Brand Power: Kellogg, Bayer Up, P&G, GE Down

For the fourth consecutive year, Coca-Cola Company and Johnson & Johnson ranked first and second in corporate brand strength last year, according to the newly released 2008 CoreBrand Brand Power Rankings.

Among top companies, those that showed the largest jumps in rankings versus 2007 included Kellogg Company (up five places to #10), Bayer (up 10 to #17), Visa (up 13 to #23), St. Jude Medical (up 17 to #28) and MasterCard (up 13 to #31).

Top companies that showed notable drops in rankings included Starbucks (down four to #14), PepsiCo (down seven to #18), General Electric (down seven to #24) and Procter & Gamble (down 10 to #39).

The Brand Power rankings are based on CoreBrand's Corporate Branding Index, a quantitative study among 400 business decision-makers from the top 20% of U.S. businesses, spanning 49 industries. Over 12,000 telephone surveys are conducted annually, and more than 1,200 companies are measured.

The rankings reflect business leaders' familiarity with and favorability ratings of companies, including assessments of overall corporate reputation, management and investment potential.

Among the top 10, Harley-Davidson moved up one place to #3, bumping Hershey Foods down to #4. Campbell Soup moved up one place to #5-- replacing Hallmark cards, now #6. UPS remained at #7. Colgate- Palmolive moved up one place to #8--replacing FedEx, now #9.

Companies ranked 11th through 20th, in order, were American Express, BMW, Land O' Lakes, Starbucks, Toyota, Honda, Bayer, PepsiCo, IBM and Volkswagen.

CoreBrand CEO James Gregory notes that the overall results point to little negative impact on the strength of major corporate brands, even in the face of significant economy-driven challenges.

Kellogg, which has jumped 11 places in the rankings since 2005 (when it was #21), deserves "special kudos," given the difficulty of achieving significant ranking gains within the highest echelons, says Gregory.

The continued strength of Visa and MasterCard--as well as automakers Toyota, Honda and Volkswagen--is also notable in light of consumer cutbacks in card usage and car purchases, he points out. However, General Motors dropped 17 places--to #41--and Ford, while gaining one place, is ranked #63.

GE's continuing drop in rankings (from #12 in 2005 to its current #24)--despite continued investment in corporate brand advertising, including a major Olympics presence--demonstrates that branding can't offset financial turmoil, Gregory says.

PepsiCo's rather "alarming" ranking decline in recent years (from #4 in 2005 to #11 in '07 to its current #18)--in contrast to Coca-Cola's performance--likely reflects perceptions about their differing strategies in response to carbonated beverage declines and overall portfolios, Gregory says. "Let's hope that PepsiCo's new corporate identity program will generate some fizz for its corporate brand," he adds.

Starbucks' decline in ranking is no surprise. "They're reinventing themselves after a long period of substantial growth, and there's been a lot of negative news about store closings, layoffs and so forth," Gregory notes.

Among apparel companies, Levi Strauss continued to decline (now at #49, versus #20 in 2005). Steady gainers include Fruit of the Loom (now #43, versus #83 in 2005) and Tommy Hilfiger (now #65, versus #88 in '05).

In the tech sector, Microsoft's investment in corporate brand bolstering paid off. After dropping 28 places in 2007 (down to #59), it rebounded to #54 last year. Apple, meanwhile, rose from #128 in '05 to #119 in 2007 and is now #91.

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