The Guardian is reporting that Apple have toppled Google as the biggest brand in the world.

Just before this puts the world into a spin on Monday morning, I’d like to look at how real this thinking is. OK, it’s only one list, but this is going to be big headlines, as no doubt the researchers, Millward Brown, knew when writing their press release.

Obviously, the world revolves round money, stock markets and brands, (or the world that makes news does) but in reality much of this is very nebulous. Millions of dollars can be wiped off a company’s value (and hence brand) over night often for seemingly spurious reasons.

Is Apple a better brand? There are, of course, the Apple fanboyz, just as there are for Open Source, or Marmite, or thousands of other brands. But is the estimated market price of a company a true reflection of its value? After all, surely the consumer is the best judge of value? And should brands seek purely to increase perceived market value rather than customer satisfaction?

Consumers, as we know, are often forced/persuaded into purchase through sophisticated marketing and advertising techniques. That is what many in our industry do for a living. But, to date, the largest brands have seemingly failed to be penalised in such assessments or valuations for poor ‘after sales’ service, and are judged purely on sales figures ie money in.

What would be most interesting, is to see how many people have forked out for an expensive Apple item, and then never bought from Apple again…. for instance. Where is the satisfaction index?

Here’s mine. Our Apple satisfaction index is very low.

Our Mini Mac (now quite unloved) stopped working properly within less than 2 years of purchase, and despite a long trip away to an Apple repair shop, it now does only the barest minimum. And that whilst making the most horrendous noises.

Then, thinking those who espouse Apple, and whom I respect, must be right and that the MacMini experience was a mere blip, I recently acquired, against my better judgement, an iPhone. I was travelling, my 3 year old handset gave up the ghost overnight, and I needed a phone to get hold of the people who I was supposed to be meeting that day. This iPhone has, to date, driven me up the wall (even more so than the Nokia N97 it replaced) and really, if I lived nearer to an Apple Store, this latest handset would also go the way of the previous one – for replacement or refund. (THAT is a whole other post over the fact that handsets now last less time than your mobile phone contract).

The last iPhone had zero battery life and was replaced after 3 weeks (would have been much sooner but I couldn’t get to a store).

This one refuses to connect to a network, of any flavour – GSM, wifi etc – most of the time. It is bordering on useless for every reason I got it – phone, online, wifi. It is right now as much a smart phone as my cat is. The only thing that does work well is the camera but I can only share my photos if I go through a mind-bendingly tedious process to remove and share them. Whilst plugged into my attached-to-a-landline computer, which means the word ‘mobile’ is bordering on anathema to my iPhone.

From what I can see, the vast majority of apps in the AppStore (ditto the Android store apps according to the BBC) are not really worth the time their developers’ have spent on them, although there are some glorious gems such as Photosynth which has solved a problem I have had for years – stitching a panorama together. But that comes from Microsoft! (And of course, I can’t view my final attempts on the Net as that requires Silverlight, which Apple does about as well as Flash).

Let’s be balanced though, considering the headline – there are days I dislike and distrust Google too, as part of my general distrust towards big business vs small business, consumer and community interest, but looking at what has been achieved by Google for the customer – gmail, maps, search, and so on – I feel more comfortable in assigning a value to Google for services, than I do to Apple for products.

I am though quite concerned that the two biggest companies in the world, as of this morning and a single assessment (let’s make that clear!), suffer such a major #fail when it comes to those that matter most – the people who buy their products. Google will not answer questions in their forums; yet, there seem to be hundreds of thousands of people with problems that affect their daily lives, businesses etc. Apple suffers similar issues – the AppStore is full of them. My iPhone problems were only solved after I drove 200+ miles to a store – which now makes this device the most expensive I will own in a hurry.

But I cannot afford to be without a phone for the x days/weeks it takes to replace this one, which hasn’t worked properly since the day I got it. And as to my MiniMac problems – it’s now a very expensive box on the desk I should probably tidy away, into the bin.

So, in conclusion, whilst the money markets may make the headlines, and encourage other brands to aspire after those wielding the highest stock prices, is that what you should be doing with your brand?

I don’t believe so.

It comes down, I believe to a slightly different approach to assessing brand value. Social capital sells, as well as Quality Goods. Which. Work. Rushing to market to get the headlines and hence these type of valuations are all well and good, but personally, I may buy a PlayBook which is late to market but probably does what it says on the tin rather than an iPad. How will that decision be reflected in the news?

Traditional business values often bring you longer term value than any shiny quick wins. Many of the most successful businesses are not hitting the headlines of WSJ, NYT, or any of the British broadsheets this morning. They just keep on delivering, day after day, to a happy customer base who will support them through generations.

THAT is value. But it ain’t news. And sadly, those hard-working valuable companies will be written off by the meeja and thrown to the wolves by newcomers’ shiny claims. Leaving us with an ever-decreasing QUALITY for consumers in the rush for the headlines and the stock valuations.

Have a great week! Your comments are as ever welcomed.

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About the author:

A practising internet marketing consultant since 1996, Lindsey Annison helps companies improve their website marketing, online PR and information architecture. Lindsey is also a qualified adult education lecturer and author. As co-founder of the Access to Broadband Campaign, she has been instrumental in the provision of high-speed internet access to rural areas in the UK. Lindsey is also a past winner of's Outstanding Contribution to UK Technology