Survey: Google world's No. 1 corporate brand

Search giant's brand value set at $44 billion, edging out Microsoft at $43 billion

Google now has the most valuable corporate brand in the world, a U.K.-based branding consultancy has determined.

According to Brand Finance, the search giant's brand is valued at $44.3 billion. Google displaced retailer Walmart, last year's top company in the BrandFinance Global 500, which slipped to third place. Google was No. 2 last year.

(Also see: Ever wonder which tech companies are worth the most? Wonder no more)

But Google barely beat out Microsoft, which finished in the runner-up slot with an estimated brand value of $42.8 billion, moving up from fifth place in last year's Brand Finance rankings.

Brand Finance looks at two main things to determine brand value: the strength, risk and future potential of a brand relative to competitors and the financial strength of the brand.

In awarding Google the top spot for 2011, Brand Finance cited the company's "dominance of the search engine sector" and its "comparatively uncommercial" ventures such as efforts to help victims of natural disasters such as the Japan tsunami and earthquake. These actions, Brand Finance said, have a "positive impact" on Google's brand rating, despite not making the search giant any money.

Microsoft earned its No. 2 rating because of the company's vast success in the smartphone market. Just kidding! I have no idea why Microsoft finished second; Brand Finance doesn't say. Perhaps it's due to the incomparable warmth and charisma of CEO Steve Ballmer.

Speaking of Microsoft and smartphone success, the company that lost the most brand value from the 2010 list was Finnish mobile device maker Nokia, which plummeted to No. 94 from No. 21, its brand value falling to $9.7 billion from $19.6 billion. Burning platforms will do that to you.

Meanwhile, Facebook, whose market valuation seems to rise every 10 minutes or so, made Brand Finance's list for the first time, showing up at No. 281 with a brand value of $3.7 billion.

Other tech notables (with last year's ranking in parentheses):

No. 4 -- IBM (4), brand valued at $36.2 billion

No. 5 -- Vodaphone (7), $30.7 billion

No. 8 -- Apple (20), $29.5 billion

No. 10 -- AT&T (11), $28.9 billion

No. 12 -- Verizon (14), $27.3 billion

No. 13 -- HP (9), $26.8 billion

No. 18 -- Samsung (23), $21.5 billion

You can view the full list here.

Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.

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