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Apple tops Google as world's most valuable brand

The iPhone maker recaptures the No. 1 spot after losing it to Google last year, according to the latest list of the BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands.

Apple has surpassed Google as the world's most valuable brand. James Martin/CNET

Apple is on top in yet another category, namely the world's most valuable brand.

A report known as the BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands, released on Wednesday by advertising firm WPP and market researcher Millward Brown, attempts to rank the value, or dollar amount, of a company through a combination of market data and customer surveys. Overall, technology firms fared well among the 100 brands that showed up.

But it was Apple that shined higher than the rest of the tech pack. This year, the company reclaimed the top spot after being overtaken by Google in 2014. Specifically, Apple picked up a brand value of $247 billion, a jump of 67 percent from last year. In bumping Apple back to the top of the charts, Millward Brown cited the success of the iPhone 6 and the surrounding excitement about the Apple brand in general. The company also was the leader in the growth of its brand value over the past ten years, rising by 1,446 percent.

At one point, Apple investors, consumers and watchers had wondered whether the company had lost its mojo following the death of co-founder Steve Jobs and the dearth of new, innovative products. The company was also losing market share and customers to rival Samsung. But the heavy demand for the big-screened iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus and the debut of the Apple Watch appear to have rejuvenated Apple, pushing the shares higher and prompting many analysts to raise their stock price projections.

Second-place Google was no slouch either, rising by 9 percent to achieve a brand value of $173 billion. Known primarily as a search engine, Google always seems to have its hooks in a variety of businesses, including the Android operating system, self-driving cars, its high-speed fiber network and its new Project Fi wireless service. The only major area where the company stumbled this past year was Google Glass, which was put on hold in January as Google tries to develop a more consumer-friendly model.

Microsoft took third place with a brand value of $115 billion, rising 28 percent from last year. The report credited new CEO Satya Nadella for refreshing the company's culture and establishing a greater sense of cooperation with partners and customers. In fourth place was IBM with a value of $93 billion, though that number was down 13 percent from last year.

Which other tech companies scored well in brand value? Ranked at No. 12, Facebook's value rose by a whopping 99 percent to $71 billion.

"Facebook led the Top Risers with a year-on-year brand value increase of 99 percent, based on the brand's ability to remain relevant through acquisitions and to monetize its audience of over one billion people worldwide," the report said.

Other tech players on the list included AT&T with a brand value of $89 billion, Verizon with $86 billion, Amazon with $62 billion, Vodafone with $38 billion and SAP with $38 billion.

The list also showed the growing strength of Chinese technology firms.

The brand value for Chinese Internal portal Tencent rose by 43 percent to $76 billion. Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba Group landed on the list for the first time ever with a brand value of $66 billion. And the value for telecom provider China Mobile increased by 20 percent to $59 billion.

To rank each company on the list, Millward Brown first calculates its financial value based on earnings and other financial information. Then the firm stirs in a second layer called brand contribution, which factors in how consumers feel about the company and its products. And then the financial value and brand contribution are combined to determine the brand value, which is described as "the dollar amount a brand contributes to the overall value of a corporation."

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