The biggest brands in the world – Coke, Microsoft, Nike or GE? Nope, you’re not even close.

Umair Haque, the new Director of Havas’ Media lab had a great discussion about the value of brands which got me thinking about all of this over the weekend – and he’s on to something. The greatest and most popular brands in the world have been around for decades. Things that we almost take for granted; Coca-Cola, coke.jpg Microsoft, microsoft.jpg Intel, Nokia, GE, ge.jpg Nike, nike.jpg Toyota, Disney, McDonalds, and the list goes on. These are big companies that all have been around for many years, some for nearly 50 years. Each of these companies spend millions of advertising dollars every year to ‘promote’ their image. However, the world is changing and rapidly. Consumers are being bombarded and exposed to new and ever changing media on the web. When I think about any particular brand, what I believe I’m getting no matter what kind of material object I buy is an expectation of or a standard of quality. For instance, if I buy Nike sneakers, I know what I can expect or if I purchase a Coach wallet, I expect the wallet to last at least 2-3 years (or longer than most every other wallet) because its a Coach wallet. Coach leather is a brand I have come to know and the quality of their products are far superior to other manufacturers (at least that’s what I think). Its an expectation I have or a benefit I expect from a product or service. I know in advance what to expect. So, for years, we’d see advertising on TV or in magazines, on billboards or in newspapers about those brands. Not necessarily advertising the actual products, but big, full page ads proclaiming GE as the company that thinks about your future, etc. Big ads, big dollars and it reached most of us through the media mentioned above. It was and still is expensive, but it worked, that is until now. Enter the internet. The web has changed the game for these brands and it will stay that way for the foreseeable future.

Think about this one – the biggest brand in the world has never spent a nickel to advertise itself. That brand is Google. Why? It doesn’t have to. But why and how did Google manage to become the top or if not the top, one of the top brands on the planet? Through the internet and its commonality of use and discussion among us. A huge, online community emerged that had something in common – they ‘googled’. Google has never spent any money on advertising itself. Its talked about, discussed, and in a short period of time has become a brand by doing nothing more than delivering what it suppose to deliver to us – results. No promises of this or that to listen to or read. The free ‘use’ and global access has created a brand with no advertising. Bigger than most firms over 40 years old that have spent millions every year to keep its ‘brand’ in front of all of us. Information does not need to be contained into slogans or cute commercials during the Superbowl. Its amazing to me that in less than 10 years, Google has built one of the worlds most best known brands without spending a dime on advertising on TV, newspapers, etc. Think about it…its really quite amazing.

Even Yahoo advertised. Maybe they shouldn’t have.