I once read that the opposite of love isn't hate, but indifference. That's certainly thought-provoking, and it's possibly even true. Hate doesn't seem to be a desirable thing, at least when it relates to a company's brand -- but perhaps even hate is preferable to indifference or unfamiliarity? (Discuss among yourselves.)

At brand.blogs.com, Jennifer Rice recently shared the results of a little investigation she did into how some major brands compare, regarding how they're loved or hated. She typed in "I hate (brand)" and "I love (brand)" for 12 brands into Google and got some interesting results.

Brands with the highest "Buzz Index," reflecting not only the love/hate ratio but also the number of comments, included Linux, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). Those at the bottom of her list include Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX), Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), privately held IKEA, and Dell (NASDAQ:DELL).

This surprised me, as I thought most of these firms had decent reputations. The bottom four were rated even worse than ever-embattled Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT)!

If you take out the volume element in the score and just focus on the love/hate ratio alone, Apple and Google are the big winners, while Wal-Mart, Comcast, and Microsoft come in last.

In thinking about why some firms generate such dislike, I began suspecting that while Starbucks' customers love its products, there must be many other people who are not customers, perhaps turned off by seemingly high prices and/or concerns about its effect on small, local coffee purveyors. For Comcast, as a cable subscriber myself (though not of Comcast), I can imagine that the major issue for disgruntled consumers is the ever-rising cost of cable TV. With Dell, I suspect that even if the company has great customer service for customers with technical problems, dealing with technical problems is itself a big hassle and one that consumers don't quickly forget.

Of course, the best way to find out what the main gripes are about a company (and/or the reasons people love it) is to just visit the websites of those who hate or love the firm. This is more than just a way to kill time, too. If you're interested in investing in a company, these sites can give you useful insights into what kinds of public perceptions there are about it and what issues it might be facing.

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Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of Microsoft, Comcast, and Wal-Mart.