Epic Brand Fail!


I read in a recent New York Times article (published October 15, 2012) that a Blackberry user, Rachel Crosby, said she no longer takes out her BlackBerry at parties and conferences, and in meetings she hides it beneath her iPad for fear clients will see it and judge her. “I am ashamed of it,” she said. Ouch! That is so not cool. We know BlackBerry’s troubles over the last four years and its drought of innovation since its supernova days and a market cap of $78 billion (June 2008). Today, it’s at $4.4 billion and the brand is in free-fall.

The connection between a corporation’s value and brand is not covered by standard accounting practices. As Roy Sieben, partner at SB Partners accounting firm explains, “Generally accepted accounting principles do not report the value of internally generated goodwill (as opposed to purchased goodwill) despite the fact that such goodwill can be a significant part of a corporation’s overall value.”

Luckily, there are firms (Interbrand) that measure the value of brands and rank the top 100. The results are a striking reminder to all of us in business of how important brand is to the long-term of the business assets that we are building.

In 2012, guess who was #1? No, not Apple; it was Coke, coming in at a value of $77.8 billion, up 8% from 2011. Apple was a close #2, at $76.8 billion, up 129%. And guess who was down at #93? Blackberry at $3.9 billion, down 39%. Another tech competitor, Microsoft, was #5 at $57.8 billion, down 2%.

Not surprisingly, in this group, there is a general correlation between the company’s market capitalization and brand value. Between January 2011 and November 2012, the up or down change in market cap is mirrored in 2012’s brand value:

Apple: Market cap rose from $296 to $510 billion and brand value jumped 129%
Blackberry: Market cap crashed from $34 to $4.4 billion and brand value fell 39%
Microsoft: Market cap dropped from $238 to $227 billion and brand value fell 2%
Coca-Cola: Market cap rose from $152 to $162 billion and brand value rose 8%

Accountants may not put brand value and innovation on the balance sheet but you can probably get pretty good odds from any savvy investor that a strong brand and continuous innovation are intangible items to be considered “on” the balance sheet. Leaders of the most successful corporations know it.

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