LONDON Apple has overtaken Google as the world's most valuable brand, ending a four-year reign by the Internet search leader, according to a new study by global brands agency Millward Brown.
The iPhone and iPad maker's brand is now worth $153 billion, almost half Apple's market capitalization, says the annual BrandZ study of the world's top 100 brands.
Apple's portfolio of coveted consumer goods propelled it past Microsoft to become the world's most valuable technology company last year.
Peter Walshe, global brands director of Millward Brown, says Apple's meticulous attention to detail, along with an increasing presence of its gadgets in corporate environments, have allowed it to behave differently from other consumer-electronics makers.
"Apple is breaking the rules in terms of its pricing model," he told Reuters by telephone. "It's doing what luxury brands do, where the higher price the brand is, the more it seems to underpin and reinforce the desire."
"Obviously, it has to be allied to great products and a great experience, and Apple has nurtured that."
By contrast, one of the brands most threatened by Apple's rising popularity in offices took a big hit in the survey.
Research In Motion's BlackBerry brand lost a fifth of its brand value. Among technology companies, only Nokia's 28 percent decline was steeper.
Of the top 10 brands in Monday's report, six were technology and telecoms companies: Google at number two, IBM at number three, Microsoft at number five, AT&T at number seven and China Mobile at number nine.
McDonald's rose two places to number four, as fast food became the fastest-growing category, Coca-Cola slipped one place to number six, Marlboro was also down one to number eight, and General Electric was number 10.
Walshe said demand from China was a major factor in the rise of fast-food brands. "The Chinese have been discovering fast food and it's such a vast market -- Starbucks, McDonald's... and pizza has hit China," he said.
"The way McDonald's has reinvented itself, adapted its menus, added healthy options, expanding the times of day it can be visited, for example oatmeal for breakfast... that allied with growth in developing markets has really helped that brand."
Nineteen of the top 100 brands came from emerging markets, up from 13 last year.
Facebook entered the top 100 at number 35 with a brand valued at $19.1 billion, while Chinese search engine Baidu rose to number 29 from 46.
Toyota reclaimed its position as the world's most valuable car brand, as it recovered from a bungled 2010 product recall. The survey was carried out before the March earthquake that caused massive disruption to Japanese supply chains.
The total value of the top 100 brands rose by 17 percent to $2.4 trillion, as the global economy shifted to growth.
Millward Brown takes as a starting point the value that companies put on their own main brands as intangibles in their earnings reports.
It combines that with the perceptions of more than 2 million consumers in relevant markets around the world whom it surveys over the course of the year, and then applies a multiple derived from the company's short-term future growth prospects.
(Reporting by Goergina Prodhan, additional reporting by Alastair Sharp in Toronto; Editing by David Cowell)