NEW YORK: Coca-Cola, Hershey's and The Campbell Soup Company are the leading corporate brands worldwide, a study has found.

Consultancy CoreBrand surveyed 8,000 executives representing the top 20% of US companies, with the panel rating 800 operators in 49 industries.

Respondents rated their "familiarity" with the organisations concerned, and where this reached the required level, assessed the "favourability" attached to the same firm.

Among the factors considered on the second of these metrics were reputation, perceptions of management and investment potential.

Overall, 58% of the top 100 enterprises improved their 2010 scores from 2009, and 58% improved from 2007.

The collective net worth of the corporate brand equity of the 500 best-performing firms also hit $1.1tr, of which the 100 leading players generated a 91% share.

While the figure of $1.1tr marks a substantial lift on the $994bn and $790bn recorded over the previous two years respectively, it fell short of the $1.3tr achieved in 2006, and lagged 2004's total by $76bn.

Soft drinks giant Coca-Cola retained first place, trailed by confectionary specialist Hershey's and Campbell's Soup, both gaining one spot.

Their progress came at the expense of healthcare titan Johnson & Johnson, which faced recent struggles after the recall of various offerings made at its McNeil Consumer Healthcare plant.

"Our experience with the McNeil Consumer recalls has been difficult and disappointing for our business, for our employees and most importantly, for our customers," Bill Weldon, J&J's chief executive, said in January.

"Consumer trust in our company and our products is fundamental to everything we do, and that trust has truly been tested."

Motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson and food expert Kellogg's came next, beating dental and personal care group Colgate-Palmolive.

Bayer, the pharmaceutical company, rose two positions to take ninth, having announced plans to consolidate its stable under the Bayer Healthcare banner last year.

"Our goal is to significantly increase the value of our brand portfolio by concentrating on the umbrella brand and our product brands," Dr Marijn Dekkers, chairman of the board of management, said at the time.

The average net worth of the top 100's corporate brand equity had risen from $9bn to $10.1bn year on year, measured against a low of $7.3bn in 2008, and a high of $11.1bn in 2006.

The impact of corporate brands on market capitalisation also stood at a nadir of 5.3% regarding the top 500, and matched the 15.9% posted in 2005 when discussing the 100 premier players.

Primary drivers of this process included a focus on "financial fundamentals" due to the recession, typically overriding intangible matters like image on the strategic agenda.

Google, the online pioneer, enjoyed the greatest uptick on an annual basis, climbing 23 spots to 73rd, and has leapt 62 places since 2007.

One of the sample members witnessing a decline was Procter & Gamble, down nine positions to 48th, although the owner of Tide and Pampers is ramping up its activity in this area.

Such efforts began with the multi-brand "Thanks, Mom" campaign during the 2010 Winter Olympics, which is to be rolled out more broadly for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

"The international reach of the Olympics will expose consumers worldwide to P&G's full line-up of global leadership brands," Bob McDonald, Procter & Gamble's chief executive, said in late 2010.

Data sourced from CoreBrand; additional content by Warc staff