Google, the top Internet search engine which is expected by bankers to list its shares this year, gained a fillip on Tuesday as it was named Global Brand of the Year by consultants Interbrand for the second year running.
And while Apple Computer Inc was once again pipped into second place in Interbrand's Brandchannel ranking of high-impact brands, nostalgia-driven small car Mini zoomed up the list to third place from 11th.
Google, whose minimalist interface and lack of advertising links have made it a firm favorite among net-heads and casual surfers alike, is said by bankers to be planning a share listing that is likely to raise $4 billion for the Mountain View, California based firm.
The company, which offers speedy searches in 97 languages including the fictional Klingon tongue of Star Trek fame, has denied all comment on the flotation, and was hardly more effusive on its latest accolade.
"It's always great to be recognized by our users. But if you talk to our technicians, they'll tell you we still have work to do to make our search technology better," a Google spokeswoman said.
Interbrand, which conducted its poll of over 4,000 users via its brandchannel.com Web site, said Google would have to stick to its policy of offering a "clean, friendly but credible" path to accessing the Internet as it plans to go public.
"The brand managers should concentrate on protecting these qualities. If it can maintain its reputation as an expert search engine, it will join the ranks of exceptional brands like Apple, where consumer loyalty ranges on fanatical".
It's probably no coincidence that both Google and Apple — which topped the poll in 2001 and has occupied the number two slot since then — both appeal strongly to a tech-savvy segment that would figure strongly in any Internet poll.
Perhaps more surprising is the strong showing by Mini, whose third place knocks U.S. soft drinks giant Coca-Cola -- unquestionably the world's most valuable brand -- into fourth.
Owner BMW has taken care to keep Mini, whose design is strongly redolent of the classic British small car that first saw the light of day in the late 1950s, at arm's length from both the parent brand and from Rolls Royce, which it also owns.
"The nostalgia factor coupled with modern day capability and comfort helps Mini in traditional markets such as Europe," Brandchannel's Robin Rusch said, adding that in the U.S. it was seen as a cool alternative to the "parking lot size vehicles" now crowding the roads.
Fifth in the global ranking behind Coca-Cola was Samsung Electronics, the South Korean maker of memory chips and consumer electronics.
"This is a vindication for a brand that has poured a lot of resources into improving the quality, scope and distribution of its product on the world stage," Rusch said.
The Brandchannel poll attracted responses from 4,010 people in 85 countries. The sole criterion on which brands were ranked was "impact," which could be positive or negative.