Monday, September 30, 2013

Apple upsets Coca-Cola to be most-valuable brand

Apple is the new most valuable brand in the world, according to a closely followed annual report.

The report, to be released Monday, is from Interbrand, a corporate identity and brand consulting company owned by the Omnicom Group that has been compiling what it calls the Best Global Brands report since 2000. The previous No. 1 brand, Coca-Cola, fell to No. 3.

Not only has Apple replaced Coca-Cola as first among the 100 most valuable brands based on criteria that include financial performance, this is the first time that the soft drink known for slogans like "It's the real thing" has not been No. 1.

Apple's arrival in the top spot was perhaps "a matter of time," Jez Frampton, global chief executive at Interbrand, said in a recent interview. Apple was No. 2 last year, climbing from No. 8 in the 2011 report.

"What is it they say, 'Long live the king'?" Frampton asked. "This year, the king is Apple."

The 2013 report begins: "Every so often, a company changes our lives, not just with its products, but with its ethos. This is why, following Coca-Cola's 13-year run at the top of Best Global Brands, Interbrand has a new No. 1 - Apple."

The report estimates the value of the Apple brand at $98.3 billion, up 28 percent from the 2012 report. The value of the Coca-Cola brand also rose, by 2 percent to $79.2 billion, but that was not sufficient to give Coca-Cola a 14th year as Interbrand's most valuable brand.

Although "Coca-Cola is an efficient, outstanding brand marketer, no doubt about it," Frampton said, Apple and other leading technology brands have become "very much the poster child of the marketing community."

That is underscored by the brand in second place in the new report: Google, which rose from fourth place last year. In fact, of the top 10 Best Global Brands for 2013, five are in technology: Apple; Google; Microsoft, No. 5, unchanged from last year; Samsung, 8, compared with 9 last year; and Intel, 9, compared with 8 last year.

Samsung's ascent followed the company's adoption of a new brand strategy called the Brand Ideal, which includes "a greater focus on social purpose," Sue Shim, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Samsung, said by email. That reflected research indicating American consumers would switch brands to "one that was associated with improving people's lives," she added.

IBM - No. 4 in 2013, down a notch from 2012 - is ranked as a business services brand. Otherwise, technology would account for six of the top 10.

"Brands like Apple and Google and Samsung are changing our behavior:  how we buy, how we communicate with each other, even whether we speak with each other," Frampton said. "They have literally changed the way we live our lives."

Among other transformative technology brands that performed well in the new report was Facebook, which climbed to 52 from 69 last year, its first year on the list.

However, not all technology brands fared well. BlackBerry, which tumbled last year to 93 from 56 in 2011, has disappeared from the list. And Nokia, which dropped to 19 from 14 in 2011, finished this year in 57th place - "the biggest faller" among the 100, Frampton said.

Among nontechnology brands, a notable addition to the list was Chevrolet, at 89, the first General Motors brand to rank among the Best Global Brands.

"It feels good to hit the list for the first time," Alan Batey, global head of Chevrolet at GM, said in a telephone interview. "It's a great first step, but we've got a long way to go. There are a lot of big brands in front of us."

The milestone reflects how General Motors has been "making a conscious effort to globalize Chevrolet," Batey said, selling the brand in 140 countries in ads that play up attributes like "value for money and designs that move hearts and minds."

Commonwealth, the creative agency for Chevrolet, "played a key role" in helping the brand make the list, he added. Commonwealth is part of the McCann Worldgroup division of the Interpublic Group of Companies.

Last year, when Coca-Cola finished atop the Best Global Brands list for the 13th consecutive time, an executive at the Coca-Cola Co. acknowledged the streak but noted that "nothing lasts forever."

A year later, the executive, Joseph V. Tripodi, executive vice president and chief marketing and commercial leadership officer, had this reaction: "Of course, we would like to remain on top of the list forever. That said, we are honored to continue to be included among such an esteemed group of global brands, and we congratulate Apple and Google, both valued partners of ours."

"We've seen the value of technology brands rise as they create new ways for people to stay connected virtually," Tripodi said by email. "We understand this, as the lasting power of our brand is built on the social moment of sharing a Coca-Cola with friends and family."

