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A How-To Guide for Assessing Brand Value


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A brand can be a business’ most valuable asset, yet its value is generally not reflected in the financial statements. As with other intellectual property, its value is accounted for on the balance sheet only when acquired from another business or as a result of a business combination, but not when generated internally. So how can management track brand value and make informed decisions with respect to what could be the company’s most valuable asset?

The answer lies in business valuation — both theory and practice. The methods used in valuing businesses can be applied in valuing intangible assets and intellectual property, including brands.

What Does a Brand Encompass?

We must first determine: what does a “brand” encompass? A brand can include a trademark, logo, trade dress, packaging, marketing strategy, colours and all the elements that consumers associate with the brand image. We should also keep in mind that some brands have sub-brands. For example, Coca-Cola has Classic Coke, Diet Coke, Cherry Coke, Zero, etc. Furthermore, part of the value of a brand can be attributable to certain other intangible assets. In the Coke example, the special recipe (formula) is part of the brand’s success. We therefore need to focus on exactly what it is we’re valuing.

Continuing with the Coke example, Interbrand valued the Coca-Cola brand at an estimated $77.8 billion in 2012, assigning it the number one rank among brands worldwide. In comparison, the net book value of the goodwill and intangible assets recorded on Coca-Cola’s financial statements as of December 30, 2011 was only $27.7 billion, which shows that the brand’s value is not fully recognized on the balance sheet. In addition, Coca-Cola’s market capitalization (i.e. the stock market’s valuation of the company) was an estimated $166 billion. When compared with the net tangible assets on the balance sheet of only $4 billion, this shows that the market attributed value to intangible assets and goodwill of some $162 billion, which is well over and above the estimated brand value (implying that there is commercial goodwill and other intangible assets).

The Three Approaches to Valuing A Brand

There are three fundamental approaches to be considered in valuing a brand:

Cost Approach

The cost approach is based on an accumulation of the costs incurred to build the brand since inception, such as historical advertising and promotion expenditures, campaign creation costs, trademark registration costs, etc. However, it is generally the least applicable approach in the valuation of brands because the cost of developing the brand is typically insignificant to the brand’s income-generating potential. After all, investors are interested in the brand’s ability to generate future earnings.

Income Approach

The income approach is based on the net present value methodology, which seeks to measure the economic benefit of the brand to be generated from a stream of future earnings or cash flows. One possible application of this approach is the “incremental income” method based on the premise that a branded item can command a premium selling price compared to similar, less-well-known products. The branded item can also bring about economies of scale in production, due to larger volumes of sales from higher-market demand. However, the valuator will offset the advertising expenses that are required to maintain brand awareness over and above that of a non-branded product. Forecasts and projections are made of the income stream to be generated from the increased sales and cost savings, net of additional advertising and promotional costs, specifically attributable to the brand. The net present value of the future incremental income stream generated by the brand would be determined by applying a discount rate. The discount rate is based on the rate of return that an investor would expect on an investment in the brand, based on its risk profile and characteristics. The higher the perceived risk, the higher the required return.

An alternative method that can be applied under the income approach is the projection of a stream of earnings or cash flows for the business as a whole, against which contributory charges are applied to recognize the contribution of other assets (i.e. working capital, fixed assets and other intangible assets) in generating the overall income stream attributable to the brand. The residual income stream attaching to the brand is then discounted to its present value as noted earlier.

Market Approach

The market approach estimates the value of a brand by reference to market transactions involving similar brands. The most common application is the relief-from-royalty method, which assumes that the user of a brand would have to license the rights to use it, if the user was not also the owner of the brand. In other words, if a company owns the brand, it avoids the payment of royalties for the use of the brand. The royalty rate is generally a market rate derived from an analysis of royalty or license agreements for similar assets (used as “guidelines”). Adjustments are made, as appropriate, to reflect differences between the risk profiles, industry conditions, brand awareness and strength, geographical coverage, and other characteristics of the subject brand as compared with those of the “guideline” brands in the market. The estimated royalty rate is then applied to the forecasted net revenues to be generated by the brand, with the result discounted to present value using an appropriate rate of return as described above. The principal difficulty with the market approach is finding comparable and meaningful transactions from which to derive an applicable royalty rate and making the appropriate adjustments to reflect differences between the brands under comparison.

In closing

In a nutshell, the valuation of a brand can be more of an art than a science — but it’s an exercise that can help management identify and develop the value drivers behind the brand. Professionals, such as Chartered Business Valuators, can provide insight and assistance in the valuation of brands and other intangible assets.

Catherine Tremblay, CPA, CA, CBV, ASA, is a Partner with MNP LLP in Montreal, Canada.