What's in a name? It's one of the hardest things for us Joe and Jane Oddlots to figure out. No one would argue that names like Coke (NYSE:KO) or PepsiCo's (NYSE:PEP) Pepsi are real assets worth real money. After all, these companies are, in the end, just selling sugared bubbly water -- or in some cases just tap water. It's the name that makes it special. It's the brand's ring that brings home the bling.

But how much are these really worth to an investor? Coke may be one of the greatest brands in the world, but its stock has done little but slap investors around. And compared to some of the hotter brands of the past few years, shareholders in Coke have gotten off pretty lucky. Pepsi has fared much better, but then it's got a whole portfolio of strong brands, including Frito-Lay chips, Quaker Foods, and Gatorade.

On the other hand, the pain experienced by those who've held Krispy Kreme (NYSE:KKD) and TiVo (NASDAQ:TIVO) for the long term is also pretty painful to behold. Despite the amazing amount of attention and praise lavished on these products, the stock simply couldn't measure up to the hype. And frankly, I think these two may be in for a lot more hurt. I don't believe the sustainable demand for Krispy Kreme's product supports its current valuation, and TiVo, I expect, will be devoured by competition from all sides.

Yet every time I make such a suggestion, I get volumes of email imploring me to give a little more respect to the brand.


Here's how much value I put in a brand: Zero. Zilch. Bupkis.

To me, a brand is only as important as what it's done for your top and bottom line lately.

If your brand can help generate strong sales, and they're being made at prices that pay off all the way down to the bottom line, you've got something I might pay up to own. If they're not, well, you just may be holding an Eastman Kodak (NYSE:EK), a Xerox (NYSE:XRX), or an Iomega (NYSE:IOM). And it gets worse. Wall Street's dustbin is littered with "great brands" that weren't, crashed, and burned. In the end, a company -- and a brand's -- survival doesn't depend on hype. It depends on real profits.

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Seth Jayson likes it when his companies show him the mon-NAY. At the time of publication, he had positions in no company mentioned here. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Krispy Kreme and TiVo are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. Coke is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Fool rules are here.