They say you can't put a price on your reputation, but when it comes to a company's reputation -- or rather, its brand -- you can definitely affix a value.
Just ask the market researchers at Interbrand, who every year compile a list of the world's top brands and determine what they're worth. From Apple to Spanish fast-fashion leader Zara, the rise and fall of name recognition is charted. Amazon.com at No. 20, for example, made the second biggest jump up the list behind Apple, rising 46% in brand value. Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) , on the other hand, saw its BlackBerry fall the most, losing 39% of its brand value.
Yet the rich values these brands carry don't necessarily apply to their stocks. Over the last six months Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) saw its shares tumble 18% while No. 7 McDonald's suffered a 6% drop. In fact, only half of the top 10 brands have given investors a gain over the last two quarters (though over the past year, even the chip maker is up).
|General Electric (NYSE: GE )||6||19.7%||55.6%|
|Toyota (NYSE: TM )||10||(5.8%)||18.4%|
Sources: FinViz.com, Interbrand.
So if brand has any importance in investing beyond taking up space on the goodwill line of a company's balance sheet, we might want to take notice. The market could be offering us huge discounts on some good, if not great, companies.
Take a look at Toyota, which enjoyed one of the largest increases in car sales of any manufacturer in September, ahead of Ford (NYSE: F ) , General Motors, and Chrysler. Sales surged 41.5% from last year as the Toyota division jumped 47% year over year while Lexus was up "just" 36%. The Camry was once again its top seller. This large pop is mainly contributable to the supply issues from the natural disasters in Japan last year. If these sales are compared to 2010, September sales the growth would be 16%, but there were also mass recalls hurting sales that year too. Investors should also make sure to take a second look at the numbers when it pertains to any investment opportunity.
Yet the stock is being hurt by reports of sales in China plummeting 40% because of the brouhaha developing between Japan and China. And it's clear it's due to where the cars originate from, because South Korea's Hyundai and Germany's BMW enjoyed higher sales, up 15% and 55%, respectively. Nissan was also hurt by the row.
In fact, if you look hard enough, many of the top brands are cheap these days. Caterpillar, Cisco, and Hewlett-Packard all look cheap based on estimates of future earnings. Even Microsoft, at just nine times forward earnings, seems to be trading at a reasonable price.
It's said that value is where you find it. In today's market, you don't need to look any further than the tag on the collar of your shirt, the medallion on your car, or the logo on your computer to find a good stock to put your money down on.
Looking under rocks
Although Intel is having a rough go of it these days, it is one of many important partners that will play a part in determining the success or failure of Windows 8, which is Microsoft's big shot at reinvigorating the PC market. Read up on the chip maker's biggest opportunities ahead of it, including Windows 8, in the Fool's new premium report. Click here to get started.