Apple leapfrogs Google for top spot, while Microsoft rises in global brand survey

Three million survey participants in 50 countries say Apple is the top global brand as Microsoft gets a leg up on IBM.

For the tenth year in a row, Millward Brown released its global brand study and there's a new king of the hill. Apple swapped with Google to take the top spot in the report as its brand value rose 67 percent from 2014.

The first four brands in the study, comprised of 3 million participants from 50 countries are all technology companies. The third and four spots also flip-flopped with Microsoft rising above IBM in 2015.

Apple's top ranking doesn't surprise me.

Love it or hate it, a mainstream audience would likely agree that Apple is "seen as leading the curve with an approach that generates real benefits for consumers, making life easier in a fun and relevant way."

Many people may not realize that Apple often improves upon technology and user interfaces that existed prior; it's a core strength of the company's products.

The top ranking also speaks to Apple's marketing prowess when you consider this tidbit from the lengthy report: "Apple was buoyed by not only the iPhone 6 launch and news of the hotly anticipated Apple Watch, but also by the launch of HealthKit and Apple Pay."

Yes, HealthKit may have launched -- it was announced a year ago -- but how many HealthKit products can you actually buy today? Apple's hardware partners are expected to launch the first few products next month yet the platform appears to have boosted Apple's brand in advance. Just the promise of an easy-to-use smarthome platform is enough to sway opinions, apparently.

So too is a change in leadership and vision as Microsoft jumped from no. 4 to take the third spot in Millward Brown's brand study: The company displaced IBM on the list this year.

I'd attribute much of that result directly to the direction of Satya Nadella and his "mobile first, cloud first" approach since taking the helm of Microsoft.

Add in the massive shift towards cross-platform support for Microsoft products -- see Office, the Microsoft Band and, more recently, Cortana, as examples -- and people are starting to think both differently and more positively about the Microsoft brand.

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