What's in a name? Well, it depends on the name. Some are worth billions of dollars in annual profits.

On that note, brand research firm Interbrand just released its rankings of the top global brand names and their market values:

Brand Name

Brand Value (billions)

Market Cap (billions)

Change in Brand Value

Brand-to-Cap Ratio

Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO)










Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT)





General Electric (NYSE:GE)





Nokia (NYSE:NOK)





The Pride of Atlanta rules the roost as always, and there are absolutely no surprises elsewhere in the top five. The only change from the 2007 rundown is IBM leapfrogging Mr. Softy by the slimmest of margins. It is more interesting to look at the brand values as a ratio of each company's current market cap to see who leans the most on public goodwill.

Your guide to the rankings
In another repeat from 2007, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) was the fastest gainer in the top 100 with a 43% brand value boost over last year. That values Google's brand at $25.6 billion and catapults the company from 20th place last year to 10th this time around. It's still just 18% of Google's market cap, though. The highest-ranking new name on the list is Swedish clothier Hennes & Mauritz in the 22nd spot, at $13.8 billion in brand value. That's a mere $100 million ahead of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), which was the second fastest gainer among previously ranked companies with a 24% year-over-year improvement.

These dollar values were cooked up from a not-too-secret recipe that starts with net revenue from branded products, then takes away the operating costs, taxes, and invested capital it takes to actually haul in that revenue stream. Microsoft's relatively small share of brand value to market cap reflects the company's heavy business-to-business operations, where consumer branding doesn't matter. The same goes treble for GE, of course.

In Google's case, the stated brand value is larger than Google's $19.6 billion of trailing-twelve-month sales. That's curious, considering that the stock still feels like it's on sale. Despite their brand value gains, shares of Google, Nokia, and Apple have all dropped dramatically in the past few months. To me, this looks like a long-term investing opportunity!

Further Foolishness:

Microsoft and Coca-Cola are Motley Fool Inside Value selections. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares in Hennes & Mauritz, Coca-Cola, and Google but he holds no position in any of the other companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings if you like, and Foolish disclosure loves the smell of profits in the morning. It smells like victory!