Why you won’t recognize the logos of the world’s top companies

98.75% of the world recognizes Cupertino’s Apple. Other heavyweight corporations? Less so.

If you look at the logos of the most profitable companies in the world, you may only recognize Apple’s.

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That’s according to a fascinating new report from GraphicSprings, which queried 24,000 people on their visual recall of the branding of the world’s most profitable companies. According to the results, the logos of four of the top five most profitable corporations are unrecognizable to the American public. Europeans didn’t do much better, with only a handful of people recognizing a second brand. On the other hand, Apple, which raked in $42.5 billion over the last fiscal year, is almost universally recognized across the globe: 100% of the people interviewed in the United States and the European Union recognize the forbidden fruit logo. In Asia, that figured drops to 96.25%, giving the brand a 98.75% recognition globally. Only Coca-Cola, Ford, and Sony had better recognition globally.

So what are the other four most profitable companies on the list? China’s state-owned banks. I’ve never ever seen these logos myself, which seems to be the case for others in the U.S. and the EU, as well as the majority of respondents in Asia: The second biggest company, with a $42 billion profit, is ICBC, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, a state-owned bank whose logo was recognized by zero Americans, 5% of Europeans, and only 21.25% of people in Asia. The other three banks–The China Construction Bank, the Agricultural Bank of China, and the Bank of China–had even less brand presence.

[Images: courtesy Graphic Springs]

To conduct the study, GraphicSprings first selected the 200 most important companies in the world based on the Forbes Global 2000 list. From there, the group ran a visual online poll on 24,000 participants, with 8,000 allocated to the U.S., EU, and Asia. The poll showed each of the 200 logos and asked respondents to choose the corresponding brand-name from a list. Then, it asked them what product or service that brand offered. If participants answered both correctly, the response was considered positive.

The results–which come with a 4% margin of error–are listed here, and show, for instance, how American brands still dominate America. Of the 10 logos that 100% of Americans could identify, 8 were from the U.S., with the exception of BMW and Sony. Conversely, “of the 51 corporations that 0% of the American public could identify, 63% were Asian companies hailing from China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, and Thailand.”

The group also divided participants by generation–baby boomers, Generation X, Xennials, and millennials–which offers some of the most interesting insights. One example: Ever heard of Dell? If you’re a young millennial, you only have a 45% chance of recognizing it compared to 80% of baby boomers. That gap is massive if you consider that back in 1997, Dell’s CEO and founder Michael Dell told Steve Jobs that Apple would never survive, and that he should shut it down and give the money to his shareholders. At the time, Dell was way bigger, better known, and more powerful than Apple (and The Steve, of course, responded that he would squash Dell).

Just 20 years later, most young people don’t recognize Dell’s logo, while 98% of people polled all over the world recognize Apple. When it comes to brands, two decades is an eternity. I wonder how long will it take before the tables are turned once more, and the list’s lesser-known brands become the next forbidden fruit?

About the author

Jesus Diaz founded the new Sploid for Gawker Media after seven years working at Gizmodo, where he helmed the lost-in-a-bar iPhone 4 story. He's a creative director, screenwriter, and producer at The Magic Sauce and a contributing writer at Fast Company.

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