Why brand valuation is in a spin

As branding has become more important, a whole industry has prospered by charting the intangible ups and downs of image. But what does the league table merry-go-round contribute?

by Oliver Bennett

Artisanal. Authentic. Crafted. Heritage. Passionate. All words of warmth associated with contemporary branding, and applied willy-nilly - even promiscuously - to myriad modern products and services. But what are they worth, and how much value do such florid descriptions add? What if you played word association with the art of 'brand valuation' itself? It might go more like this: overstated, overrated, mistrusted, inflated. That's the kind of place the brand valuation industry is in, and it's causing a lot of confusion.

The big three companies - Interbrand, Brand Finance and Millward Brown (part of WPP) - all produce brand valuation leagues. Additionally, there are tables from lesser players (about 'three or four more', as Peter Walshe, director of Millward Brown's BrandZ study puts it) and smaller firms too. In the past five years, as intangibles have become at least as important financially as physical assets, the popularity of brand valuation has surged. With it has come a tide of scepticism.

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