They're no Coca-Cola, but top biopharma brands Pfizer, Biogen and Merck still worth billions

How much is a pharma company's brand worth? More than $4 billion, if that pharma company is Pfizer ($PFE). It's the most valuable pharma brand in the U.S., according to Brandirectory's latest iteration of the Billion Dollar Brands Club. For a company that's among the biggest prescription drug marketers in the world, that might not be so surprising.

You might be surprised at which drugmaker comes next, though. It's not a Big Pharma company, but a Big Biotech: Biogen Idec ($BIIB). Brandirectory tots up its value at $2.64 billion. Merck & Co. follows close on Biogen's heels at $2.61 billion, rounding out the top three.

Before we get to the rest of the biopharma billion-dollar brands in the U.S., we'll pass along a summary of Brandirectory's methodology. The brand valuation firm assigns a "brand strength" score to each, considering some objective measures--such as financial performance--and subjective judgments such as emotional connection. That score is applied to an industrywide royalty rate range to come up with a royalty rate for a particular brand. Apply that rate to revenue forecasts, and there you have it. (Find a detailed explanation here.)

So, for example, Biogen's megasuccessful launch of the multiple sclerosis drug Tecfidera pumped up revenue forecasts, which helped boost its brand value. Merck's revenue forecasts aren't as rosy, but its brand rating is AAA--higher than Biogen's and Pfizer's.

Two other Big Biotechs made the list: Gilead Sciences ($GILD), at $2.01 billion; and Celgene ($CELG), at $1.87 billion. And only one other U.S-based Big Pharma made the list: Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY), with a brand value of $1.09 billion.

Not surprisingly, Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ)--with its assorted consumer products, over-the-counter drugs, prescription meds and devices in its brand closet--beat them all, with a brand value of $7.72 billion. It's an old brand name, with a host of products on store shelves bearing its familiar red logo. Its brand rating is AAA, higher than any of the drug companies on Brandirectory's list. And thanks to its many business units, it's bigger than Pfizer, sales-wise. J&J boasts top billing on FiercePharma's ranking of Top 10 pharma companies by revenue, and its brand strength put it in first place in social media, too.

Just to put it all into perspective, however, let's see how drugmakers' brand values stack up to those in other industries. Apple ($AAPL)? A $104.7 billion brand value. Google ($GOOG), $68.62 billion. General Electric ($GE), $52.5 billion. Coca-Cola ($KO), $33.7 billion.

Overall, however, biopharma isn't too shabby here. Pfizer beats out Marriott ($MAR), Kraft ($KRFT), and Levi's, for instance. Biogen is almost as valuable as HBO. Merck stands a rung above the Gap ($GPS). And Gilead and Celgene both top Cheetos.

- see the Brandirectory report

Special Reports: Top 10 pharma companies in social media - J&J - Pfizer