Microsoft: The world's most valuable brand

People 'don't love Microsoft like they love Google but they respect it', according to the latest branding research

Microsoft has been named the most powerful global brand, beating out big names such as Coca-Cola, GE and Marlboro.

The software company tops a list of the top 100 most powerful brands carried out by brand consultancy Millward Brown Optimor.

The goal of the study was to calculate the value a brand is expected to generate for its owner in the future. The top brands were shown to contribute tens of billions to future earnings.

Though anti-Microsoft sentiment often runs high, the Millward Brown study showed most consumers hold positive feelings about the brand.

Andy Farr, executive director at Millward Brown Optimor and lead researcher on the study, said: "When you look at what customers and consumers say to us, they do hold Microsoft in high regard."

He added: "They don't love [Microsoft] like they love Google but they respect it."

Google came in seventh overall for global brands and second for the tech sector. It was also the leader for brand momentum — a measure of a brand's earning power going forward — one of three criteria the researchers used to rank brands.

The other two were 'intangible earnings', which was based on financial data for a brand owner's business, such profits and operating costs; and 'brand contribution', which used survey data from 650,000 consumers on how brand affects their purchasing decisions.

One surprise on the list was China Mobile coming in fourth on the overall list. "I was not expecting that to make the top 10," said Farr.

But it made sense, he explained, once they factored in how quickly the Chinese mobile market is growing and how many Chinese consumers perceive it as an aspirational brand.

Tech companies had a good showing, holding four of the top 10 global brands and the number one spot in the UK (Vodafone). Meanwhile retailers such as Wal-Mart (number six) and Tesco (30 overall and second in the UK) also figured prominently.

Given the impact brand can have on the bottom line, it's something businesses can't overlook, according to Millward Brown's Farr.

"If you're running a business, it's easy to focus on short-term efficiencies and it's easy to forget brand — which exists in the mind of the consumer — is important. It creates opportunities to enter new markets," he said.

All data below courtesy of the Brandz Top 100 Most Powerful Brands 2006 by Millward Brown Optimor.

Top 10 global brands

A table showing the 10 most powerful global brands

Top 10 brands in the UK

A table showing the 10 most powerful UK brands

Top 10 brands in technology industry

A table showing the 10 most powerful technology brands