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Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) have maintained the #1 and #2 spots on a list of top companies with the most “Brand Power” in the US, according to Corebrand, which released its 2008 Corporate Branding Index (pdf) this week. These highly regarded brands also held the same slots in the 2007 rankings.

After Coca-Cola and J&J, Harley-Davidson moved up one place to #3, replacing Hershey Foods, which is now #4, Corebrand said. Campbell Soup moved up one spot to #5, replacing Hallmark, which is now #6. UPS remained unchanged in 7th place, while Colgate- Palmolive moved up one spot to #8, replacing FedEx (now #9).

Out of the top 10, CoreBrand reports that only Kellogg Company (#10) has shown significant growth, rising from #15 in 2007 and from #21 in 2005.

Top 20 Brands

corebrands-top-brands-rankings-2008.jpg

Notable within the top 20, BMW is now in 12th place and is rising fast. It was #16 in 2007 and #28 in 2005. Bayer, which moved into #17 from #27 in 2007 and #45 in 2005, is also moving quickly.

Economic Crisis Not Brand Crisis

“The current economic crisis is not a brand crisis. Corporate brands remain strong in the face of the downturn,” said James Gregory, CEO of CoreBrand “However, some strong brands are being run over by the economy because brands are not stronger than the underlying financials of a corporation. For example, GE has a relatively strong brand but has significant financial exposure so the brand is hurting.”

Additional details about company rankings:

  • Credit card company brands are improving: Visa (NYSE:V) is now #23, up from #36 in 2007 and #44 in 2005; MasterCard (MC-OLD) is #31, up from #44 in 2007 and #57 in 2005, and American Express (NYSE:AXP) is #11, up from #13 in 2007 and #16 in 2005.
  • Toiletries and cosmetics companies continue to see improvements: Revlon (NYSE:REV) has rallied steadily from #61 in 2005 to #33 in 2008; L’Oreal (LRCLY.PK) has progressed from #89 in 2005 to #52 in 2008; and Estee Lauder (NYSE:EL) has shown big gains, moving from #60 in 2005 to #34 in 2008.
  • Apparel was a mixed bag: While Levi Strauss dropped significantly from #20 in 2005 to #38 in 2007 to #49 in 2008, Fruit of the Loom moved up from #83 ]in 2005 to #43 in 2008, and Tommy Hilfiger improved from #88 in 2005 to #65 in 2008.
  • St. Jude Medical (NYSE:STJ) has moved up steadily to #28 in 2008 from #59 in 2005.

Biggest Drops in Rankings

Among companies that suffered setbacks in the rankings:

  • Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) had a notable loss as it dropped from #10 in 2007 to #14 in 2008.
  • PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP) has been dropping at an alarming rate and has gone from #4 in 2005 to #11 in 2007 and to #18 in 2008.
  • General Electric (NYSE:GE) is losing steam, dropping from #12 in 2005 to #17 in 2007 to #24 place in 2008.
  • Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) has dropped steadily from #31 in 2005 to #39 in 2008.
  • General Motors (NYSE:GM) has fallen steadily from #30 in 2005 to #41 in 2008.

Apple Grows Big; Microsoft Up Slightly

Two of the most widely watched technology companies both improved this year. Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) efforts to bolster its presence have increased its brand rankings somewhat, according to CoreBrand. In 2005 Microsoft ranked #26, but dropped 28 spots to #59 in 2007, before improving this year to #54.

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) continues to grow its corporate brand and now ranks at #91, up from #119 in 2007 and #128 in 2005.

“Last year there were many articles discussing how Apple should have been ranked as one of the top brands, but our Brand Power Ranking didn’t place the technology giant in the top 100,” said Gregory. “Everyone should be reminded that our study focuses on corporate brands, not product brands. While Apple brand zealots rate it with very high favorability, there are many more who don’t feel as strongly about the Apple corporate brand.”

About the research: The Corporate Branding Index is a quantitative research study among business decision makers in the US, and has been conducted continuously since 1990 with 1,200 companies across 49 industries. More than 12,000 surveys are completed each year. CoreBrand’s Brand Power rankings are based upon the “familiarity” and “favorability” of these business decision makers toward the corporate reputation of these companies. Respondents are business decision-makers (VP level and above) from the top 20% of US businesses across 49 industries.

Source: Coke, Johnson & Johnson, Harley Show Brand Strength