The Top Brands Compete for Relevance, Not Attention


What does brand mean to you? While many elements (like logos, products and service) are vital pillars, no single component is more indicative of a brand’s potential for long-term success than its relevance in consumer lives.

Relentless relevance, as explained by Prophet, is when a brand earns customer loyalty at every touchpoint throughout the customer journey. It’s the holistic brand experience that determines whether or not your brand is one of those a consumer just can’t live without.

For brands to exist in the future, they must compete for relevance among their target consumers. Because of this, every executive, strategist and decision-maker should prioritize getting to know their consumers and crafting brand experiences that will inspire and engage them.

How does a brand become relentlessly relevant?

The four principles of brand relevance all require consumer focus, market trend awareness and ability to act quickly on insights. Brands who are relentlessly relevant are:

  • Customer obsessed– Committed to meeting the important needs in peoples’ lives.
  • Ruthlessly pragmatic– Making consumers’ lives easier by always being available where and when people need it.
  • Pervasively innovative– Continuously looking for new and creative ways to engage with consumers and address unmet needs.
  • Distinctively inspired– Forging emotional connections with consumers, earning their trust and often existing to fulfill a larger purpose.

To understand which brands are doing this well, Prophet went straight to the source. In a survey of nearly 10,000 customers, 400 brands across 27 industries were ranked to develop the first customer-based Brand Relevance Index. The inaugural report lists the top 50 brands in the U.S., and includes insightful findings on why people love/don’t love companies on the list.


The Top 50 Relevant Brands

According to Prophet’s Brand Relevance Index (BRI), these are the top 50 relentlessly relevant brands who excel in all four principles.

BRI presentation

Apple ranked highest across every principle of brand relevance. While Samsung and Microsoft scored high for customer obsession and an ability to act on evolving consumer desires, Samsung had the edge when it came to innovation.

Other brands in the top 10 were buoyed by their mastery of one of the principles. For example, consumers credited Amazon with being ruthlessly pragmatic — always being there when and where they need it. And, LEGO was recognized as distinctively inspired because of its ability to build strong emotional connections with consumers.

Most Surprising Findings in the Brand Relevance Index

Customers are incredibly thoughtful about what they do and do not love when it comes to brand relevance and engagement. Some of the surprising findings discovered in this study include:

  • Technology companies like Google, Snapchat and Facebook aren’t ranked in top 50 because they performed poorly on one of the major factors of brand relevance — Trust! Concerns about data privacy and security have given rise to consumer unease with the practices of some technology companies. Trust is a currency and it is priceless in the development of brand relevance and long-term engagement.
  • Folgers (#25) outperformed Starbucks (#42). Folgers scored high in dependability, trust and as “a brand I can’t imagine living without.” It has a loyal following, especially among non-urban consumers who don’t have access or the disposable income for regular trips to Starbucks.
  • Traditional brands like Betty Crocker, Band-Aid and Clorox ranked in the top 25, beating out trendier brands like Dove, Under Armour and YouTube.Consumers see Band-Aid and Clorox as very pragmatic and trustworthy — both qualities that are essential to relevance. Although brands like Dove and Under Armour score high for innovation, they have not earned the levels of equity that these other venerable brands enjoy.

The pursuit of relevance isn’t done blindly. It’s intentional. The strongest brands are those that are relentlessly relevant and are making a difference in consumers’ lives. Brand relevance comes to life in every facet of customer engagement, with the sum of its parts about how people feel in each and every moment of truth, throughout the customer journey and lifecycle.


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The ‘Opposite’ Approach to Digital Transformation

digital transformation brian solis

CMOs and CDOs – there’s a new breed of consumers in the marketplace and it’s time you learn how to reach this group of elusive, discerning, distracted and proudly narcissistic digital consumers. Reaching and engaging these connected consumers will require being in the right place, at the right time and on their terms.

Knowing where/when/how to create such experiences will require a significant investment in strategy, technology, expertise and business models; that are shaped and informed by data, insights and empathy. As marketing technology advances to meet the demands of mobile, social and real-time interactions, marketers and technologists are scrambling to understand and employ the latest, hottest advancements in customer engagements.

