Prophet’s Brand Relevance Index® – Who are the Innovative Brands in 2018?

Tech brands, led by Apple, Android, Google and Samsung, are perceived as the most modern and inventive.

In most categories, brands aspire to be perceived as innovative. Brands create new value propositions, new brand-driven promotions, and/or new programs to enhance the offering or support shared values. Brand innovation will lend credibility to brand promises and add brand energy, a key element in the quest to be relevant in a dynamic market.

What brands have done just that: created a perception of being innovative? Prophet’s Brand Relevance Index® (BRI) of 2018 provides some answers.

BRI 2018: How Did We Measure Brand Innovation?

In the U.S., the BRI measures the strength of 299 top brands from over 37 categories, among respondents that were active in the category and familiar with the brand.  One of the 16 measures in the survey was “always finding new ways to meet my needs” and provides a measure of perceived innovativeness.

“Brand innovation will lend credibility to brand promises and add brand energy, a key element in the quest to be relevant in a dynamic market.”

Of the top 20 “innovative” brands, 15 of them come from high-tech categories involving computing, software, social media, Internet services, electronics, or gaming.  These brands include, in order, Apple, Android, Pinterest, Google, Samsung, PlayStation, Xbox, Spotify, YouTube, Electronic Arts, Sony, Intel, and Bose.  It is a remarkable testament to how the high-tech world has set a standard for innovation with new features, new offerings, and even new subcategories all happening at a breathtaking speed.

The other five brands, Amazon, Netflix, Nike, Lego, and Fisher-Price, were exceptional for their category on innovation.  Their success reflects how hard it is to be recognized as innovative.

What Makes an Innovative Brand in Key Categories?

The value of this Index and others like it is to make successful role models visible and also provide examples of brands that have struggled.  Learnings can come from each.  Looking at specific categories and comparing winners and losers is instructive.  Consider the following questions and in doing so, keep in mind that the respondents are familiar with the brand and many will be brand users:

  • Automobiles: Why are Mercedes, Nissan and Volkswagen in the lowest quartile for innovation while Toyota, Honda and Chevrolet are in the highest?
  • Restaurants: Why is Chick-fil-A in the top quartile and KFC in the bottom?  And why are In-N-Out Burger and Shake Shack in the bottom quartile?
  • Media: Why are they all in the bottom quartile and, within that group, why are CNN, Huffington Post and USA Today significantly below the others?
  • Retail Banking and Investments: Brands in this group emphasize innovation but have only two brands that are even in the top half on “innovativeness”: Capital One and Fidelity, and five brands that are in the bottom 10%, Schwab, TD Ameritrade, U.S. Bank, Lending Tree, HSBC. Why are these brands unable to communicate their innovations?
  • Clothing: Why are Zara and The North Face in the top quartile while H&M and Patagonia in the bottom quartile?
  • Appliances: Why is KitchenAid a top ten innovation brand?  Why are most of the rest in the bottom half of the innovativeness ratings?
  • Personal Assistant: Why is Alexa well above Siri on innovativeness while Cortana and Bixby are significantly lower ranked?
  • Hotels: Why are Marriott and Hilton high on innovativeness and substantially above Holiday Inn, Hyatt, and Westin?
  • Technology: Why are some technology brands like Twitter, LinkedIn and IBM Watson relatively low on innovativeness?

What emerges from such an exercise are some aha insights and some mysteries that can end up being the most instructive of all.


The goal of the BRI is not only to identify which brands are most relevant but why. Brand innovation is just one of the contributors to relevance that we concluded from the 2018 BRI; the four characteristics that make up relentlessly relevant brands are customer-obsessed, ruthlessly pragmatic, distinctively inspired, and pervasively innovative. For each, we dug into why one brand is relevant to consumers and another not. The result is actionable strategies businesses can implement and use to grow and gain relevance in the future.

Learn more insights regarding brand innovation and relevance in the 2018 Prophet Brand Relevance Index®.