NEW YORK: Coca-Cola, Hershey's and Harley-Davidson are the US companies regarded as possessing the strongest corporate brands, new research has found.

CoreBrand, the agency, polled over 10,000 executives about their familiarity with 100 major firms, and their perceptions about these companies' reputations, seen as a measure of "favorability".

For 2012 as a whole, Coca-Cola retained the top spot it had occupied in 2011. In an indication of the soft drinks manufacturer's continued strength in this area, it also came in at number one in 2007.

Hershey, the confectioner, held on to second place year on year, and has climbed by one place over the last half decade. Harley-Davidson, the motorcycle specialist in third, saw exactly the same trends.

Bayer, the pharma giant, improved its standing by three spots year on year to take fourth, while Kellogg, the cereal expert, was unchanged in fifth.

Since 2008, the 100 members of CoreBrand's index have seen their overall totals fall by 5.7%, versus a 9.6% slide for the 1,000 firms it tracks.

In terms of familiarity, the leading 25 players within the top 100 scored 93.1 points for 2012, measured against figures of 92.2 points in 2010 and 92.6 points in 2007.

The remainder of the organisations assessed posted 77.5 points on the same metric in the latest round of research, compared with 78.5 points two years earlier, and 83.5 points some five years previously.

Such a trend was more pronounced when looking at favourability. The 25 best-performing operators logged 77.5 points here in 2012, a decrease of one point from 2010 and of six points from 2007.

"The top 25 brands may actually be receiving a disproportionate share of the blame for the current economic conditions," James Gregory, CoreBrand's chief executive, argued. "These brand leaders will need to become more aggressive in their brand management and communications."

Elsewhere, the 75 other corporations featured in the analysis registered a reading that was largely flat, on 70.3 points, when measured against 2010, but this still constituted a drop from 83.5 points in 2007.

As corporate brands can yield a 20% market capitalisation premium for the best performers, and of 5–7% as an average, this could have a sizeable negative impact.

Data sourced from CoreBrand; additional content by Warc staff