Interbrand's report lists the 100 most valuable global brands, with Coca-Cola taking the No. 1 spot. Coke gets the nod because--as the firm says--"current trends toward healthier diets have seen Coke shift focus to better-for-you drinks in the last year, with the launch of products like vitamin- and mineral-enriched Diet Coke Plus and Coke Zero."
The firm's picks for the Top 10 global brands after Coca-Cola are IBM, Microsoft, GE, Nokia, Toyota, Intel, McDonald's, Disney and Google.
Interbrand's criteria for inclusion require the brand to have at least one-third of its revenues outside its country of origin, and to be a "market-facing" brand and not purely B-to-B.
The company's ranking is based on financial analyses--forecasting current and future revenue via branded products from analysts' reports and public data; Interbrand's own brand strength analysis; and brand earnings, a measure of how brand influences customer demand.
Jez Frampton, global chief executive of Interbrand, says that four of the five companies that Interbrand spotlighted for big shifts upward in the rankings this year versus last are tech companies: Google (from 20 in 2007 No. 10 this year), Apple (from 33 to 24), Nintendo (from 44 to 40), and Amazon.com (62 to 58).
Global retailer Zara is also mentioned, as its position rose from 64 to 62. The company, which operates stores in 72 countries, moves up because of its impulse-shopping business model, its fashion and design sense for clothing, and its weekly rollout of stock. "And," says the firm's report, "the price point makes spontaneous purchase highly likely."
New in the rankings is clothing chain H&M, which debuts at No. 22 on the list because of expansion in China, Russia, the Middle East and Egypt, and celebrity collections from Madonna, Kylie Minogue and Roberto Cavalli.
Other companies with rankings that have decreased are not terribly surprising, given their recent struggles: Ford, Citi, and Gap. Citi's ranking has dropped from 11 to 19 this year as it deals with the burdens of losses and job cuts. "In terms of trends, fallers are financial services brands, and automakers like Ford," says Frampton. "The Gap is a perennial underperformer [in the study]," he says.
He says not all automakers are getting a brand drubbing from the economy and gasoline prices. "Though manufacturers are facing tough times, Toyota, BMW (No. 13) and Mercedes (11) continue to perform well," he says.
Meanwhile, he says the Top 10 brands have stayed consistently in the top 10, partly because consistency is a hallmark of strong global brands--although there has been a musical-chairs position change at the top. "Coca-Cola has been sitting at the top of the list since we have been conducting the study," Frampton says, but Samsung has taken over Sony.
Other new tenants include Thomson Reuters, at 44; BlackBerry at 73; and moving in at the bottom floors, Marriott at 96, FedEx at 99, and Visa at 100. And in luxury, Armani at 94 and Ferrari at 93.
"In luxury, we see the addition of Armani, Ferrari, yet more coming. Prada, Cartier, Chanel. Luxury is less volatile, and they are recognizing the importance of retaining brand value," Frampton says.