While it’s a core focus area, technology alone isn’t the answer. Digital transformation requires the realignment of, or new investment in technology, business models, and processes to create new value for stakeholders and to more effectively compete in an ever- changing digital economy.

Where do you begin? A solid place to drive change is with the new 4-Ps of business: People, Purpose, Promise and Partnerships.


Generation C: Connected Customers Bound By Active Digital Lifestyles

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

– Albert Einstein

Connected consumers are more informed, empowered and demanding and have noticeably different behavior, preferences and standards. How they discover brands, how they make decisions, how they influence one another and what they value is also evolving.

How executives respond to connected consumers sets the stage for “Digital Darwinism,” the evolution of business and markets as society and technology advance. Companies either adapt or they don’t. The extent which C-Suite marshals adapt will determine their competitiveness, long-term relevance and success. It’s time for executives, whether CMOs, CDOs, CIOs or a combination thereof, to accelerate digital transformation efforts.

As part my ongoing research in digital transformation, I’ve assembled a series of best practices as informed by those leading transformation in companies such as Discover, GM, Harvard, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Nestlé, Sephora, Starbucks, among many others. The result is a new framework and report, “Eight Success Factors of Digital Transformation: How Businesses are Taking an O.P.P.O.S.I.T.E. Approach to Business as Usual.”

OPPOSITE approach framework

The framework offers insights and new understanding of technology, data and the digital customer. By learning from these companies and following the OPPOSITE approach, digital transformation becomes identifiable, approachable and attainable for organizations.


There is a disruption event on the horizon for every business. You can see the impact this had on Kodak, Blockbuster, Borders, taxis, the music industry, etc. It’s what executives do about it today, to what extent, how quickly and how these efforts ripple across the organization that will determine your business’ fate. Disruption is a choice. It either happens to you or because of you.

For similar posts on igniting digital transformation, follow Brian Solis’ column in Forbes or see his latest report, “The Six Stages of Digital Transformation.”

digital transformation

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The Current State & Future of Livestreaming

Can Augmented Reality Change the Face of Retail?

Augmented Reality Changes Retail

Pokémon Go has taken the world by storm with millions of users taking to the streets to play the game. Unsurprisingly, brands are asking what force the app has tapped into and how they can inspire their own audiences in the same way. While there is certainly a powerful nostalgia component to Pokémon Go’s success, brands should also explore the app’s underlying technology as an opportunity to accelerate its digital transformation and redefine the retail customer experience.

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Strategic, Feel Good Solutions for Nonprofits

The City Surf Team at Prophet for Nonprofit

In the modern world, a company must have the right people, resources and tools to conduct market research; create brand positioning and identities; develop a content strategy; manage social media; and so much more. Outsourcing just any one of these tasks can cost more than $100,000 per year; a hefty expense even for the most profitable companies. So how does a nonprofit do it?

“At Prophet for Nonprofit Day, our employees live out our mission to build brands, transform businesses and move society.” – Michael Dunn, CEO of Prophet

Back in 2014, Prophet’s London employees pioneered an impactful event; a one day rapid ideation and concepting workshop where Prophet’s experts in brand, digital, growth and design helped five local non-profits solve their specific, pre-defined marketing challenges.

The success of that event, billed as an “intense one-day version of the Prophet experience,” led Prophet to expand the effort globally to all nine of its offices in 2015. Dubbed “Prophet for Nonprofit Day,” at our 2016 event, our employees helped 36 nonprofits solve their biggest growth challenges.  From  brand identity and positioning, to donor strategies, to  digital and content strategies – our teams jumped in to help solve their problems and sent each company back to their office with marketing and branding strategies and a plan for putting it into action.

The event was rewarding for both our employees and the nonprofit representatives that participated.

Helping La Casa Norte Drive Donations with Storytelling

I was privileged to spend an emotional, uplifting and inspiring day working with La Casa Norte. La Casa Norte is a Chicago-based nonprofit with a mission to serve youth and families confronting homelessness. They provide access to stable housing and deliver comprehensive services that act as a catalyst to transform lives and communities. With over 22,000 Chicago Public School children navigating their days without a home to go to at night – they have a really tough job to fill. We were joined by four representatives at La Casa Norte who filled us in on the background of the organization and explained the problem they were facing. Like many other nonprofit organizations, the group relied on donors to supply much of the funding needed to carry out their programs but they didn’t know how to best reach these donors and motivate them to provide ongoing support.

