NEW YORK: Coca-Cola, IBM and Volkswagen are among the brand owners that have made the most effective use of marketing in 2011, according to a report from Advertising Age, the industry title.

Coca-Cola, the soft drinks giant, took top spot in the Advertising Age rankings, not least thanks to the Coca-Cola Music platform, aimed at teenagers worldwide, and Fanta's "Less Serious" campaign, which ran in 190 markets.

Diet Coke also became the number two cola brand in the US, overtaking Pepsi, and sales of Coke and Fanta have grown by 3% year on year. Moreover, Del Valle and Minute Maid Pulpy have both seen annual revenues reach $1bn.

"Because of the scale and size of Coca-Cola, we have to have a culture that encourages us to share the learnings and failures, the good, the bad and the ugly," said Joe Tripodi, Coca-Cola's chief marketing and commercial officer.

Elsewhere, Advertising Age reported that IBM's share price has risen by 78% since 2004, after the firm exited its previous PC hardware business and moved into services, such as the "Smarter Planet" programme focusing on green issues.

One initiative demonstrating this new approach was successfully pitting a PC, powered by an analytics system called Watson, against real contestants on the quiz show Jeopardy, yielding 1.3bn media impressions and $50m of earned media.

"We changed our goal. We did not focus on brand recognition or brand visibility. Our goal has been relevance," said Jon Iwata, IBM's SVP, marketing, communications and citizenship organisation. "This notion of character has really helped us market Planet Watson."

Volkswagen also received praise from Advertising Age for reversing a 4% decline in volume sales in 2009 with a 24% lift in the first ten months of 2011, aided by the revamped Jetta and lower-priced Passat.

Indeed, an eye-catching Super Bowl ad for the Passat run earlier this year, starring a child dressed as Darth Vader from the Star Wars films, logged over 40m hits on YouTube.

"VW more than anything wants to make a big brand statement," said Michael Sheldon, CEO of Deutsch, Volkswagen's agency. "The reason people are buying the cars is because we're not selling. We're asking people to be cool and smart, and that's very attractive."

L'Oréal, the cosmetics manufacturer, was credited for several pioneering social media schemes, and steering a wide range of brands, from high-end line Kiehl's to new acquisition Essie, to success.

"It's entrepreneurial because it's a big company created over time as a compilation of small companies," Marc Speichert, L'Oreal's CMO, said.

Samsung, the electronics group, Amazon, the ecommerce firm, Starbucks, the coffee house chain, Crown Imports, the beer specialist, and Diamond Foods, the owner of Pringles, Kettle Chips and Emerald Nuts, also made the AdAge rankings.

Data sourced from AdAge; additional content by Warc staff