Here we are at Christmas. A whole segment of society is very concerned about getting the right shirt, watch, computer, MP3 player, camera or box of candy.
To a certain extent we have become a brand obessed society. Individuals, especially sports heroes, often are their own brand. What makes up a brand today is pretty complex. It is a mix of advertising, performance evaluation, personal experience, and opinions we receive from others. Still a brand is highly subjective.
Marlboro was the number ten brand in 2003 and the number nine brand in 2004. They are not exactly on any of my lists except a company to avoid.
Coca Cola, Microsoft, IBM, GE, and Intel were numbers one through five brands in 2003 and 2004.
I cannot seem to find a HTML version of 2004 brands, but there is a good pdf which will show up with a Google search of "Top 100 Brands."
You can find the Business week 2003 version at the link below.
Perhaps an even more interesting list is found in the Financial Times. The list is the "World's most socially responsible companies." Number one is Microsoft, followed in order by IBM, Toyota, General Electric, and Royal Dutch/Shell.
The lists are slightly reshuffled but still not significantly different with a few exceptions. The top one hundred brands certainly is designed for a consumer society. The Financial Times list, one would hope is targeted for higher goals but really does not seem that much different.
If our society is going to continue to evolve, we need to get beyond brand worship and start measuring companies by the type of jobs they create, the impact they have on the environment and people's lives, and how they improve our world.
If there is a ranking of companies for these qualities, I would enjoy seeing it. My suspicion is that few large companies would make the list. Not all, but many large companies treat their employees today as serfs in a Feudal society.
Large multi-national corporations tend to make many of their own rules these days and if not, they have enough lawyers and/or money to do business very much as they would please. There are a few hurdles, but the reality is that the power balance has shifted from individuals to government and from government to multi-national corporation. One only has to look at the huge disparity between CEO pay and average employee pay to know who is winning. There are not many politicians getting poor these days either.
Good CEOs should be well paid, but with the typical relationship between boards and CEOs these days, my guess and it is only a guess, is that many are over paid for what they really do.
The case is just the opposite with many small companies, these are the companies which are really innovating and driving job creation. Their CEOs work longer hours and are paid a lot less. They also never make the top lists though my suspicion is that we would have a better world with more smaller companies and fewer mutli-national ones.
Small companies tend to value and nourish their employees. I know there are large companies out there that really try to do a good job with their employees, and they are to be commended especially considering their competition. Many do not even bother to try. When you see the HR department portrayed as an evil cat in Dilbert, you have to suspect that there is more than a little truth in the comics.
It will be interesting to see how much more power and influence large corporations can have on our government before there is a backlash. The good news is that small innovative companies will always be around to pick up the pieces.