With our task at hand, we brainstormed with the La Casa Norte team and developed two donor personas. We discussed their common traits, interests and what motivates them to donate.

prophet for nonprofit day

Our next step was to understand storytelling – specifically what makes stories compelling and persuasive. Tara Bonnano (who did a fantastic job leading our group), shared a video about Persuasion and the Power of Story, by Jennifer Aaker, that says “stories are important because they’re meaningful, and they’re meaningful because they’re memorable, impactful and they personally connect.”

Knowing that storytelling was our best approach to reach, and motivate our two donor personas to get involved with La Casa Norte, we divided and we conquered. We developed an outline using the “Five Beats of Storytelling” method: introduction, incident, stakes, event, resolution.

In just 8 hours, we helped La Casa Norte find the words to tell three stories about how they were able to change the lives of local Chicago families with their ongoing services. The group also walked away with the framework to tell stories that are meaningful, impactful and that personally connect with their donors:

“We now have a storytelling framework to take back to La Casa Norte and use to tell compelling stories about the youth and families we work with daily. With this messaging we can motivate donors and volunteers to get involved, and support the work that we’re doing.” – Jessica Rodriquez, Development & Fundraising Manager at La Casa Norte

Are you interested in participating in a future Prophet for Nonprofit Day? Please get in touch with us!

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The Key To Spotify’s Brand Relevance: Customer Obsession

spotify customer experience

Surprising and delighting customers’ when business is functioning as expected is great, but if a company can do so in the midst of a crises? They’re nailing it.

Picture this, you’re hard at work, nearing a deadline, in your modern, open-concept (and super noisy) workspace. Your creative juices are flowing, and you’re jamming to a stimulating workday playlist.  Suddenly, the music streaming site (which you pay $9.95 per month to use commercial-free) crashes and is completely inoperable, resulting in hindered concentration and a major creative block. You’re upset. And for a moment, you question your loyalty to the brand.

This exact scenario occurred for many Spotify customers when the site crashed a few months ago. Afterward, Spotify responded to customers’ concerns promptly and across all channels, and continued this type of customer engagement long after the problem was fixed.

One customer was wowed by the customer experience when she tweeted @SpotifyCares after realizing there was an issue. Spotify’s immediate response and innovative use of its own product resulted in this exchange:

If you click on the link, you’ll see a personalized message to Sophia in playlist form. Talk about customer obsessed! This is just one of many examples which prove that Spotify looks at every occurrence, even a website malfunction, as an opportunity to innovate, improve the customer experience and inspire its users; all things that make Spotify relentlessly relevant.

In our Brand Relevance Index, Prophet identified the brands which are relentlessly relevant in consumer lives. More than 10,000 U.S. consumers ranked 400 brands in 27 distinct industries, resulting in a list of the top 50 most relentlessly relevant brands. The metric of relevance is crucial to businesses when determining the likelihood of long-term success.

Did you know? 80 percent of customers say that they’re more loyal to brands that continue to find new ways of being relevant in their lives.

A relentlessly relevant brand, according to Prophet’s findings, must do four key things:

  1. Be Customer Obsessed
  2. Build Brands that are Distinctively Inspired
  3. Be Pervasively Innovative
  4. Be Ruthlessly Pragmatic

Spotify ranks in the top ten on the Brand Relevance Index and is a leader in the Internet Services & Retailing industry. In this post, we’ll take a deeper dive into Spotify’s business practices and how the company outshines competitors like Pandora, Tidal and AppleMusic.

Customer Obsessed

Spotify was ranked as one of the top five customer-obsessed brands because it continually works to uncover and act upon evolving customer insights to improve the overall experience. But the company doesn’t stop there; they embrace customers as partners by taking co-creation, collaboration and participation to entirely new levels.

