Top 10 Power Brands of 2005

Brands are the light, not the bulb. Here are our picks for those trademarks that have withstood the test of time and forged an emotional connection with consumers.

By Diane Toops, News and Trends Editor

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The brand is as American as can be. In fact, when the U.S. decided to enter World War II, Coke's patriarch, Robert Woodruff placed his hand on his heart and declared he would "see that every man in uniform gets a bottle of Coca-Cola for five cents wherever he is and whatever it costs." Of course, it helped that Woodruff's friend, General Dwight Eisenhower, was a great promoter of Coke as well. By the time the war ended, hundreds of thousands of fighting men and women became fans forever of Coca-Cola and its uniquely shaped glass bottle, a visual cue used on today's cans.

One of Coke's strengths is its continued identification with its most memorable slogan from the 1970s — "It's The Real Thing," a powerful message engrained in the American psyche. Named after the coca leaves and kola nuts (and some say cocaine) John Pemberton used to invent it in 1886 in his small Atlanta pharmacy, Coke initially was used as a patent medicine, an elixir said to relieve headaches, sluggishness, indigestion and hangovers. But people loved the taste so much they began to drink it for pleasure. Although occasionally someone claims to "discover" the secret formula, the reality is only a few trusted employees know it.

Woodruff, president of the company from 1923-1954, took the fountain drink to the bottle, recognized the power of advertising and used it to take the Coca-Cola Co. from a regional brand to an American success story and then to an international powerhouse.

Coke learned that consumers had a deep emotional attachment to the soda in 1985. Losing market share to other soda companies, CEO and advertising genius Roberto Goizueta made a bold move. Deciding to deliver something "new and exciting" to consumers, the company not only revamped its label design but the 99-year-old-recipe as well. New Coke met with a firestorm of protest from consumers. Critics called it the biggest marketing blunder ever, but Goizueta returned the original formula just 79 days after it was pulled from the market, renamed it Coca-Cola Classic and the product increased its lead over the competition.

Incidentally, consumers are responsible for the nickname Coke. At first, the company frowned on the practice, fearing loss of identity, but when customers persisted, Coca-Cola registered the nickname too (after winning a Supreme Court decision to do so in 1920).

Today, Coca-Cola has some 400 brands in its portfolio and is a proponent of strong local brands including Inca Kola, a soft drink found in North and South America; Samurai, an energy drink available in Asia; and Vita, an African juice drink. Its products are available in 200 countries, in fact, more than 70 percent of the company's sales are derived from outside of North America. Although Coca-Cola is committed to local markets around the world, the Coca-Cola brand remains a symbol of American ingenuity and consistency, and some 1.3 billion servings are poured each day.

All around the world, a Coke is a Coke. This core value — product quality — makes it a great and lasting brand.

Signature of a behemoth: The maker of Lay's potato chips is the 800-lb. gorilla of the snack food category.

Chipping away the competition through innovation

Perhaps no food category is so dominated by a single set of brands. Frito-Lay Inc., Plano, Texas, a subsidiary of PepsiCo, is the largest snack food maker in the world. It has a 60 percent share of the U.S. core salty snack food market and a 40 percent share of the global market. It owns more than 15 brands with sales of $100 million or more each, including Cheetos cheese flavored snacks, Cracker Jack candy coated popcorn, Doritos flavored tortilla chips, Fritos corn chips, Lay's potato chips, Lay's Stax potato crisps, Munchies snack mix, Rold Gold pretzels, Ruffles potato chips, Sun Chips multigrain snacks and Tostitos tortilla chips. These brands are sold in more than 120 countries for sales of more than $13 billion annually. Frito-Lay also sells a variety of branded dips.

Frito-Lay brands appeal to an extraordinarily diverse array of consumers. The brand recognizes the ever-diversifying population and strives to deliver authentic flavors and products. Through its world-class innovative research and development, Frito-Lay has developed unique snack products with their own identities and conducts relevant promotions for every consumer. It owns the top five brands in the Salty Snacks category: (in order) Lay's, Doritos, Tostitos, Ruffles and Cheetos, according to Brandweek's "Superbrands — America's Top Brands." Frito-Lay brands are hip, contemporary, exciting, unique, they incorporate changing consumer preferences and deliver innovation and consistency.

Frito-Lay has it roots during the height of the Depression. In 1932, Elmer Doolin entered a small San Antonio cafe and purchased a bag of corn chips to eat with his sandwich. For $100, Doolin purchased the recipe for "Doritos," plus 19 retail accounts and the manufacturing equipment — a converted hand-operated potato ricer — because the maker of the corn chips was eager to sell his small business and return home to Mexico.

That same year in Nashville, Tenn., Herman W. Lay started a business distributing Gardner's Potato Chips from his Model A Ford. Lay later bought the company that supplied him with product and changed its name to H.W. Lay Co. The Frito Co. and H.W. Lay Co. merged in 1961 to become Frito-Lay Inc., the largest snack selling company in the U.S. On June 8, 1965, shareholders approved the merger of Frito-Lay and Pepsi-Cola Co., and a huge new company called PepsiCo Inc. was formed.
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