Google is the world's strongest brand for the fourth straight year, according to a study released Wednesday by research firm Millward Brown Optimor.
Analyzing the world's strongest brands, the fifth annual "BrandZ Top 100 report" examined consumer opinions and market data on brands to assign each one a certain value and then translated that value into dollars to rank the top 100.
Tech companies took the top four spots with No. 1 Google followed by IBM, Apple, and Microsoft.
Google, IBM, and Apple all grew in brand value from 2009, noted Millward Brown, even amid a recession. Overall, the tech sector was one of the few business categories to show growth from 2009, rising 6 percent based on continued spending from both companies and consumers.
"In the past, many companies were quick to cut their marketing spend during a down economy," Millward Brown CEO Joanna Seddon said in a statement. "A new trend has emerged in the wake of the recession as more companies realized the importance of maintaining and even increasing budgets to support brand loyalty and engagement."
In deciding loyalty, consumers take into account several factors, the study asserts. Sustainability, social responsibility, and trust were among the key concerns in driving brand loyalty. The ability to personalize a product was another factor--and one that played a role in brand value for tech companies. Examples cited in the study: Google users can create personalized home pages, and Apple iPhone users can customize their phones by downloading apps.
Among other tech brands on the list, Hewlett-Packard came in at No. 12, RIM's BlackBerry was No. 14, Amazon.com was No. 15, and Oracle was No. 19.
Some tech companies dropped in brand dollar value from last year, including Nokia (No. 43), which sunk 58 percent; Intel (No. 48), which declined 38 percent; and eBay (No. 76), which fell 28 percent. But other major tech brands, such as Verizon (No. 20), AT&T (No. 22), SAP (No. 21), and Sony (No. 94) all rose in value. Samsung (No. 68) outshone all companies with the highest gain, showing 80 percent growth in brand value from last year.
Social networking figured into Millward Brown's study. Although it didn't make the top 100 list, Facebook debuted in the tech sector for the first time with a brand dollar value of $5.5 billion. Beyond that, the study found that social media itself was a growing trend among companies looking to build brand awareness.
Millward Brown, which is owned by advertising and communications giant WPP, generates its BrandZ Top 100 report by interviewing more than a million consumers worldwide and analyzing each company's financial and business performance.