Spotify actively listens to its users by collecting customer data and leveraging it to improve recommendations, playlists and special offers for listeners. For example, Spotify creates a “Discover Weekly” playlist for each user based on what they’ve listened to recently. This allows Spotify to help its users discover and enjoy new music every week.

Distinctively Inspired

Spotify is unique because it allows users to create public playlists, follow and listen to the curated playlists of other users and engage in a community where much of the content is created by its user base. Of this creator community, 55 percent are connected via Facebook meaning they’re not just accessing public playlists created by other users, but actively engaging with what their Facebook friends are listening to, sharing and following on the Spotify platform. This element of community is distinctive to Spotify and creates an asset that customers simply can’t receive anywhere else.

Spotify also excels in building a brand that is distinctively inspired by engaged employees that deliver the brand promise every day. Spotify encourages employee engagement by empowering its employees to get creative, be themselves and make independent decisions on social media. For example, in response to a customer tweeting “I love Spotify,” one social engagement employee responded with a link to a love song. Spotify has created an organization that is inspiring to its employees so that these employees feel motivated to spread that inspiration in both customer service and social customer engagement.

Pervasively Innovative

Spotify’s brand is inextricably linked to pervasive innovation; it is nimble, responsive to current trends and never misses an opportunity to create authentic, innovative engagement. Take a look at some of their brand partnerships:

  • In a partnership with Uber, users could listen to their own Spotify playlist while riding in an Uber.
  • Users can link directly to their Spotify accounts from the Playstation 3 and 4 networks. With over 90 million PS3s and 4s sold, this innovative partnership has helped Spotify dramatically expand its market.
  • Spotify partnered with mobile providers like Telecom to include Spotify as part of their plans.
  • And in a major innovative breakthrough, before the season 6 premier of Game of Thrones, Spotify users could access a website that would analyze their listening habits and tell the user which Game of Thrones character he or she was, based on the user’s music taste. The user would then be directed to that character’s particular playlist.

Spotify doesn’t hesitate to partner with products, companies, third-party apps, DJs, charities, or festivals that allow them to offer an innovative product, or to offer their original product in an innovative way.

Ruthlessly Pragmatic

Spotify has also established relevance by being ruthlessly pragmatic in its advertising strategy, its interactions with artists and its technical features. Spotify knows that artists are a key part of its business model, and from a practical standpoint, Spotify knows that the low per-stream royalties paid to artists, while preferable to piracy, still ruffle some artists’ feathers. Disputes over low royalties have caused artists such as Taylor Swift and ACDC to withdraw from the platform altogether.

While Spotify has little room for flexibility on royalties, it has made a concerted effort to make its platform uniquely valuable to artists by offering “Spotify Fan Insights,” an analytics dashboard that allows every artist on the platform to track the music preferences, demographics, geographic locations and engagement levels of its fans.

In another stroke of pragmatic brilliance, Spotify discovered that customers who use both desktop and mobile spend over 150 minutes per day on Spotify and in response created a completely seamless mobile/desktop experience.

Final Thoughts

With over 5 million Spotify playlists created or edited daily, Spotify has clearly developed a successful formula for remaining top-of-the-mind to consumers, artists and other businesses. While Spotify checks each requisite box for a relevant brand, the aspect that contributes most strongly to its continued relevance is its customer obsession. Spotify is so obsessed with its customers that it creates individualized playlists to apologize to a single user. This customer obsession is so crucial because it has created a virtuous circle in which Spotify users are just as obsessed with the service as the service is with them. This cycle supports the other key pillars of relevance, continuously bolstering innovation and inspiration and most importantly brand relevance.

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Prophet’s Core Values Shine through Community Outreach Efforts

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How the Global Branding Consultancy Helps Nonprofits Worldwide Accomplish Their Missions

With just three weeks under my belt as a summer intern, I’ve already binged on plenty of marketing communications and consulting world acumen. While my projects, meetings and interactions have taught me to embrace Prophet’s grow better mission, I’ve surprisingly found the most personal growth after I close my laptop each day.
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The Current State and Future Outlook of Livestreaming

Video camera lens lit in blue and orange

The Rise of Real-Time Content Creators & What it Means for Digital Content

Livestreaming is growing in popularity as yet another platform for digital content creation. From scripted episodes to impromptu interaction, new communities are forming around the personal brands that connect users in real-time.

