Microsoft's brand value surges, is now No. 4 worldwide

Ever since Satya Nadella took the reigns of Microsoft from Steve Ballmer, Microsoft has been on a roll. Now here's more evidence: Microsoft's brand is the fourth most valuable in the world, surging 29% in a single year, while Apple's dropped 20%.

That's according to Millward Brown’s BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands ranking. The ranking calculates how much money the brand name contributes to a company's overall value. In this latest ranking, Microsoft's brand was calculated as being worth $90.2 billion, up 29% from a year ago, and putting Microsoft number four on the list. Last year, it was at number seven.

Google took top place, with a brand value of $158.8 billion, followed by Apple at $147.9 billion, and IBM with $107.5 billion. Google's value surged even more than Microsoft's in the past year, up 40%.

Apple's plummeting brand value was particularly striking -- it was the steepest drop by far of any of the world's top 100 brands, according to the study. Oscar Yuan, vice president at Millward Brown Optimor, explained it this way to AdWeek:

"I think the world is looking at Apple as a brand that created an Earth-shattering revolution, and I think that has slowed down a bit."

No explanation is given for Microsoft's surging brand value. But I'd attribute at least part of it to the changing of the guard at the company. As newcomer Satya Nadella puts his stamp on Microsoft, the company appears to be getting a fresh start.

The question now for Microsoft is whether it can build on its surging brand value. With the release of Office for iPad, giving away Windows to makers of devices under nine inches, and yesterday's Surface Pro 3 rollout, the company has built a buzz around it that it hasn't had for some time. That will certainly contribute to its brand value. But ultimately, more important than the value of a brand is what the company does with that value. It's no coincidence that Apple's stock price has been faltering even as its brand loses value. That's because as Yuan notes, there's been a dearth of innovation coming out of Apple these days.

For Microsoft, the question is what's next? If it can keep up with how fast it's been changing in the last few months, good things are ahead. But if it slows down, don't be surprised if it's brand value -- and its stock price -- slumps.

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