A brand consulting outfit called Interbrand tracks and lists the most valuable brands in the world each year. Here are the top 20 international brands for the year 2004, along with what Interbrand estimates to be the market value of each brand, in billions of dollars:

  1. Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO), $67
  2. Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), $61
  3. IBM (NYSE:IBM), $53
  4. GE (NYSE:GE), $44
  5. Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), $34
  6. Disney (NYSE:DIS), $27
  7. McDonald's (NYSE:MCD), $25
  8. Nokia (NYSE:NOK), $24
  9. Toyota (NYSE:TM), $23
  10. Marlboro [property of Altria (NYSE:MO)], $22

It's interesting to keep up with changes in this list from year to year, since it can offer clues about how aggressively various companies and industries are growing. Nokia, for example, is a relative newcomer, yet its ranking is extremely high. (Though its estimated brand value has actually decreased lately, dropping it two notches in the past two years.) It's clear that Nokia has firmly established itself in the minds of people the world over. Intel's position is interesting, because people rarely knew what company made the component parts of products they bought. Yet, through its "Intel Inside" ad campaign, Intel made itself a household name and, more importantly, got people looking for its name when buying a computer.

When you look for companies in which to invest, give high marks to candidates with strong brands, since well-known brands can help a company make money more easily. As an example, just imagine Disney. If it releases a new movie, many people will go see it just based on the Disney name. Similarly, if someone is looking for a cell phone, she's more likely to seriously consider a Nokia phone than a TalkTech or TeleChat one. (Those last two are made up.)

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Here's another article focusing on brands -- reviewing a different list of top brands for 2004.

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