Battery fires, rootkits and Sony's brand

Survey finds Sony brand name still strong

The Sony brand name was pounded into punch-line fodder last year by all the battery pyrotechnics -- aren't those videos fun to watch? -- and the rootkit debacle that had some calling for jail time for those responsible.

That's the conventional wisdom, right?

Well, a survey of 2,017 adults by Landor Associates indicates that this wisdom couldn't be more wrong. According to the survey, the Sony brand finished a gaudy ninth among the "Top 20 Winners for 2006," sandwiched between two saintly American icons: Oprah and the National Football League. Moreover, the respondents see Sony climbing to No. 4 among this year's gainers, right above Amazon and eBay.

Moral: Build a better PlayStation and the American consumer will forgive all else.

"The most popular, well-known and successful brands proactively create their own messages and news -- but they are also subject to news and events frequently beyond their control," Landor says. "Our fourth annual [survey] identifies which brands came out on top of the news cycle, which suffered and what both sides can do to maintain or improve their brand image in 2007."

Let's take a look at the technology-related brands within the Top 20 winners and losers for 2006 and predicted winners and losers for 2007. There aren't a lot of technology brands among the losers -- good news for the industry, eh? -- so we'll kick off with the winners.

The No. 1 winner last year and predicted repeat champ this year? All together now . . . Google. No. 2? . . . Vegas, baby.

Apple's iPod checks in at No. 3, although those surveyed see slippage ahead, as the music player of choice rates only a No. 7 for '07.

YouTube is No. 4 this year but is seen tumbling to No. 11 in '07. Makes one wonder if the new parent company is really all that unassailable atop the heap.

Good news for HP CEO Mark Hurd: The survey has his company cracking the list at a respectable No. 17 among this year's predicted winners, right above NASCAR and directly below NCAA football. Hanging with the jocks is generally good for one's rep.

Verizon, Adobe and Panasonic also fare well.

As for the other side of the ledger -- the losers -- Lenovo (No. 19, '06) doesn't seem to be generating the warm and fuzzies of IBM; the bloom is off the rose for Cupid sites Match.com and eHarmony, which appear both years; and Skype (No. 20) shows up on this year's list. (Vonage apparently bought just enough TV ads to escape unscathed.) Finally, there's Sprint Nextel subsidiary Boost Mobile making its mark at No. 13.

My totally free advice to the losers? Build a better PlayStation.

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Paul McNamara

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