income fell from $3.7 billion to $2.1 billion. These results are well less than spectacular, and might even be counted as mediocre. How do they justify a 46% increase in the value of the Visa brand?

BrandZ is free to use its own complex valuation model - it is the company's survey, after all. But when the valuations do not true up at all to the real world, all the results have to be taken with a great deal of skepticism.

Filed under: 24/7 Wall St. Wire, Research Tagged: AAPL, CHL, featured, GOOG, IBM, KO, MSFT, T, V