LONDON: Google, Microsoft and Walt Disney have emerged as the strongest company brands in a new study that examines the difference between consumer perception and financial performance of the world's top 100 companies by market capitalisation.

FutureBrand, the global brand consultancy, surveyed 3,030 members of the "informed public" (defined as consumers who are currently or were previously working in professional jobs) in 17 countries, asking them about their perceptions of the world's top 100 companies, as ranked by PwC.

Walt Disney was a significant gainer under this process. Ranked 40th in terms of financial worth, a positive perception in terms of 'purpose' and 'experience' attributes propelled it to third place in the resulting FutureBrand Index.

A smaller "cap gap" was also registered for the top two: Google, first in the FutureBrand Index, sat third in the market capitalisation ranking, and Microsoft, second in the FutureBrand ranking was fourth by market cap. FutureBrand noted that Microsoft had scored highest on the attributes of thought leadership and innovation, and speculated that this may be due to the impact of a new CEO.

In all technology businesses occupied six of the top ten places, the others being Apple (4th), Samsung (5th), Intel (6th) and IBM (10th). The remaining three were automaker Toyota (7th), and two FMCG business in Johnson & Johnson (8th) and Unilever (9th).

In general, consumer services, tech, FMCG and entertainment companies held or improved positions between the PwC and FutureBrand indexes whilst oil and gas, banking and tobacco companies fell.

"Companies are also brands and our results show for the first time the extent to which the strongest in 2014 are able to transcend the positions dictated by opinions of their financial worth; opinions which in any case are formed largely by financial institutions," said Tom Adams, global head of strategy at FutureBrand.

He highlighted those businesses which had built a strong company brand "to confound expectations of a negative cap gap". These included non-direct-to-consumer brands, such as Intel (6th, up 43), Unilever (9th, up 43) and Inditex (25th, up 62), brands operating in a sector that do not prioritise brand spending, such as SABIC (13th, up 72), or brands suffering by association with a sector with a poor image, such as EcoPetrol (38th, up 57).

Data sourced from FutureBrand; additional content by Warc staff