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The Apple and Google brands had the most significant impact online in the fourth quarter of 2010, generating "impact values" of $941.5 million and $875.8 million, respectively, based on high volumes of online media buzz and social media conversation, according to a study by General Sentiment that assigns a dollar value to a brand's online exposure.

Apple led the Top 20 list for the third straight quarter, with 60.5% of its impact value created via social media conversation and an additional 12.5% via Twitter. Some 27% of Apple's impact value ($254.4 million) was generated by online news, much of it from The New York Times.

Apple's fourth-quarter lead over Google, however, shrank dramatically from 3Q10, when the brand dominated tech conversations online primarily because of problems with the iPhone 4's antenna. That media buzz helped contribute to an impact value of $1.489 billion for Apple in 3Q10 (vs. Google's $926.0 million).

Among other key findings:

  • Social media conversation also dominated Google's impact value composition (54.2%) in the fourth quarter, while Twitter conversation was less relevant (7.4%). Online news accounted for 38.4% of Google's impact value, with providing a substantial part of that content.
  • Microsoft ranked third in impact value ($702.5 million), followed by Yahoo ($494.6 million), while Ford rounded out the top 5 with a value of $199.6 million, the carmaker's first time in the top 5.
  • Overall, the tech sector dominated the top 10 impact value list, with Ford and Mercedes-Benz the only non-tech brands to crack the top 10.

Below, other findings from the Q4 2010 Global Top 20 Media Value Report.

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Perception Media Value

"Perception value" differs from "impact value" in its focus on quality of exposure created, rather than quantity alone.*

The BlackBerry brand was fourth quarter's biggest winner, with a perception value of $24.1 million, up 70.3% over 3Q10. In the fourth quarter, the brand received favorable exposure from an impressive third-quarter earnings report—including record BlackBerry smartphone shipments and 40% year on year revenue growth during the period—as well as acclaim for its hotly anticipated PlayBook tablet.

Other winners were Accenture with a perception value of $5.4 million, up 35.7% over the previous quarter, and Hermes at $5.8 million, up 33.0%.

Perception Value Losers

Among the quarter's biggest losers, SAP faced a mountain of bad press after losing a lawsuit to Oracle over copyright infringement. The $1.3 billion penalty set a record, and shot the world's largest maker of business software to the top of the quarter's list of biggest losers, down 44.7% from the previous quarter.

HSBC followed among perception value losers, down 29.4% over the previous quarter, followed by Barclays (down 22.9%), Nescafe (down 20.3%), and Hewlett-Packard (down19.3%).

*Perception value isolates the effects of sentiment on brand value by assigning positive value to positive mentions and negative value to negative mentions. Neutral mentions are not given value.

About the data: The General Sentiment Custom Media Value Report (MVR) is based on the analysis of roughly 40 million online sources tracked daily (an estimated 95-97% of US-based English language sources) from Oct 1 to Dec 31, 2010.

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