There are direct correlations between brand recognition and brand value and the performance of publicly traded companies with venerable brands. It is not a coincidence that Apple Inc. (AAPL), a company with enviable brand recognition and intense brand loyalty among consumers, is the largest U.S. company by market value. Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN) and Google parent Alphabet Inc. (GOOG) also have strong brands. Put simply, brand awareness matters in financial markets, and a new exchange-traded fund (ETF) reflects that theme. The Brand Value ETF (BVAL) debuted Tuesday courtesy of Michigan-based Exponential ETFs.

BVAL tracks the BrandTransact 50 Index, which equally weights 50 members of the Wilshire 5000 Total Market Index "that exhibit a discount of brand and intangible asset value to market cap. In short, this index seeks to identify companies with unrealized brand value that have high potential for margin expansion," according to a statement issued by Exponential ETFs. (See also: Why Is Brand Equity Considered an Intangible Asset?)

Back-tested back to 2007, the BrandTransact 50 Index has topped the S&P 500, S&P 500 Value Index and the Russell 1000 Index, among other major U.S. equity benchmarks, according to Brandometry data. In real time, the index is almost one year old. "Brands have value, which is why a polo shirt costs $65 in one part of the mall and $15 in another part of the mall," said Exponetial ETFs CEO Phil Bak in an email exchange with Investopedia. "What we have done is find a way to quantify that value, and deliver that value to investors in a way that enhances their overall portfolios." (See also: What Impact Does Brand Equity Have on Profit Margins?)

BVAL's top 10 holdings include Best Buy Co., Inc. (BBY), Bank of America Corporation (BAC), Morgan Stanley (MS), Tiffany & Co. (TIF) and Apple. The new ETF has the feel of a growth fund at the sector level, as the consumer discretionary and technology sectors combine for nearly two-thirds of the fund's weight. Financial services and industrial stocks combine for another 28 percent.

"Private company valuations include significant allocations towards brand value," said Bak. "This is the first time that there is a tool for investors in the public markets to be able to capitalize on unrealized brand value." BVAL charges 0.65 percent per year, or $65 on a $10,000 investment. Exponential ETFs is also the firm behind the growing American Customer Satisfaction Core Alpha ETF (ACSI). (See also: What Are Some Examples of Companies or Products That Have Outstanding Brand Equity?)

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