Interbrand takes many ingredients into account when ranking the value of the Best Global Brands. Even to qualify for the list, each brand must derive at least a third of its earnings outside its home country, be recognizable outside of its base of customers, and have publicly available marketing and financial data. Those criteria eliminate heavyweights like Visa, which is privately-held, and Wal-Mart (WMT ), which sometimes operates under different brand names internationally. Interbrand only ranks the strength of individual brand names, not portfolios of brands, which is why Procter & Gamble (PG ) doesn't show up. Airlines are not ranked because it's too hard to separate their brands' impact on sales from factors such as routes and schedules. And this year, Interbrand removed pharmaceutical brands from the ranking because consumers typically relate to the product rather than the corporate brand. Insurance companies were added because they have begun to differentiate themselves and create household names.
BusinessWeek chose Interbrand's methodology because it evaluates brand value in the same way any other corporate asset is valued—on the basis of how much it is likely to earn for the company in the future. Interbrand uses a combination of analysts' projections, company financial documents, and its own qualitative and quantitative analysis to arrive at a net present value of those earnings.
Step one is calculating how much of a company's total sales fall under a particular brand. In some cases the brand encompasses nearly all sales, as with McDonald's (MCD ). In others it is tied to only one set of products: Marlboro within Altria Group (MO ). Using reports from analysts at JPMorgan Chase (JPM ), Citigroup (C ), and Morgan Stanley (MS ), Interbrand projects five years of sales and earnings tied to each brand's products and services.
Step two is calculating how much of those earnings result from the power of the brand itself. To do this, Interbrand strips out operating costs, taxes, and charges for the capital employed to arrive at the earnings attributable to intangible assets. The brand's role is then estimated within those earnings vs. other intangible assets such as patents and management strength.
Finally, those future earnings are discounted to arrive at a net present value. Interbrand discounts against current interest rates and also against the brand's overall risk profile to factor in brand strength. Considerations include market leadership, stability, and global reach—or the ability to cross both geographic and cultural borders. The final result values the brand as a financial asset. BusinessWeek and Interbrand believe this figure comes closest to representing a brand's true economic worth.