The Innovative Brands Leading the Way in Customer Experience
The most relevant brands offer exceptional experiences, wrapping them seamlessly around their core offering.
Prophet’s 2022 Brand Relevance Index® (BRI) ranks hundreds of U.S. brands on the characteristics that consumers care about the most. In the seventh edition of our ground-breaking, annual research, we measured brands’ relevancy based on how human-centered they were, evaluating how strongly they appealed to consumers’ heads and hearts.
In the brave, new world of business that looks more digital, autonomous and quick-paced than ever, brands across all industries are racing to show up for consumers in a truly human-centric way. With the pandemic’s initial economic boost waning for many, brands must reshape their core offerings to not just accommodate but thrive in our new pandemic-tinged reality. Products and services must now be both emotive and productive, aspirational and practical, and accessible and coveted.
“Brands must reshape their core offerings to not just accommodate but thrive in our new pandemic-tinged reality.”
To no surprise, we found that brands that scored high on relevance also delivered innovative experiences. Here are three brands that rose to the top over the past year by delivering exceptional experiences and innovative products:
Apple: Technology Becomes Responsible
Apple was again the number one most relevant brand on our index this year. However, there’s more to the story than an easy reign at the top. The technology titan’s dominance today seems second-nature, but it’s jarring to remember that inventions like the iPad and the MacBook are no more than 12 and 20 years old respectively. As the arc of technology lengthens, it is finally curving into the next phase of innovation maturity – products and services that are not just good to use, but good for you as well.
Apple has come under fire in the past for customer-antagonistic practices like planned obsolescence and hardware incompatibility. However, the brand has improved its trust with users in the last year by rolling out products like the AirTag, which helps users locate lost Apple products, and iOS features like Screen Time and Focus mode, which helps users monitor and limit usage of their Apple devices.
While reducing the usage of its products may initially seem counterintuitive to Apple’s business goals, we believe product responsibility is actually the next iteration of customer-centricity. By showing users that they care about more than just maximizing KPIs, brands are truly centering them in their design. Sure enough, Apple scored highest on our Index when it came to sentiments like “is modern and in touch” and “meets an important need in my life”, proving that doing what’s truly best for customers ultimately makes for a more trustworthy, human and innovative brand.
Takeaway: Brands must be motivated by more than sales or singular KPIs if they want to create continuously innovative products and everlastingly relevant services.
Spotify: Fine-tuned, Personalized Experiences
Spotify rocked to the top of the BRI, coming in third overall. We’ve rarely seen a brand blend the art and science of personalization as well as Spotify has consistently done for customers. Hallmark experiences like Spotify Wrapped that use user data to create genuinely interesting, shareable narratives have now become synonymous with Spotify’s value to users and triggered an avalanche of copycat experiences across industries, from financial services to food delivery.
By tapping into users’ pride in their unique music tastes and their distinctly young, trendy demographic, Spotify has been able to serve up one-to-one personalized features like musical birth charts and shared playlist generators. The brand also recognizes the importance of optimizing for a social, highly shareable customer experience, using this key customer insight to create features like Group Sessions, Lyrics and even launch innovative new physical products like Car Thing.
Spotify is so tuned into their millennial-skewing demographic that one might even say it verges on “cheugy”, but one thing is for certain—Spotify has created strong business returns. Spotify’s user base expanded to 180 million active users in Q4 2021, up 16% YoY and generated over $10 billion in 2021 revenue, up 40% YoY. No wonder it scored the highest on this year’s BRI among consumers for statements like “makes me happy” and “is modern and in-touch.”
Takeaway: Knowing what emotionally connects to your customers and showing them the data to back it up is the key to creating superior user experiences.
PlayStation: The Immersive Portal for Play
Sony’s PlayStation brand powered onwards, rising from number nine to number seven in this year’s Index. As the metaverse expands and Big Tech makes a big bet on the future of play being completely virtual, entertainment companies are seizing an even bigger opportunity space to innovate. PlayStation is certainly one of these movers and shakers, implementing a two-pronged innovation strategy that prioritizes both excellent hardware and unbeatable software.
The latest PlayStation®5 (PS5™) model was an instant sell-out when it hit stores in late 2020, thanks to next-gen visual, audio and haptic features that allowed for an all-immersive gaming experience. Since then, PlayStation has prioritized building out more cutting-edge technology, like AR/VR, while making sure to optimize for important current channels like mobile and social streaming platforms. At the same time, parent company Sony continues to invest in top-notch content by inking exclusive deals with big franchises like Marvel’s Spiderman and Horizon.
Even as the pandemic’s boost to the gaming industry wanes, PlayStation has held steady, scoring high on BRI Index sentiments like “delivers a consistent experience” and “is modern and in-touch.” And the numbers speak for themselves, as PlayStation coasted to first place with $24.87 billion at the end of 2021, beating out Microsoft’s Xbox at $16.28 billion and Nintendo’s $15.3 billion.
Takeaway: Pairing relentlessly relevant core experiences with an innovative, well-engineered physical product makes PlayStation’s brand an endgame for users.
From technology to entertainment, fitness to food, the most innovative brands on the BRI this year all share a common thread of exceptional experiences that wrap seamlessly around their core offering. The connection between brand relevance and user experience continues to strengthen as consumers expect increasingly more from businesses. Responsible products, personalized services and immersive content are all innovative ways brands can rise to the top and stay relevant in today’s human-centric world.