Millward Brown‘s 2011 BrandZ study of the most valuable global brands is out. From a trademark perspective, there are several common themes among the leaders:

Distinctive names and much more prevalent than descriptive names. The only name that is “descriptive” in the top 10 is “China Mobile”.  A great majority of them are made up terms or completely arbitrary, like Verizon, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, and Walmart.

Great logos. Many of the names are accompanied by very distinctive, memorable logos.

Intellectual property. At least 1/2 of the businesses are built on intellectual property, whether they be software code, search algorithms, industrial patents, etc. See: Apple, Google, IBM, Microsoft, GE, Amazon, and others.

Cross-platform brands. Many of these brands do or sell a lot of different – but related – things. [Apple: phone, computer, software. Verizon: phone, cable, cellphone. UPS: shipping, logistics.] And their brands and logos reflect this flexibility by being absent of descriptive or limiting wording.

Starbucks is missing from the list. But I think one day it may be among the brand leaders. And their change in logo earlier this year to allow it to become more of a “cross-platform” provider (see bullet point above) is to allow Starbucks the brand to become about more than coffee.  [See my earlier blog post about the logo change here.]

You can see the full BrandZ report here.

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