What Brands Inspire?

LEGO, Fitbit, NPR and Etsy all understand the importance of speaking to consumers’ hearts.

Many brands attempt to inspire customers with energy, purpose or by creating a customer experience that is uplifting. Being inspired is one of the most admired and sought-after brand achievements. What brands have gotten there and which have disappointed?

The new 2017 Prophet Brand Relevance Index™, which measures the strength of 275 top brands from over 25 categories, helps provide some answers. One of the 16 measures in the survey was “Makes me feel inspired.” Looking at the results of that question there are some surprises.

The Brands That Inspire in Prophet’s Brand Relevance Index™

The headline of the 275-brand survey: Pinterest was way out in front in terms of being inspiring. Way out in front! Why? Pinterest is the go-to place if you want to do something new and creative.

You can ask for help with a project important to you, such as cooking for your kids, decorating a room in your home, getting started on a craft, learning about a particular exercise, or really anything you want to do that is beyond your current activities. You’ll be connected with ideas and people that are also interested in your challenge.

When you go to the site, you’ll be greeted with content that’s selected based in part on past requests or interactions. These options, all presented with pictures that draw you in, are personalized to your interests and passions.

“You’ll be connected with ideas and people that are also interested in your challenge.”

Pinterest perceives itself to be the world’s catalog of ideas and has a mission to help people discover the things they love and inspire them to do those things in their daily lives. It stretches boundaries by enabling a person’s creativity and desire to try something new. The experience promises to deliver connection with others and a feeling of a sense of accomplishment.

These Pinterest themes can also be found in at least seven of the other top 15 brands in the “Makes me feel inspired” dimension.

  • #3. Food Network provides a way to make a person feel creative and accomplished in the kitchen with ideas and recipes, some from leading chefs, all in entertaining and digestible formats. The brand also inspires by its visible support for the NoKidHungry program.
  • #5. An Etsy devotee will admire the creativity and initiative that is abundant on the e-commerce site. Further, there is the ability to “discover” something unique and the satisfaction of finding a new gift concept. Etsy’s mission which includes harnessing the power of business to strengthen communities and empower people is itself inspiring.
  • #7. NPR inspires by challenging its audience with issues and stimulating topics, many of which would not be found elsewhere, and presents them with depth and style. Its mission is to promote personal growth, respect differences, and encourage a sense of active participation. It is noteworthy that NPR separated itself from news channels like CNN and others which were near the bottom of the ratings.
  • #10. Fitbit becomes an ongoing enabler of living a healthier, more active life by tracking activity, exercise, sleep, weight and more. Using Fitbit, you can design or try new exercise programs with the added motivation generated by the ability to measure progress and results. And there is the promise of a sense of accomplishment.
  • #12. LEGO provides children both the joy and satisfaction of creating a new structure. The ultimate purpose is to inspire children to think creatively and reason systematically. Inspiration also comes from LEGO’s sustainability efforts which not only involves wind farms but also the “planet promise” where a kid at any home can commit to be a part of the solution in simple ways, like turning off lights.
  • #14. M·A·C allows customer access to vivid and interesting colors that makes cosmetics glamorous, dynamic and personal. It is about being creative, experiential, and proud of their appearance. The inspiration could come in part from the fact that M·A·C since 1994 had a VIVA GLAM line featuring a bright red color, the proceeds of which donated over $400 million to AIDS. #15. IKEA, the “world of inspiration for your home,” has people pick out affordable, stylish, unique furniture and then assemble it at home—an effort which requires creativity and ability to face a meaningful challenge. IKEA has an aggressive sustainability program and, additionally, supports those uprooted such as giving 5,000 beds to refugees.

Again, the common themes are enabling creativity, discovering the new, stretching yourself, interacting with others about a passion, and feeling accomplished.

3 Other Ways Brands Are Inspiring Consumers

Three other routes are suggested by the other top “inspiring” brands. The first is to provide entertaining stories of role models, real or fictitious, that are inspiring. Pixar at #2, Disney at #4 and Marvel at #11 all provide characters and vicarious experiences that can inspire. Each provides entertainment which undoubtedly creates involvement and heightens the emotional response and the potential to inspire.

A second is to be inspired by the mood or feelings that are put in place. Spotify at #7 and Pandora at #13 create music experiences that can add inspiration to the enjoyment of the moment and even contribute a mindset that leads to excelling in other activities. It is noteworthy that Spotify and Pandora, like Pinterest, also personalize content.

A third is illustrated by #6 Apple and #9 Nike. They are both known for being inspiring for their products, personality, message and expectations by their customers. Apple was #6 in part because of its leadership role, its relentless innovation record, its design flare, the fact that its products have enabled people’s lives to do more, and the dazzling retail presence. Nike at #9 is a brand that has always stood for performance that inspires. This consistent message has been long supported by innovative products and visible spokespeople.

It should be emphasized that the subjects in this survey are those that are active in the category and are familiar with the brand. In most brand surveys, many respondents may not be familiar with a brand or it might not be relevant to them and, as a result, brands that inspire their customers do not show well.

Additional Observations from the Brand Relevance Index™

Why are the credit card brands in the bottom one-fourth of all brands? MasterCard has the 20-year-old priceless campaign and American Express is the quintessential statement brand. Have credit cards moved to be functional and taken for granted?

There was a time when the most inspiring products and brands were in the auto sector. Not now. A few car brands like Toyota and Tesla were in the top 15 percent of brands and a few more like Honda, Ford, BMW and Chevrolet were in the top 75, with Lexus a bit behind. But half of the 18 car brands in the survey including Mercedes-Benz and Cadillac were in the bottom half. Why are automobiles not as inspiring as they once were and why do these two brands score lower on inspiration than other car brands?

Why is KitchenAid #27 while Whirlpool and General Electric are not in the top 100; and Frigidaire, Maytag and Haier are not in the top 180? One explanation is that KitchenAid has added dozens of innovative new areas notably small appliances and offer some color options that allow a person to use KitchenAid to make a personal statement in their kitchen.

Why are Betty Crocker, Hershey’s, and Pillsbury in the top 75 and Heinz, JELL-O, Oreo and Kraft in the bottom one-fourth? It might be that the heritage effect of the first three is simply stronger with more warmth and positive memories.

Why is Alexa (#57) so much higher than Siri (#161)?  Is it because Siri is a less robust iPhone?  Or is it because Alexa has a different personality? Or is it something else?

What other questions can advance the brand inspiration conversation? What brands inspire you?

Prophet’s team of experts help brands create customer experiences that inspire.


Brands that inspire people understand the importance of emotional triggers. Thye make people happy, deliver joy, help them feel safe. Speaking to people’s hearts is always an effective way to build relevance.