The most relevant brands in 2017 and what marketers can learn from them

Connect us, entertain us, and inspire us. Brands that are able to do these three things effectively reign supreme when it comes to market relevance, according to the Prophet Brand Relevance Index.

The report surveyed 13,500 Americans to rank 275 brands across 75 industries in order to discern what brands are the most relevant in our lives and how consumer trends are shifting.

“It’s clear to be successful, brands need more than size and ubiquity. They must create a product that people love enough to integrate into their everyday lives,” said Scott Davis, the Chief Growth Officer of Prophet. “The brands that inspire this level of loyalty will ultimately grow the fastest because they are relevant in the moments that matter most to consumers.”

What makes a brand “relevant”

According to the study, brand relevance is a hugely important factor in a given brand’s long-term success. In fact, the top brands in the Prophet Brand Relevance Index routinely outpace the S&P 500 in revenue earnings—by a whopping 35 percent over the last decade.

But how do you define brand relevance and what specifically makes it so important?

The first aspect of almost any highly relevant brand is an obsession in pleasing their customers above all else. Everything these brands do—whether it be new product releases, updates, or simply listening to consumer demands—is first and foremost to the solve the problems and meet the needs of their consumers. Brands like Amazon are available when and where their customers need them and always deliver seamless and consistent experiences.

The most relevant brands also never cease to stop inspiring us while at the same time, earning our trust. These brands build an emotional connection with us and care strongly about their authenticity. By doing so, they are able to foster strong and lasting consumer loyalty.

But most importantly, the backbone of relevancy is built upon ruthless innovation. Brands that continue to push boundaries—despite in many cases already being industry leaders—are able to engage with consumers in fresh and inventive ways and, in turn, are able to wow their customers, dust the competition, and open up new markets.

Tech leads the way

It should come as no surprise that technology brands rule the rankings—with the top 10 all being tech-led companies. And even less of a surprise is that Apple, Google, and Amazon are the three most relevant companies, in that order.

These brands separate themselves from the pack by giving consumers highly engaging, connected, and entertaining experiences in the digital world. According to the research, Apple is the most “customer obsessed” and “pervasively innovative” while Google is the most “ruthlessly pragmatic.”

The other brands rounding out the rest of the top 10 are Netflix, Android, Spotify, Pixar, Disney, and Samsung, respectively.

Social media and apps lag behind

Despite tech’s resounding success in relevancy, social media platforms and apps are surprisingly struggling to remain as relevant as they once were, according to the findings.

Outside of Pinterest (ranked 5th) and YouTube (13th), no other social media platform breaks into the top 50. Although they excel at connecting people and many consumers check there multiple times per day, according to Davis, social media brands like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter are increasingly viewed as “mere utilities or delivery services.

Pinterest’s succeeds where the other’s fail to remain relevant, he says, because it has the unique ability to move people to a world where they can discover things and be more creative in their daily lives and, hence, build more lasting experiences with consumers. Pinterest was the top-ranked brand when it comes to inspiring consumers.

As for apps, Waze (35th), the navigation app that helps you avoid traffic, was the only one in the top 50, which should be no surprise seeing as it alleviates one of the most annoying problems in life. And since the app uses crowdsourcing, it is much more up-to-date, accurate, and credible than navigation apps using algorithms.

Personalization remains paramount

Companies who are able to tailor their branding, marketing, and experiences to consumers in highly personalized ways remain dominant forces in the marketplace and, for that reason, stay hugely relevant.

The two brand leaders in personalization are Netflix and Spotify for their ability to give the customers exactly what they want and how they want it. These brands are able to speak and engage with consumers in authentic ways that don’t feel generic or forced.

Netflix, the number one most relevant brand among millennials (who value experience over materialism), maintains a persistent and dedicated desire to bring their customers original, immersive content across every device in their home. Spotify, likewise, with its 60 million monthly subscribers is using innovation to bring personalized experiences to people’s ears.

Sharing economies and gaming grows while beauty brands plummet

The biggest movers and shakers in this year’s Prophet Relevance Brand Index were sharing economy brands, gaming brands, and beauty brands.

Uber and Airbnb, both part of the sharing economy revitalization, made the biggest leaps, jumping 118 spots and 113, respectively. Among the biggest losers since last year were beauty brands. Sephora dropped 61 spots while L’Oreal tanked 73.

The other huge change is the massive amount of gaming brands that entered the top 50 this year. Five gaming brands currently are among the most relevant brands including PlayStation at 11th, Xbox at 40, EA at 43, Blizzard at 44, and Nintendo at 49. There are more gaming brands in the top 50 than airlines, financial services, restaurants, and auto brands combined.

Other key takeaways

  • Across political divides, the top 10 brands are nearly identical with the only exceptions being PlayStation and NPR, which are more relevant in blue states.
  • The same is true with millennials and the rest of the population. Nine out of 10 most relevant brands are same for both millennials compared to the overall sample.
  • Gender differences exist among brand preferences. Women, for example, see Google as more relevant than Apple while also viewing NPR, Keurig, Pinterest, and Fitbit more favorably than men. Men, on the other hand, prefer Pandora over Spotify and see gaming brands as much more relevant.
  • We are obsessed with entertainment. In fact, one in five most relevant brands are an entertainment company. From gaming to streaming to a host of other entertainment outlets, we are putting more and more priority on enjoyment.
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