At the end of 2016 we published our Brand Relevance Index, which in the UK includes responses from 10,000 consumers rating which brands are most relevant to them and why. We measure brand relevance with 16 attributes that link relevance to growth, and those attributes relate to the following 4 pillars:

  • Customer Obsessedbrands we can’t imagine living without
  • Ruthlessly pragmaticbrands we depend on
  • Distinctively Inspiredbrands that inspire us
  • Pervasively Innovative brands that consistently innovate

Within the 225 brands we surveyed in the UK, we can see that there are three Spanish companies that in general showed good relevance for UK consumers: Santander, Zara, and O2.

Let’s take a look at what these top brands are doing right:


As a whole, we saw that traditional financial services brands are not considered highly relevant to UK consumers. They are at times considered Ruthlessly Pragmatic, given their omni-channel capabilities, but are not seen at all as either innovative or inspiring.

The only bank that made it to the top 50 is Nationwide, which came in at number 46. Santander comes in as 4th in its category (out of 10 surveyed banks) and 143rd  overall, behind Nationwide, Barclays (110) and Lloyds (139), but with enough strength to be on top of brands such as Natwest (182) and HSBC (192).

Santander scores highly across the key attributes related to pragmatism, being perceived as the runner-up performer when it comes to attributes such as “makes my life easier” and “I know I can depend on”, and third in attributes such as “is available where and when I need it” and “delivers a consistent experience”.

Even though Santander is not what we would call an innovation leader, performing poorly on attributes such as “engages with me in new and creative ways”, we do see the brand consistently performing better than its competitors in areas such as “has better products, services and experiences”.

What we can see here, is that even though the brand is not necessarily seen as inspiring to its customers, it does generate trust, coming in only behind Nationwide for this.

Santander is quite clearly a solid brand in the UK market, performing on many of the key functional drivers in its category. However, the main challenge is that the new players in the financial services ecosystem, like Apple, Google, PayPal, or even Visa, show more relevance based on our study. With this in mind, being pragmatic may no longer be enough moving forward. Instead, it’s important to become more customer obsessed, an area that we delve into in our latest report: Success in FinTech: Are Most Getting It Wrong?


In comparison to financial services brands, customers expect fashion brands to be highly Customer Obsessed, by delivering on attributes such as “meets an important need in my life” or “makes me happy” and Distinctively Inspired with attributes such as “makes me feel inspired” or “is modern and in touch”.

From the nine fashion brands that we surveyed, multi-brand online retailers Asos (49) and Next (63) came on top, closely followed by Zara (3rd in its category, 70 overall). These brands were clearly considered much stronger that some of the more traditional global competitors, such as Primark (107) or H&M (132).

Zara doesn’t come across as Ruthlessly Pragmatic in our study, especially compared to online retailers, but it clearly spikes in terms of innovation and inspiration, which provides the brand with a strong emotional hook to keep gaining relevance.

We also see it clearly outperform when it comes to customer obsession, the attribute considered most important fashion brands. This is a key driver of relevance for consumers, and in a space where its competitors are performing poorly, Zara really has the opportunity to build a strong platform for itself.


While O2 was born in the UK, we have included it here as it is owned by Spanish giant Telefonica.

Telco brands are seen mainly as Ruthlessly Pragmatic, which creates a disconnect, as what drives relevance for customers in this category are attributes more related to Customer Obsession. We also see that brands in the space are not perceived as especially inspiring or innovative, a surprising observation, as you would think they would yield high scores given so many associations with technology that most people use every single day.

O2 is clearly the most relevant brand in this category (64th overall), showing a considerable advantage over its competitors, with EE coming in 75th place, BT 91st and Vodafone sitting at 171.

As well as leading the telco market in every attribute related to pragmatism, O2 shows strong performance on several attributes that could be leveraged to keep building its brand: “is modern and in touch”, “has better products, services and experiences” and “ I trust”.

However, a key issue with the whole category, and therefore also with O2, is that it does not connect emotionally with consumers and it’s not perceived as especially innovative. This is a problem, especially as we see other non-traditional brands in the communications ecosystem such as Apple (1), Google (2), Netflix (5) and WhatsApp (6), have become more relevant to customers; so a new battlefield has emerged for O2.

As brands such as these begin to widen their net and take on new challenges in different industries, the more traditional brands must be prepared to battle for their place in what is set to become an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Final Thoughts

It’s clear that there’s space for Spanish companies to compete in the UK market, especially as we see Brexit approaching. However, there are some key focus points in each of these industries if these brands hope to keep evolving to become even more relevant and reach future growth potential.