Apple has surpassed Coke as the world's No.1 brand, according to the international brand consulting firm Interbrand.
The company has been ranking brands in its annual reports since 2000, and this is the first year that Coca-Cola is not at the top of its list of 100 top global brands, released Monday.
Interbrand estimates the value of Apple's brand at $98.3 billion US, an increase of 28 per cent over last year.
"Few brands have enabled so many people to do so much so easily, which is why Apple has legions of adoring fans," Interbrand said in the Best Global Brands report.
Top 20 global brands
"Apple has set a high bar for esthetics, simplicity, and ease of use that all other tech brands are now expected to match, and that Apple itself is expected to continually exceed."
Coca-Cola slipped to third place, falling behind another tech giant, Google.
Consumers love Apple
Interbrand ranks brands based on an analysis of companies' financial results, the role their brand plays in consumers' purchasing behaviour and the ability of their brand to create loyalty in a way that keeps generating demand and future profit.
Brands have to be truly global to appear in the rankings, with at least 30 per cent of the company's revenues coming from outside its home region and a presence in at least three major continents.
The report points out that although Apple has sold 600 million iOS devices — including iPads, iPhones and iPod Touches — to date, it faces increasing competition from Samsung, which is now the world's biggest and most profitable smartphone manufacturer; Google, whose Android platform and maps are more popular than their Apple counterparts; and Microsoft, whose Windows Phone 8 was well received earlier this year.
The company ended its 2013 fiscal year on Saturday with its stock down 30 per cent from a year ago, but Interbrand said in its report that even though Apple reached its financial pinnacle in 2012, when it comes to its products and the popularity of its brand "Apple continues to whet appetites for more."
Apple stores still trendsetters
The report praised Apple's ability to remain true to its original "Think Different" branding campaign by distinguishing itself even in the retail space.
"The brand’s trendsetting retail stores [according to RetailSails research] are performing 17 times better than any other physical retail store — a fact that seems to justify the trademark Apple received for its distinctive design and layout earlier this year," the report said.
It also said Apple's recent upgrade to its operating system and new finger scan security system are proof that the company has not lost its ability to be innovative.
The company's reputation has taken some hits, however, over the treatment of workers at the factories of Apple's Chinese supplier Foxconn, its conviction for price fixing of e-books, and the revelation that the company was one of several to engage in questionable methods of defraying its tax obligations in the U.S.
But in other areas, it remains an industry leader, the report said.
"Apple is still the only company in the tech industry whose entire product line exceeds U.S. Energy Star specifications," the report said.
The company owns the largest privately owned solar array in the U.S., which fuels its data centre in North Carolina, and is well on its way to meeting its goal of converting fully to renewable energy at its facilities.
Must focus on Samsung, China
Apple's chances of remaining at the top of the brand rankings are good, the report concludes, as long as it doesn't lose sight of the competition and keeps conquering new markets.
"The focus for the future is clear: Apple must succeed in slowing Samsung's momentum and capture the booming Chinese mobile market," the report says.
The urgency of that sentiment was made all the more clear earlier this month with the launch of Apple's new phones, which failed to sell as well in China as in other parts of the world
Apple has yet to release its fourth quarter financial results, but analysts are estimating that its revenue for the quarter will be around $36.10 billion. The company's sales for the 2012 fiscal year were $156.5 billion US, and its net income was $41.7 billion.