Microsoft, IBM and Intel are the world's leading technology brands, well ahead of the likes of Sony and Apple, according to BusinessWeek magazine's annual survey of brand value.
As the magazine rightly asks, how do you place a value on brand? BusinessWeek uses consultancy Interbrand's methodology: you work out its future earning potential. Says the magazine's 4 August issue: "Those projected profits are then discounted to a present value based on how risky the projected earnings are - that is, the likelihood that they will, in fact, materialise."
That analysis brings Microsoft a brand value of $65.17 billion, putting it at number two in the cross-industry chart, behind Coca-Cola. IBM comes in at number three with a valuation of $51.77 billion. Intel's figure is less than half Microsoft's: $31.11 billion, enough for a number five ranking, and just ahead of Nokia's $29.44 billion brand value.
Scrolling down the list, we see HP at number 12 and valued at $19.86 billion, up 18 per cent on the $16.78 billion it scored last year. Most of the IT players have seen small, single digit shifts in their brand value, and while HP's is impressive, it's not as large as Samsung's which was today toasting its 31 per cent leap to number 25 in the chart, courtesy of a brand valuation of $10.85 billion.
Of course, go out and ask real people how aware they are of Samsung, and the company will rate very differently we suspect. Ditto Sony, which would surely rate much higher on a brand awareness test than the number 20 position it gets thanks to its brand value of $13.15 billion. Between HP and Sony lies Cisco, number 17 in the world, with a value of $15.79 billion.
Apple, since we mentioned it at the start, and surely one of the best recognised if one of the least purchased technology vendors around, comes in at number 50, with a brand value of $5.32 billion, up four per cent on last year's chart thanks to iPod, iBook and the iTunes Music Service, which "left rivals in the dust", according to BusinessWeek.
As we reported earlier this week, a Harris poll of the US' best loved brands recently put Sony at number one, ahead of Dell (number three) and Microsoft (number five).
What does this tell us? That a brand may not be half as important as brand consultants would like us to think, perhaps. Microsoft's earnings potential is fantastic - as the brand value calculation shows - and almost five times' that of Sony, but that's not enough to get people to like it as much as they do the Japanese giant, as per the Harris poll.
Conversely, being the best loved brand around isn't enough to guarantee Sony the kind of future earnings that Microsoft is slated to receive. People may not like you as much, but it they give you more money, who cares? ®