By Doug Gross
(CNN) — Well, guess that argument’s settled for now. Google is a more valuable brand than Apple.
At least that’s the assessment of an annual study by Millward Brown, a communications company that ranks Google as the world’s most popular brand, topping Apple, which had held the top spot for the past three years.
And, yes, we realize the report will change virtually no minds in the tech world’s long-running battle of fan loyalty. But it’s fun to talk about.
According to the 2014 BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brand ranking, Google’s brand value rose 40% last year, to $159 billion. Apple, meanwhile, slipped 20% to $148 billion.
According to the report, it was Google’s spirit of innovation, and Apple’s perceived lack of it, that led to the flip-flop.
“I think the world is looking at Apple as a brand that created an Earth-shattering revolution, and I think that has slowed down a bit,” Oscar Yuan, vice president at Millward Brown, told AdWeek. “The fact that (Google) doesn’t see themselves contained in one sector is really a testament to their boldness and willingness to try new things.”
In the past year, Google’s Android mobile operating system continued to gain popularity worldwide, its connected Glass eyewear became more of a wearable-tech staple and stories about its long-range products, like a self-driving car, continued to captivate imaginations. All that is in addition, of course, to its search engine, which remains essentially unrivaled.
Apple, meanwhile, was criticized by some for failing to keep breaking new ground, settling instead for incremental upgrades to its breakthrough products like the iPhone and iPad.
Long-standing reports suggest that Apple has a smartwatch and a television system on the way. And the tech giant also is reportedly on the verge of buying headphone and digital-music company Beats. But there have been no visible results on those fronts.
The Millward Brown list was decidedly tech heavy. Rounding out the top five were IBM, Microsoft and, representing the nontech world, McDonald’s.
Amazon, which continues to strengthen its foothold in the streaming-TV and tablet markets, entered the top 10 for the first time. Twitter and LinkedIn debuted on the list at numbers 71 and 78, respectively, and with a 68% increase in perceived value, Facebook was the second-biggest climber on the list, reaching number 21.
Of course, it’s always hard to know exactly how much stock should be placed in these research-company rankings. As with Millward Brown, many of them use proprietary tools and research that they offer to clients for a fee and don’t care to explain to the public.
The company does say that the rankings came, in part, from 150,000 interviews with consumers from around the world.
But how did it measure the value of an Apple fan’s willingness to sleep on a sidewalk in order to buy a new phone versus the free press Google gets every time it cranks out a really cool Doodle for its search page? Nobody knows.
But, hey, it’s something for diehard fans to debate between now and whenever the iPhone 6 is announced.
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