Turns out that during the downturn, Coke still has plenty of fizz. According to a new report from Interbrand, a global consulting firm, Coca-Cola is the world's most valuable brand. Coke is worth $68.7 billion in brand value, which is a 3% rise from a year ago. Interbrand calculates this dollar total as the net present value of earnings the brand is expected to generate in the future. The report cites the company's aggressiveness during the recession as the main driver of its top ranking: Coca-Cola launched 700 products worldwide in 2008 alone. "Coke is relentlessly focused on in-store marketing and packaging," says Jez Frampton, Interbrand's CEO. "They really know how to look after the brand."
Coke has held the top spot in the Interbrand rankings for each of the past nine years. IBM, Microsoft, GE, Nokia, McDonald's, Google, Toyota, Intel and Disney, in that order, round out the top 10 (in all, the study ranks the top 100 brands). To qualify for the list, a brand must offer publicly available financial data and must book at least one-third of its revenues from outside its country of origin. So Walmart, for example, can't qualify because it does not generate enough international cash under the Walmart name.
What's perhaps even more telling than the actual rankings are the year-over-year changes. According to Interbrand, the recession has produced a few stars. Take Google, for example. Its value jumped 25%, to $32 billion, in 2009. "Google has romped through our league tables over the last three or four years," says Frampton. The report credits the diversification of the company's businesses, including new advertising models and the Android phone software, with propping up the company's numbers. Another tech outfit, Amazon, is also surging: the Circuit City bankruptcy and struggles at the Borders bookstore chain are driving traffic to the site. Plus, the Kindle shows that you can still innovate in a downturn. The online retailer jumped 15 spots in the rankings, to 43.
No brand fell farther than UBS, the Swiss bank that lost more than $17 billion in 2008 and became known as an alleged haven for American tax cheats. According to Interbrand, the company's value dropped 50%, to $4.4 billion, sinking UBS 31 spots, to 72nd, in the rankings. Citi also struggled. The troubled financial giant saw a 49% drop in brand value, to $10.3 billion, compared with last year. "These firms have lost the trust of their customers, investors and employees as well," says Frampton. "Sticking money in your mattress now seems like a viable alternative."
Outside the financial-services sector, Harley has taken a hit. The iconic motorcycle brand saw its value fall 43%, to $4.3 billion. "I don't think there is any less love for Harley-Davidson," says Frampton. "The company is just highly susceptible to shifts in discretionary spending." Harley-Davidson's profits are down 66% for the first two quarters of 2009.
Harley still makes the top 100 (at No. 73), but more than 30 brands that started out the decade on Interbrand's list are now nowhere to be found. They include AT&T, Boeing, Heineken and (we're sorry to say) TIME. But the saddest fall of all may be Barbie. She started out the decade riding high, and now she can't crack the list. Blame those sassy Bratz dolls for Barbie's demise. "But there's an enduring nature to Barbie," Frampton says. "I believe she's one of those brands well positioned for a comeback." Too bad you can't say the same for Ken.