Digital influence has never been more influential, and now more than ever, entertainment executives and brand strategists must look beyond the traditional perspectives that defined yesterday’s “celebrity” and entertainment platforms. Establishing new channels for digital content creation will foster more engaging and rewarding opportunities for brands.

Female taking a photo with a mobile phone

As seen in my Forbes article, I have found the key trends that outline the state and future of livestreaming and real-time digital content creators and audiences:

Why YouTube no longer holds its monopoly on video content

While YouTube has largely held the monopoly on transforming online personalities into bona fide celebrities, its domination is a thing of the past. The golden age of YouTube is losing its luster in the wake of increased competition with apps like Snapchat, Vine, and Instagram, and livestreaming providers such as Periscope, YouNow and Meerkat.

What the beginning of livestreaming tells us about the future of digital content

In 2007, and USTREAM popularized livestreaming platforms, dedicating entire networks for anyone to broadcast their life in real-time. Similarly, YouTube launched a live video service in 2011, with Facebook following the trend as it invests in episodic content from livestreaming creators. Despite the category’s struggle to gain mass popularity over the years, live video seems to be the next frontier as new platforms are rolling out each year.

Where livestreaming is today

Now an entirely new breed of livestreaming apps is gaining in popularity. With a perfect combination of mobile devices, simple user interfaces, and a fixed feature set, apps such as Periscope, MeerkatYouNow and Blab are turning everyday moments into the equivalent of live programming. Unlike YouTube and Facebook, single-purpose mobile apps are simplifying the experience for creators and viewers.

How livestreaming interacts with Generation C (Connected)

Both Twitter’s Periscope and Bebo’s Blah are finding new ways to interact with the Generation C (Connected). Periscope allows users to “explore the world through someone else’s eyes” as it allows Twitter flowers a glimpse into their favorite host’s world. Similarly, Blah is another take on livestreaming as it facilities live engagement via Google Hangouts. Both allow users to comment and engage in discussion in real-time, connecting the host with livestreaming users.

Why this is just the beginning in livestreaming

When it comes to livestreaming, we haven’t seen anything yet. The landscape is still very new, undeveloped, and incredibly volatile with more players, pivots, acquisitions, and failures in the future. While YouTube, Facebook, and others are competing on multiple fronts to cultivate creators and monetize popular content, dedicated livestreaming apps will establish new market segments across platforms.

An entire industry is emerging around these popular livestreaming apps to explore promotional and revenue deals beyond just content. There has never been a time when original content, new talent, and individual opportunity has been so accessible and attainable in the video community. As these trends continue to evolve, we will see how livestreaming services are disrupting the traditional perspectives on digital influence and its role in consumers’ lives.

This post was written by Brian Solis – a Principal Analyst at Altimeter, a Prophet Company. Read more about the latest trends in livestreaming in his latest column on Forbes.

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Is Blue Cross Blue Shield a Relevant Brand?

Abstract medical background

What it means to be relevant in the health insurance industry

By most conventional measures, Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) seems like a brand that has it all. It’s big, with high brand awareness. But it’s losing relevance among consumers, which signals big problems ahead for the brand—and opportunities for challengers in the space.

We believe relevance—relentless relevance—is the key to success. Brands achieve it by becoming indispensable to customers, while those without it get tossed aside.

Prophet recently released our first Brand Relevance Index, and the results in the health insurance category surprised us: Oscar, a three-year old regional company, earned a higher brand relevance ranking than Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, the largest (and best-performing) of the 36 companies in the BCBS family.

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Learning from a Life Lived Abroad


An introspective on the impact living abroad has had on my personal and professional life

It is hard to believe that it’s been two years since I left Prophet Chicago for Prophet Hong Kong. If I’m being honest, when Prophet asked if I would move to Hong Kong to help grow our Asia business, I had no idea what my family and I were getting into. But hey, what’s life without a little adventure!?

Two years into life in Asia, I can say without a doubt that this move has been the best professional and personal experience I have ever had. So what have I learned in two years? Way too much to share in this short blog post. But there are three big things I’d like to share that I’ve taken away professionally and personally.


