It’s estimated that some 10 000 new brands are created daily. For a brand to endure and maintain brand equity is hard work – just ask General Electric and Toyota. American brand General Electric, who manufactured the nuclear reactor at Fukishima, Japan, saw its market value plummet by $5.3 billion in just five days following the 2011 Japanese Earthquake-Tsunami, while Japan’s Toyota is bouncing back from both the devastating effects of that disaster and the vehicle recalls of 2009-2010.

What Makes a Brand Valuable?

Besides sustained effort, discipline and dedication to brand-building, even in the face of adversity, says Drayton Bird, former director of leading advertising agency, Ogilvy and Mather, great brands possess qualities, whether real or imagined, which set them aside from their competitors. These ten brands, considered amongst the World’s Top Ten Most Valuable brands, have that elusive x-factor.

The Brand: Google

Brand Value of Google: $114 billion (Millward-Brown Brandz Report, 2010*)
How many people does Google employ?
20 000

The Google Story: Google was founded by the ‘Google Guys’, American Larry Page and Russian Sergey Brin. In 1998, PC Magazine voted Google their Search Engine of Choice. In 2003, Google launched a content-target advertising service – the beginning of AdSense. Today, Google is the net’s most visited website, generating the majority of its revenue by offering advertisers measurable, cost-effective and highly relevant advertising.

Google’s brand philosophy is Google Does Search. Says co-founder Larry Page, Google became successful because it was better and faster at finding the right answer than other search engines. Although Google now offers several brand extensions – like Gmail, Google Maps and Google Chrome, search remains at the heart of the Google brand.

The Brand:Coca-Cola

Brand Value of Coca Cola: $70 billion (Interbrands Best Global Brands Survey, 2010**)
How many people does Coca-Cola employ?
139 600

The Coca-Cola Story: In 1886, Dr John Stith Pemberton, a pharmacist in Atlanta, Georgia produced the very first glass of Coke – by combining syrup with carbonated water. He sold his soda drink at the local pharmacy for five cents a glass. Today the Coca Cola Company is the world’s biggest beverage company, marketing 500 brands in more than 200 countries.

Coca-Cola’s Brand Philosophy is that they are the ‘most ubiquitous consumer product in the world’. Coca Cola, described as the world’s best-known and most-admired trademark, has infiltrated popular culture and our collective subconscious. Says Coca-Cola, drinking a Coke is more than sipping a cool drink; it’s sharing in a moment that millions have savoured.

The Brand: IBM

Brand Value of IBM: $86 million (Millward Brown Brandz Report, 2010)
How many people does IBM employ?
338 000

The IBM Story: 2011 marks IBM’s centenary – the company was founded in 1911 as The Computing Tabulating Recording Company. In the 1950s and 1960s, company president Thomas J. Watson Jr. partnered with the US government to develop computerised air defence systems. Through this partnership, IBM gained access to cutting-edge military technology, which eventually led to the development of the world’s first PC – launched in 1981.

IBM’s Brand Philosophy is that they’re innovative, producing dependable, reliable quality products. IBM’s familiar blue logo has earned it the nickname, The Big Blue. The IBM brand is the leading producer of super-computers – such as the one at Los Alamos National Laboratory  – and is leading the way in developing technological solutions for energy and climate-related challenges.

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The Brand: Microsoft

Brand Value of Microsoft: $76 billion (Millward Brown Brandz Report, 2010)
How many people does Microsoft employ?
94 000

The Microsoft Story: Microsoft was formed in 1975 by computer programmers Bill Gates and Paul Allen. IBM contracted Allen and Gates to write programming languages (to become known as MS-DOS) for its new personal computers. In 1984, Microsoft released a graphical version of MS-DOS, Microsoft Windows. In 1990, Microsoft extended its brand offering to include the Microsoft Office applications and in 1995, it launched its first web browser, Internet Explorer.

Microsoft’s Brand Philosophy is summed up by its tagline, Be What’s Next. The Microsoft brand is perceived as innovative, user-friendly and reliable. Says Microsoft, not only does it constantly update and improve Microsoft products, but it also continually evolves the company to be in the best position to accelerate new technologies as they emerge.

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The Brand: General Electric

Brand Value of General Electric: $45 billion (Millward Brown Brandz Report, 2010)
How many people does General Electric employ?
287 000

The General Electric Story: General Electric (GE) was formed in 1882 by the merger of inventor Thomas Edison’s company, Edison General Electric, and the Thomas-Houston Electric Company. Originally marketing electric lighting products, today the GE brand includes electrical appliances, energy products, water and wastewater treatment solutions, as well as products and service for the Oil and Gas Industry.

General Electric’s Brand Philosophy is captured in their tagline, Imagination at Work. The GE brand is considered one of the most globally recognizable brands, and, says GE, the brand is focused on harnessing the power of imagination to make life better for consumers.

