Friday, April 10, 2009

Valuing brand names

If we accept the proposition that a brand name can have significant value, it seems logical to follow up by trying to estimate that value. The best way to think about how much of the value in a company comes from its brand name is to ask the hypothetical question: What will happen to this firm's value, if it lost its brand name tomorrow?

That question is not always easy to answer since the effects of brand name are everywhere in the firm and are not easily separable. They can affect the company's sales, its pricing policies and its financing costs. Getting a clean estimate of brand name value can range from difficult, to close to impossible, depending upon the company. As a general proposition, brand name value is easiest to value when:
a. There are no quality differences between a company's products and those of its competitors (other than brand name) in the sector.
b. There is at least one company in the sector that is truly "generic".

One reason I use Coca Cola in my brand name valuations is that I really cannot think of any reason why one soda should sell for a higher price than another, based on taste and quality. I know.. I know.. there is the secret formula, but making a cola or an orange soda does not strike me as incredibly difficult to do. Thus, I feel that any differences in margins between Coca Cola and a generic soda manufacturer have to be because of the brand name that Coke has built up over the last century. That is the ploy that I used to estimate that 80% of Coca Cola's value came from its brand name (in the paper that I linked to on the last blog post).

In contrast, think about trying to value Sony's or Apple's brand name. While both companies may have higher margins than their competitors, there are reasons other than brand name that we can attribute these differences to: quality in the case of Sony and a superior operating system and styling for Apple. Thus, what we assign as a value for brand name for these firms may in fact be a composite of many different competitive advantages.

Does this bother me? To me, valuing brand name, for the most part, seems to be a cosmetic exercise. It is not as if Coca Cola would ever be able to sell its brand name and stay a viable company. Thus, what I really want to be able to do is value Coca Cola as a company. The fact that I cannot then break this value down into parts seems to me a secondary problem.


  1. Actually, I feel that Coca Cola is not really the best example for valuing a brand name. Taste is a quite an important differentiating factor(and they do taste quite different from others), so I believe that in itself can justify a higher price. Maybe the clothing industry would be a better example? I mean, companies like Ralph Lauren sell polo shirts way more than a generic clothing retailer, and their clothes pretty much look and feel the same except for the small logo at the top corner.

  2. I know it's a bit off-topic, but I would love to hear your opinion about the black swan theory and the relevance of common risk-management models such as VaR and others

  3. Hi,

    I was curious to know if you follow the IPL?

    I guess its the only venture which is both cyclical and counter-cyclical! When the India growth story was actively doing the rounds we had the first IPL auction which had about four "million dollar" signings out of 100 odd cricketers. And now in recessionary times with a much smaller pool of players up for auction in the second edition, there are 2 players taken for $1.5 mio which was the highest signing last year!

    Also BCCI cancelled their telecast rights contract for IPL with Sony and re-entered into another contract with the same company at almost two times the price that was paid last year.....

  4. I must confess that I stopped following cricket about 25 years ago... I used to be an avid cricket fan and I have followed the IPL only in passing. I think the key with professional sports is to maintain the illusion that it is only a game (and not a business). The fans know that they are being taken along for a ride, but they are willing to go along. I think the problem with the IPL is that it does not even bother to preserve the illusion...

  5. Great Article it its really informative and innovative keep us posted with new updates. its was really valuable. thanks a lot. 


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