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A U.S. Collapse? Don't Make Me Laugh

Matt Koppenheffer
October 26, 2010

Wherever I turn these days, it seems I'm repeatedly met with the same dire drumbeat. It goes something like this: The U.S. has seen its best days and is now in a state of decline.

Some folks echoing this sentiment focus on the rise of emerging markets like China and India. Others talk of the U.S. being mired in a terrible depression. Some even go as far as to compare the U.S. to the Roman Empire right before its epic fall.

I'm not sure the best way to express my view on this in a family friendly way, so I'll just say that it's all absolute poppycock. Sorry for such harsh language.

Branded successful
One interesting gauge of American business comes from the annual "Best Global Brands" list that brand expert Interbrand compiles. Nine of the top 10 global brands hail from the U.S. Here's a look at a few:





Brand Value

1 Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO  ) United States Beverages $70.4 billion
2 IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) United States Business Services $64.7 billion
4 Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) United States Internet Services $43.6 billion
5 General Electric (NYSE: GE  ) United States Diversified $42.8 billion
6 McDonald's (NYSE: MCD  ) United States Restaurants $33.6 billion
7 Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) United States Electronics $32.0 billion

Source: Interbrand.

If the U.S. is in an interminable decline, somebody forgot to tell that to the consumers around the world religiously drinking Coke, eating McDonald's hamburgers, and using Intel-driven computers.

Of course, the presence of brands like Coke and General Electric -- which seem to have been around since time immemorial -- doesn't necessarily help our case much. They could be shrugged off as simply aging pillars that are waiting to crumble (even if they're not).

What's more interesting is that on a list that includes venerable brands that are more than a century old, like Coca-Cola, Mercedes Benz, and Budweiser, we see the brands of U.S. companies that are far younger. Cisco and Dell (numbers 14 and 41) are just 26 years old. and Yahoo (numbers 36 and 66) are still in their midteens. And of course the No. 4 brand in the entire world, Google, is a mere 12 years old.

Maybe just as impressive are the older brands that have significantly reinvented themselves. While IBM still carries the same brand that it has for decades upon decades, the services-and-software-focused company of today is very different from the mainframe giant of the past. And today's Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL