What's the most relevant brand in your life? How about the top 10? In its second-ever study, global consultancy Prophet conducted a survey of 15,000 U.S. consumers about more than 300 brands across 27 industries, to see what we can learn from the answer to those questions.
In the 2016 Brand Relevance Index, there were some expected winners (hello Apple) but also some significant moves for a number of other big names. After not making it into the top 50 of last year's BRI, Google made the biggest improvement of any top 10 brand, coming in at number five.
Top 10 Most Relevant Brands
Prophet found the most relevant brands to U.S. consumers are:
Prophet's BRI study measures brands against four dimensions to define relevance: customer obsession, ruthless pragmatism, pervasive innovation, and distinctive inspiration. These dimensions are made up of 16 attributes, which measure brand characteristics like "meets an important need in my life" or "makes my life easier." Prophet says the data shows that customer experience is critical to achieving relevance, with each of the top 50 getting "delivers a consistent experience" as one of their top five attributes.
The company says the key findings from this year's study are that millennials consider Amazon the most relevant brand, despite the brand's overall second ranking, thanks to one-click shopping and the convenience of Prime, as well as its entertainment options as its streaming library keeps growing. Pinterest is the most relevant social media platform, jumping from #53 to #8, the highest-ranking social media brand in the Index. Meanwhile, Facebook and Twitter didn’t even crack the top 100 this year. FitBit made the largest leap of any brand in the study, moving up more than 200 spots to #29, scoring incredibly well on trust, dependability, and for having a purpose consumers believe in.
BRI coauthor and Prophet chief growth officer Scott Davis says that looking at the top 50 most relevant brands from last year, there were eight consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands, one quick service restaurant (QSR) brand, and four auto brands. This year there are only six CPG brands, two auto brands, and no QSRs. "Several brands were displaced not only by tech companies, but by those not typically considered 'tech brands' that are using technology to deliver new products, services, and experiences," says Davis. "For example, Sephora has spiked customer loyalty by using technology to innovate the customer experience. Its two-year-old innovation lab focuses on online, mobile, and in-store enhancements that make it easy for consumers to discover a great look and make a purchase fast."
Fellow coauthor and Prophet partner Jesse Purewal says another significant change this year was seeing how many of the BRI industry leaders were not the biggest players in the category. Brands like PayPal beat stalwarts Visa, Mastercard, and American Express, while Trader Joe’s topped the likes of Kroger and Walgreens. "These brands are popular with consumers because they offer something different," says Purewal. "They’ve innovated their industry’s typical business model, product, or experience in a way that’s been disruptive, and consumers have taken notice. Trader Joe’s, for instance, rose to the top because of its high scores for 'inspiration' and 'having a purpose I believe in.' Consumers love its no-gimmicks approach to upscale, healthy food at an accessible price point."
Davis and Purewal also came across some surprises this year. Brands like McDonald’s and Starbucks aren't ranking high on the index because, according to the survey, they're not connecting with consumers in important ways. Another surprise for the coauthors was seeing Spotify drop out of the top 50, while Pandora surged ahead. Spotify was hurt by lower scores in "pushes the status quo" and "always finds new ways to meet my needs." This shows how important innovation is to staying relevant.
In terms of what some of the top-ranked brands have in common, the index data shows a superior customer experience is absolutely vital to brand relevance. "All of the brands in the top 50 have ;delivers a consistent experience' as one of their top five attributes," says Davis. "Clearly, brands that are not delivering excellent experiences are not winning the hearts and minds of consumers."
For Davis, the index is a tool for brands to continually evaluate their place in consumers' lives. "Assessing how a brand scores on each individual attribute allows us to pinpoint the exact elements of a brand that is working and where it needs to improve," he says. "Being able to understand consumer attitudes at such a granular level allows us to provide the actionable insights company leaders need to grow their businesses."
This year Prophet expanded the index to include four markets—United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and China. Apple and Amazon ranked in the top three in the U.K., Germany, and U.S. Meanwhile in China, financial services company Alipay ranked as the most relevant brand. Check out the complete Brand Relevance Index results from each market here.
Prophet is also presenting the results of the BRI at the Fast Company Innovation Festival in New York City on November 2.