There was a double whammy for Microsoft today: on the same day that Yahoo settled its spat with activist investor Carl Icahn (which will make a takeover even more difficult), Bill Gates’ baby has also been overtaken by arch-nemesis Google as the UK’s top consumer brand. A poll by YouGov for The Centre for Brand Analysis found that Google had jumped two places to the top spot, leaving Microsoft and Mercedes-Benz languishing in second and third respectively
The Superbrands poll asked 2,200 people to rate more than 1,000 brands selected for their quality, reliability and distinctiveness. This year Google came out on top for the first time, showing that its popularity in the UK shows no sign of waning – even if figures out this weekend showed it had lost a (very small) portion of its online advertising market share to rivals like Microsoft and Yahoo.
This year’s list may demonstrate the pre-eminence of the internet – but it also makes grim reading for British companies. Just three made it into the top 10: the BBC in fourth, BA in fifth and (somewhat bizarrely) Royal Doulton in sixth (nobody makes china like the Brits, right?). And our home-grown retail superpowers didn’t fare too well either – Asda plummeted 253 places to 439th, while Tesco suffered a similarly precipitous fall, dropping 230 places to 301st (Sainsbury’s was actually ranked highest at 232nd).
Still, none of this will be much consolation to Microsoft – especially since agitator-in-chief Carl Icahn seems to have made his peace with the board of Yahoo, after spending weeks trying to pressure them into takeover discussions. Yahoo said today that a compromise had been reached whereby Icahn and two of his cronies will join the Yahoo board, in return for him dropping his attempt to force the whole lot of them out. Icahn probably didn’t have much choice, after major shareholder Bill Miller came out in support of the board – but nevertheless, it doesn’t bode well for Microsoft’s chances of getting a deal through.
We imagine the Superbrands survey will provide Microsoft with yet another reminder of how far it’s lagging behind Google online. On the other hand, Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer should look on the bright side: at least his company is ten places higher than Apple, and 74 places higher than Yahoo. So it could be a lot worse...