An online survey of the brand preferences of readers of a branding site claims Google is the top global brand, beating out Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Nike, and Nokia. What was remarkable was how many references (CBS Marketwatch, Internetnews.com, Toronto Globe & Mail, UPI, The NYTimes’ Boston.com and Reuters) I keep seeing to this awful piece of fake research.

There’s a kernal of truth that makes this story popular. Google is an important brand (as are Yahoo, Amazon, and Starbucks) that achieved legendary status without advertising. Outside of the realm of consumer packaged goods, the role of advertising compared to actual product execution in building a brand is negligible. We forgot this important lesson during the Bubble.

On the other hand, this story, the forehead advertising story, and the success of Krispy Kreme demonstrate that a little clever hype is often an acceptable substitute for quality.