The Brand: McDonalds

Brand Value of McDonalds: $66 billion (Millward Brown Brandz Report, 2010)
How many people does McDonalds employ?
1.5 million

The McDonalds Story: McDonalds was founded in 1955 when multi-mixer salesman Ray Crock pitched his idea to replicate a successful restaurant run by brothers Dick and Mac McDonald across America. By 1958, McDonalds had sold its 100 millionth hamburger. Today, McDonald’s has more than 31 000 outlets in over 100 countries.

McDonalds’ Brand Philosophy centres on quality, service, cleanliness and value – the principles on which Ray Krok founded the company. This brand philosophy had paid off, turning the McDonald’s brand iconic – the golden arches and brand mascot Ronald McDonald are instantly recognizable around the world. In tough economic times, MacDonald’s is pursuing an aggressive inside-out approach to building their brand, focusing on improving customer brand experiences at existing outlets.

The Brand: Vodafone

Brand Value of Vodafone: $44 billion (Millward Brown Trendz Report, 2010)
How many people does Vodafone employ?
77 000

The Vodafone Story: Vodafone was formed from a merger between the UK’s largest producer of military radio technology, Racal Electronics and the General Electric Company plc, which specialized in consumer and defence electronics. In 1982, they won the UK’s first cellular telephone network licence, and today they operate cellular networks in over 30 countries, partnering with networks in over forty more. Vodacom is Vodafone’s South African affiliate.

Vodafone’s Brand Philosophy: Vodacom is ranked the UK’s most valuable brand, and is said to have that country’s most valuable trademark and intellectual property. Says Vodacom, they’re a brand that loves change. It’s in the Vodafone brand DNA to push forward and find better ways to communicate, empowering people through their products – a brand philosophy reflected in their tagline, Power to You.

The Brand: Hewlett-Packard

Brand Value of Hewlett-Packard: $26, 867 million (Interbrands Best Global Brands Survey, 2010)
How many people does Hewlett-Packard employ?
304 000

The Hewlett-Packard Story: Hewlett-Packard started out as a home-run electronics manufacturing enterprise in 1939. Out of an initial investment of $538, grew a multi-million dollar organization spanning the globe. Hewlett-Packard is recognized as the symbolic founder of Silicon Valley.

Hewlett-Packard’s Brand Philosophy is encapsulated in The HP Way; a core brand ideology which emphasizes a commitment to affordability and reliability. The Hewlett-Packard brand acknowledges that HP’s continued success depends on the loyalty of its customers, and HP’s tagline, Invent, caters to this acknowledgment. Says HP, the brand needs to continually strive to find new solutions which will satisfy customers’ needs if it’s to consolidate its position as the global leader in computer hardware.

The Brand: Nokia

Brand Value of Nokia: $29, 495 million (Interbrands Best Global Brands Survey, 2010)
How many people does Nokia employ?
132 000

The Nokia Story: Finland’s Nokia Company has been around for over 100 years. Originally a paper milling company, in 1912 the Nokia Company branched into the cable and electronics business. By the late 1970s, Nokia was producing phones through its Mobira Oy division and in 1984 Nokia produced its first mobile phone.

Nokia’s Brand Philosophy is emphasised in its tagline, Connecting People. Nokia is known for innovation, quality and reliability – and the Nokia Tune. Released in 1994, the composition – called Grande Valse and composed in 1902 by Spaniard Francisco Tárrega – has become an endearing sound trademark; a unique and powerful means of distinguishing the Nokia brand.

The Brand: Toyota

Brand Value of Toyota: $26, 756 million (BrandFinance Global 500 Survey, 2011***)
How many people does Toyota employ?
70 000

The Toyota Story: In 1933, Toyota was formed as a division of the Toyoda Automatic Loom Works. In 1937, it became a stand-alone company, Toyota Motor Works. Toyota is currently the word’s number one car manufacturer, and a leader in the field of robotics.

Toyota’s Brand Philosophy has led to a model of production known as the Toyota Way, which emphasizes respect, teamwork and innovation. Toyota relies heavily on cultivating a mutually beneficial relationship between the brand and its customers, and despite its size and success, Toyota remains a family-run business at heart – The CEO of Toyota is Akio Toyoda.

* The Millward-Brown Brandz Report (2010) is an annual ranking that identifies the world’s most valuable brands measured by their dollar value.

**The Interbrands Best Global Brands Survey (2010) takes into account the financial performance of a brand and the role of the brand in the purchase decision process.

***The BrandFinance® Global 500 Survey (2011) – uses discounted cash flow technique to discount estimated future royalties, at an appropriate discount rate, to arrive at a net present value of the brand value.