Growing Professionally


1.Go Local. Asia is different. Very different. Even if the client is Western or the company you’re working with is global, the market you’re working in will be different. Figuring out how to localize what you know for the market is key.

To understand the dynamics of my new country, and the countries I was working in, I read a lot, traveled a lot and asked a lot of questions. But, I also learned a lot through the nature of my job.

At Prophet we often use research, both primary and secondary, to help our clients better understand their customers. It enables us to help our clients make changes to their businesses from a customer-centric point of view. Digging into that research on the markets I was living and working in helped me understand the nuances of consumers in various Asian markets and how consumers needs and attitudes differ across markets.


2. Be flexible. Even the best plan may not work as it has in the past. For example, at Prophet we have a proprietary tool called a ‘PlayStudio.’ PlayStudio is our collaborative approach to creating ideas with our clients. In and of itself, the PlayStudio works just as well in Asia as it does in the West. However, the ways in which we engage clients in Asia to make these sessions successful are a bit different.

For example, we worked with a client last year in Korea with a hierarchical organizational structure which is very common in the country. However, to make the PlayStudio successful we needed participation from all members of the team versus just “the boss”. Good ideas in a PlayStudio can come from anywhere. Therefore, we tailored our approach for the day, shifting from large group ideation to smaller team ideation that then rolled up into broader team discussions at the end of the day. This enabled everyone in the room to contribute to the idea generation.

The key to being successful in Asia is taking the best of what we do at Prophet and be flexible in the ways we execute.


3. Ask questions. When I first got to Asia I didn’t want to appear naïve. Instead of asking questions, I tried to learn by reading and observing. While that’s not a bad strategy, there is no better way to learn than by asking questions.

Our team in Hong Kong team is incredibly diverse. Grabbing a colleague and sitting down for lunch or coffee was the best way to really get to know the local culture and customs in every corner of Asia.

I also talked to clients. Since collaboration is a core pillar of the way Prophet (and I) prefer to work, I spent a lot of time trying to get to know my clients – both personally and professionally. Once I knew more about who they are, where they come from, and what they are passionate about, I was better able to relate to them on a personal and professional level.


Growing Personally

Over the past two years Prophet has accomplished a great deal in Asia. We’ve grown our office. We’ve grown our business. We’ve grown our people. But beyond what we’ve accomplished in Asia professionally I’ve learned just as much if not more, personally:


1. Travel, Travel, Travel. I’ve always found that the best way to understand people and cultures are to explore them first hand.  Over the past couple of years, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to most parts of Asia. Immersing myself and my family into local culture has been the best way to understand Asia, its people and its history. We’ve watched the sunrise at Angkor Wat, learned the history of the Terracotta Army in Xian, explored the temples in Chiang Mai, eaten Durian in Malaysia and so much more. Every experience has opened our eyes to something or someone new.

Vietnam (2)

2. Always Say Yes. Whenever someone invites me to do something in Hong Kong – or in a country I am visiting I always say yes. Sure some days I’m tired; I’ve worked late or my baby has kept me up half the night. But when you move abroad forget the word no. Every invitation is an opportunity to try something new or to meet new people. Taking advantage of these opportunities has led me to so many new experiences and to lifelong friends and clients.


3.Take it all in. As we all know, life can be busy. Overwhelmingly busy. My husband I both work full time and we have two kids (one of whom was born here in Hong Kong). There can be moments where it all feels like it is all going by in a blur. But I’ve learned to stop myself. To walk a little slower. To look around a little more. To really take in every moment. Every day there’s something new to see, or something new to learn. Yes, I’d probably be in much better shape if I didn’t take pictures on the runs I go on. But I’ve really learned to live in the moment and take in the details. There’s so much to see in this great big world we live in.

JA Cambodia (2)

With all of this said, the best piece of advice I can give you from what I’ve learned is this: If you ever have the chance to live and/or work abroad, do it! Even if it’s for a month. Two months. Do it. Take the leap of faith. Forget all the practical reasons not to go. The opportunity may never present itself again, and I can promise you this‒ you won’t look back and regret it.