Coca-Cola’s 13-year reign as the most valuable global brand ended Monday with news that Apple had finally knocked off the champs. Indeed, not only was Coke dethroned on the annual Interbrand list, the pride of Atlanta, Georgia was reduced to third spot, behind Google as well.
In many respects, the results hardly seem surprising. While it’s all but impossible for most of us to go a day without touching an Apple or Google product, reaching for a can of soda pop increasingly seems only one step above lighting up a smoke in the annals of unconscionable behavior.
However, as Interbrand’s rankings reflect, taste-makers fall and all it takes is for the winds to change blow or a company’s marketing to miss a beat for billions of dollars to be shaved from their name.
Ask the execs at BlackBerry. Three years ago, their brand was deemed the 54th most valuable in the world. However the tablet debacle and global service snafu in 2011 sent them falling two spots the next year. When things went from bad to worse in 2012, BlackBerry shrunk to 94th place. This year, it scarcely needs to be said, they’re gone from the list altogether.
Most moves are not nearly that precipitous. Even Coke, which has dominated the Interbrand rankings since they began in 2000, didn’t actually see their brand’s value drop this year. Indeed, it grew by more than a billion dollars to US$79-billion. It’s just that Apple and Google’s quantum gains saw them fly by, and in Apple’s case, challenge the US$100-billion barrier.
If the Silicon Valley neighbours were the big winners, the greatest sideways slide also comes from the tech sector - Microsoft. When Interbrand launched their survey in 2000, Coke and Microsoft were the unquestioned champs, so far above the field that only IBM, a distant third, was even within US$20-billion of brand value away. The Microsoft moniker was worth almost twice as much as General Electric, and that was GE under the legendary Jack Welch.
While Coke flat-lined, Microsoft gradually slipped, faltering under the weight of desultory product launches and little of new sizzle to bring to the market. From a high of US$70-billion in brand value in 2000, the giant of Seattle has fallen to below US$60-billion today.
Microsoft’s slow decline reflects the speed with which brand perception typically evolves. A lack of innovation, a changing market and a competitor who adapts that one step faster is the norm. Sudden collapse such as BlackBerry’s plummet over the past three years are uncommon. Equally rare is lightening-speed leaps such as the one Apple has experienced over that same time period, more than tripling in value.
And yes, those two changes have much in common.