Consultancy firm Interbrand publishes an annual survey ranking the world's most valuable brands. Here are the top five for 2013:



Brand Value

Change in Brand Value from 2012

2012 Rank



$98.3 billion





$93.3 billion




Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO)

$79.2 billion





$78.8 billion




Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT)

$59.5 billion



Source: Interbrand.

These same companies graced the top five spots in last year's rankings. Remarkably, three of these companies -- Coca-Cola, IBM, and Microsoft -- have claimed a top five spot every year since the survey's 2001 inception. 

Let's take a look to see if these brands equal big shareholder returns.

Wins despite woes
These companies still remain at the top of the brands list despite challenges. Apple has been recently criticized for its lack of innovation prowess and has been losing market share to Google's Android operating system. Yet the iDevice maker managed to increase its brand value by 28%. As a result, Apple jumped one big spot in the rankings and holds the coveted No. 1 position this year.

Interestingly, one of Apple's top rivals, Google, claimed the list's No. 2 spot, up from No. 4 last year. The company that has become much more than a search engine increased its brand value by an impressive 34%. Since 2010, Google has secured a top-five spot on Interbrand's list. But the year hasn't been flawless for Google. Antitrust questions have been raised in the U.S. and Europe, and Google's involvement has been suggested in the NSA's PRISM communications collection scandal.

On the other hand, both Coca-Cola and IBM lost ground in the top-five list. Coca-Cola slipped down to the No. 3 spot from No. 1 in 2012, and IBM moved down to No. 4 from No. 3 last year. Even though the cola maker has recently struggled with sluggish soda sales and IBM faced criticism for changes to its 401(k) plan company match, the longevity of both companies' brands has helped them gain traction with billions of customers and build worldwide exposure. Meanwhile, Microsoft retained the No. 5 spot, despite the company's missed opportunities, lackluster innovations, and bureaucracy-laden corporate environment.

How the best brands stack up
These companies' shareholder returns have been nothing short of extraordinary during the course of their publicly traded lives. Yet the past several years have evolved differently for stockholders of these five companies.

Apple and Google performed most impressively during the past five years, as is evident in their massive total returns of 4,170% and 162%, respectively. Meanwhile, Interbrand list veterans IBM, Coca-Cola, and Microsoft returned 131%, 111%, and 79%, respectively. By comparison, the Dow Jones Industrial Average index returned roughly 71% during the same period. 

Foolish final thoughts
It's never a smart idea to invest in a company based solely on one data point. Yet more often than not, company performance is helped by a solid, well-recognized brand. But a great brand is worthless in the absence of other successful company traits like a sustainable competitive advantage and great leadership.

Fool contributor Nicole Seghetti owns shares of Apple and Microsoft. Follow her on Twitter @NicoleSeghetti. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Coca-Cola, and Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, International Business Machines, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.