PR factors into 'Best Global Brands' report

NEW YORK: This year's BusinessWeek/Interbrand "Best Global Brands" report reveals a common link for the best of the best brands, according to Jeff Swystun, global director at Interbrand, a research company.

NEW YORK: This year's BusinessWeek/Interbrand "Best Global Brands" report reveals a common link for the best of the best brands, according to Jeff Swystun, global director at Interbrand, a research company.

"The successful firms shared, from a PR standpoint, the pursuit of integrity and honesty," Swystun said.

Swystun said that many companies view PR solely as a crisis-management tool or an exercise in self-congratulation.

"PR must be done consistently and coherently to keep the message out in the public's eyes," he said.

The study calculates the value of a company's brand. To be included, the companies had to be global and had to make sufficient marketing and financial data available.

Coca-Cola came out on top, despite the value of its brand dropping 4% last year, to $67.4 billion.

"Throughout our history, public relations has played an integral role in adding value to Coca-Cola," Kelly Brooks, Coca-Cola's director of marketing communications, said in an e-mail interview,

Apple, ranked 43rd, rose nearly 24%. That company has handled PR successfully, Swystun said, citing a recent Newsweek cover story.

"[Apple] used buzz so well... and [has] not had to spend a large amount, relatively, on advertising," he said. "In all of their communications, the company stresses how it is a fun part of people's lives, and then they deliver on it."

Swystun cited Starbucks as a firm that rose above the peril it encountered after a franchise charged a 9-11 rescue worker $130 for three cases of water. Starbucks president Orin Smith subsequently apologized to the ambulance-service president, refunded the money, and bestowed gifts upon the worker.

Starbucks, with a brand worth $2.4 billion, rose 12% over the past year.

Swystun said that increases in brand value for some of the younger or high-tech companies, like eBay, Apple, and Samsung, might have resulted from savvier PR use.

"Companies now have to be more vigilant than they were in monitoring what's said to them because things like chat rooms can be so devastating," Swystun said. "The whole marketing mix is becoming that much more complex, but the end benefit [remains] putting the right product in the right hand at the right time."

EBay, a new entry debuting at 60, finally cracked the list because it understands its domestic market and has made strides in other regions, Swystun said.

"We [previously] considered them very US-centric, but through viral marketing and buzz, other regions are picking up on it," Swystun said.

The report is available at www.interbrand.com.

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