"Creating these simple moments and delivering on our brand promise each and every day remains our focus," he added, "as we continue to grow the value of brand Coca-Cola for decades to come."

If it is consolation, Coca-Cola remains far ahead of Apple and Google in likes on Facebook fan pages. Coca-Cola has 73.2 million, compared with 9.8 million for Apple and 15.1 million for Google.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

On US visit, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has $5 billion weapons shopping list

India is set to buy American defence equipment worth five billion US dollars and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who left for the United States today, is carrying a long shopping list.

Among the hardware that India is looking to purchase are six additional C-130 J Hercules Medium Lift Aircraft, 22 Apache Attack Helicopters, 15 Chinook Heavy Lift Helicopters and about 140 M-777 ultra-light towed Howitzers. Contracts for all of these are expected to be signed before the current financial year is over.

The US-made Apache Attack helicopters will replace India's ageing fleet of Russian-made M-35 helicopters and will cost India about $1.4 billion.

Although the US lost the $15 billion tender for the supply of Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft or MMRC to France in 2011, it has in the last decade sold weapons systems worth $8 billion to India and is poised to edge out Russia and Israel as New Delhi's biggest defence equipment suppliers.

The US has recently proposed co-producing aircraft like the C-130 J Hercules and the number of joint military exercises that India has carried out with the US in the last 10 years too now exceeds those with traditional defence partners like Russia, UK and France.

It was perhaps this apparent closeness that provoked Victor Komaradin, who headed a Russian delegation at Aero-India 2013, to observe that "although Russia has virtually created Indian Defence industries in the 1960's and 70's, little attention is being given to the Russian contribution in building India's defence capabilities."

The big purchase order also underscores the fact that despite claiming to be a regional power, India still imports about 70 per cent of all its weapons and equipment.

According to a March 2013 report of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute - an independent research body that specialises in conflict and arms sales - New Delhi replaced Beijing as the world's top arms importer accounting for 12 per cent of global arms transfers between 2008 and 2012. China accounted for about six per cent.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Silent GOOGLE revolution

I expect that, within a few years, my Tesla electric car will drive by itself, using Google software. Yes, I am talking about the self-driving, autonomous vehicles that we have seen in science-fiction movies: Google is making these a reality. Its autonomous cars have already driven half a million miles on California roads — without a single accident — and will soon transform transportation in cities all over the world. (I'm not so sure about India, however; only God can tame its drivers.)

Thanks to Google Fiber, my house may one day have 1000 Gigabit Internet. Google’s Wi-Fi balloons, called Google Loon, could provide me with connectivity when I go hiking in the mountains. I expect that a successor to Google Glass will replace my laptop, iPad, and TV; incorporate voice recognition and gestures; and provide me with an immersive 3D-viewing experience.

Google already reads my emails before I do, and, by analyzing what I search for on the Internet and which Web sites I visit, knows what I am thinking. It “knows” what other people think about me. If my friend and noted futurist Ray Kurzweil succeeds in his mission at Google, it will understand my wants and needs too. It will predict what I want to search for, where I want to go to, and what I want to eat. It will understand how my brain thinks and become my personal assistant.

Yes, these are technologies that Google will likely deliver during this decade. It is doing the type of research that Xerox PARC was famous for. It is thinking even bigger than Apple.

When Google went public, it set aside three million shares (now worth close to three billion dollars) for, and has committed an additional 1% of its profits to, philanthropic endeavors. It has been donating the shares to the community and using the philanthropic fund to engineer solutions to the global problems of health, poverty, food, and energy. A group called Google for Entrepreneurs mentors and support entrepreneurs in different parts of the world. The group has been working with a team at Singularity University and Stanford to help women entrepreneurs.

Google has been doing all this since its early days. It has built tremendous goodwill with developers and local communities.

Microsoft was hated when it achieved big success, and its monopolistic, self-serving behavior and arrogance toward its own customers earned it the dubious nickname "the evil empire". Facebook users dislike Facebook for many of the same reasons. But Google has managed to avoid this: despite its intrusions on privacy and its monopolistic market shares in some areas, its customers don't express hatred of it. The goodwill it has built carries it a long way.