How the BusinessWeek/Interbrand Top 100 companies are using their brands to fuel expansion.

Not long ago, Motorola saw itself the same way its customers did: as a tech-driven seller of products, not a brand. The success of the RAZR changed all that. By ringing the consumer’s bell, the hot-selling mobile phone validated a new strategy, internally dubbed MOTOME. Suddenly Motorola (MOT ) was a company that had rediscovered its identity as a major consumer brand.

The key, says global marketing head George Neill, who came to the company last year from Apple (AAPL), was to think of the brand as providing experiences to consumers, not just hardware. “We’re focused on giving access to what people want — music, video, Internet — wherever customers roam.” That translated into an 18% gain in the company’s global brand value on this year’s BusinessWeek/Interbrand Annual Ranking of the 100 Top Global Brands. The phonemaker, adds Interbrand Group CEO Jez Frampton, is “redefining the place people make for the Motorola brand in their lives.”

This year’s list is brimming with hot brands such as Motorola that are crafting new and surprising ways to branch into entirely new product arenas. Hyundai is launching a premium sedan. Google (GOOG ) is wading into selling ad time on the radio. Others are revving up their brand’s goodwill value to dodge problems, as McDonald’s (MCD ) is doing with its health and fitness marketing to counter concerns about junk food.

Every company wants its brand to get bigger. The hard part is balancing what the brand is with a vision of what it would like to be. “As soon as you try to go someplace that doesn’t fit or where you don’t have credibility, it can detract from your organization and your brand,” says Frampton. The sixth annual BusinessWeek/Interbrand rankings measure an elusive but crucial quality. Companies that score high can count on plenty of customer loyalty as they push into risky expansions.

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