Google Named Top Global Brand Again

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Google was named the brand of the year by readers of Brandchannel.com in a survey released yesterday, marking its second straight year in the top spot for company brands.


Brandchannel.com, a news site run by branding consultancy Interbrand, received more than 4,000 votes in November and December 2003. Worldwide, Google ranked as the No. 1 brand, ahead of Apple, British automaker MINI, Coca-Cola and Samsung. Google got 16 percent of the vote to Apple's 15 percent. In the United States and Canada, Google ranked No. 3, trailing Apple and Target.


The survey asked readers to rank the brands that have the most effect, either positive or negative, in their lives during the year. Google led in 2002 as well.


Robin Rusch, editor of Brandchannel.com, said Google has maintained a positive brand image by providing a simple, friendly route to finding information. Now, on the cusp of an anticipated stock offering that could net the company up to $20 billion, the company will need to maintain that image amid shareholder pressure, she said.


"Right now, it's helpful and uncluttered," she said, "but if there's any taint at all that people are buying their way to the top, I think it will risk their credibility."


Despite a small advertising budget that features no TV commercials, Google has gained admirers worldwide. Its name has become popularly used as a verb, it has popped up in a recent episode of "Sex and the City" and political activists have used "Google bombs" as a form of protest, using the search engine's algorithm to link a search for "miserable failure" to President Bush's biography. The University of Washington even holds a graduate-level class on Google, covering its technology, business and cultural implications.


Google has taken steps to protect its brand, recently firing off a cease-and-desist letter to the operator of Booble.com, a search engine for pornographic Web sites. It also has fought the use of its name as a generic term for Web searching. Under trademark law, a company can lose its rights to its name if it does not defend it from becoming a generic term.


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