Every year in our annual Prophet Brand Relevance Index® we look at the brands that matter most in consumers’ lives – the brands they can’t imagine living without. And with that, it’s always interesting to take it beyond the ranking, and apply those brands to what is happening in the world around us. Brands play an incredibly important role in consumers’ lives, and consumers – more than ever – are shaping the way brands are evolving. This mutually beneficial relationship gets more interesting each year.
When looking at the highest performers in 2019, we learned that brands achieve relevance through different avenues. The brands at the top rose in the rankings because their leaders deploy a variety of relevance-building tactics at their disposal—pulling the levers in various combinations.
The top brands share a commitment to being purpose-led, curating experiences for their consumers that rise above the rest. They empower their employees to truly become a living and breathing part of the brand. And they curate innovative ideas that drive growth in both the near and long-term.
We uncovered five key themes among the brands at the top of this year’s Brand Relevance Index:
Purpose that inspires: Build brands on an inspiring and authentic purpose
Everyone has read the research about how consumers tend to open their wallets – and keep them open – for companies that are connected to a greater good. People want more than just a transaction with brands. They are seeking a connection with the beliefs, values and principles that inspire and resonate with them. And they need to see that purpose expressed simply and consistently, across every touchpoint.
With its commitment to a more informed public, NPR (#15) shines bright, reaching more than 100 million Americans every day—myself included. Shining bright in an incredibly tumultuous time for the news industry, NPR has a purpose people believe in and through that, has gained people’s trust. NPR isn’t only reporting news – it humanizes stories as well, building an emotional connection in a way few other brands can match.
Experiences that win: Curate experiences through empathy and data
The art and science of marketing is still important (and while putting that term into an article might be a content marketing death march, I believe the concept is more important than ever). The best marketers can wade though seas of customer data and use it to deliver more value to customers. By asking the right questions and knowing how to leverage those insights and turn them into experiences that win, curation geniuses like Spotify, Hulu and Etsy, find opportunities in gaps and create user experiences that are personalized, useful and fun. I love that Spotify has curated my playlists to include ones I can listen to at work, in the car, and with my kids at home – all with one simple touch.
Roku (#17) catapulted into our Index this year, providing a satisfying video streaming experience to one in five U.S. households. Its diverse range of entertaining content includes the new Kids & Family feature, with 7,000 free, ad-supported movies and episodes, which is a real-life saver for family movie nights. With 30 million accounts, it uses data to help personalize experiences, earning it higher trust scores than Netflix. In a growing field of streaming services, this will be an interesting one to watch over time.
Innovate at two speeds: Evolve, revolutionize, repeat
Innovating at two speeds is crucial for building relevance. It allows marketers to create value from core products and services, while leaving room for the bigger bets that will shape its future. This kind of two-speed thinking requires a strong partnership with the C-Suite to ensure buy-in on a change agenda that adds value now while propelling future growth.
As a mom of three, I have a love-hate relationship with LEGO (#28). Absolutely love them for the innovation and creativity I see it bring out in my girls; and dislike them only for the many times I’ve stepped on them with bare feet and had to keep my cool. Regardless, this brand is truly one of my all-time favorites. It’s stayed true to its core of fun-first, hands-on play. Ranked #28 in this year’s Index, LEGO makes sets that reflect pop culture and entertainment, partnering with the likes of Disney, Minecraft, and even recently creating a Central Perk set for its Friends. It also pushes boundaries between physical and digital play. LEGO® Life’s mission is to build the largest creative, kid-safe community in the world. It includes an app where kids can share their creations with others, a magazine and much more.
Connection and community: Serve unmet needs by tapping into shared interests
Consumers may have the world at their fingertips, but I’d like to hope that efficiency hasn’t replaced empathy, and people’s desire for connectivity hasn’t replaced a longing for community. Brands that win consumers’ hearts help them unlock individual passions while also connecting groups of people with shared interests. And they do so in ways that inspire and engage, often motivating them to build communities of their own.
It’s not just the technology that makes exercising with Peloton (#35) so engaging. Trust me, as a full-time working mom of three, you still have to find motivation to get on that bike or fire up that app. With Peloton, they’ve made that easier through the power of community. Sure, the world-class instructors and variety of exciting exercise content are great, but it’s the tribes–like Working Moms, ZeroDark or Cancer Warriors–that create the social fabric. Working with Facebook and Fitbit integrations, Peloton interactions change users’ lives by connecting and challenging friends, creating an indispensable community within the convenience of home.
Growth from the Inside Out: Engage employees to fuel growth
The best growth is fueled from within. A healthy internal culture allows employees to embrace and really live a company’s purpose and values. Having employees as brand advocates isn’t just important in customer-facing roles, but internally as well. Employees that live and love the brand push for constant improvement, innovation and reinvention.
Customers love those mouth-watering chicken sandwiches. But Chick-fil-A (#27) knows the experience customers have with employees is just as – if not more – important. The experience matters. Team members smile in greeting and finish with “My pleasure,” with the clear understanding that their enthusiasm is the backbone of the entire restaurant experience. It’s why my family stops at Chick-fil-A on family road trips (and why we’ll drive out of our way to get to one versus a competitor).
When you think about the brands that are important in your life and why, your answers will likely be sprinkled throughout our ranking. More than ever, the consumer-brand relationship is a reflection of personal experiences and preferences. Brands with the strongest advocates and most loyal customer base are those that are relentlessly relevant and are making a real impact on consumers’ lives. This year, NPR, Roku, LEGO, Peloton and Chick-fil-a are those brands for me, but will they be a year from now?
Want to learn more about how top brands are nurturing brand relevance? Read more in the 2019 Prophet Brand Relevance Index®.