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Young & Rubicam is trying to bring some science to what, up to now, might better be called the art of brand building.

The $1 billion agency last week unveiled a proprietary method for evaluating brands. BrandAsset Valuator is based on a $5 million to $10 million, two-year study that used questionnaires from 30,000 people in 19 countries to examine more than 6,000 brands.

The data showed Y&R there's a difference between selling products, which begins with consumer awareness, and building brands, which starts with differentiation. Brand relevance, esteem and familiarity are the other components of brand strength, Y&R said.

Using a grid to map out a brand's position in all four areas, Y&R is able to show not only its strength but where the brand could be headed.

Still, that fate isn't inevitable.

"We've learned that, if managed properly, brands don't have to die," said Chairman Alex Kroll. "They are not doomed irrevocably to a product life cycle."

Among the highest rated brands in the U.S., according to the study, are Disney, Doritos, Jell-O, Ocean Spray, Sesame Street and Sony. Bayer and Oldsmobile are among the most vulnerable.

Some brands rated high in one area but not another. The Public Broadcasting Service, for example, is strongly differentiated as a brand but had a lower familiarity ranking.

"The question then becomes, what do you want to do from there. How you use this information is key," said Stuart Agres, Y&R senior VP and manager-corporate research.

For its part, Y&R primarily will use BrandAsset to help clients understand the mountains of information they already have.

"You could spend all day examining data on your competitors in a given category, but we've found that trying to outsmart the other guy is useless and reactive," Mr. Agres said. "You need to focus on your brand's unique position in consumers' minds."

President-CEO Peter Georgescu said: "BrandAsset Valuator will unalterably and profoundly change the way we do business at Y&R all around the world-the way in which we create advertising and other communications to protect and nurture brands."

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