The top five most recognized brand names are Apple, Microsoft, Google, Coca-Cola and IBM, as of 2015. This has changed since a 2007 survey, which found that the most recognizable brands were Coca-Cola, Sony, Toyota, Dell, and Ford.
In a 2007 survey, Apple was further down the list at number nine, in contrast with their number one position, as of 2015. Apple has the most valuable as well as one of the most recognizable brand names according to the Forbes website. Apple products aren't necessarily the best, but the Apple brand has enough influence over consumers that they are able to generate a surplus of revenue, as Kurt Badenhausen points out in his Forbes article. They have influence over their consumers because the brand is so recognizable.
Many recognizable brands are things that the average consumer uses, and in some cases the brand name becomes part of the cultural dialect. For example, instead of looking something up, most people "Google" their information.
Unavoidably, the most recognizable brands are different from year to year and decade to decade. However, one thing will always be true. The most recognizable brands will always be brands that people are exposed to every day and become synonymous with the product.