Breathing Life into GenAI-Powered Brand Communications with Verbal Strategy

With the rise of GenAI, brands must not overlook the importance of verbal strategy to ensure their content marketing is purposeful and human-centric.  

The integration of Generative AI (GenAI) tools into modern marketing and communication workflows has sparked a content creation revolution. Businesses across industries are recognizing the potential of AI-assisted writing to streamline content generation, enhance efficiency and improve collaboration. A recent Gartner survey revealed that nearly half of marketing leaders have already integrated GenAI tools into their workflows, with another 43% planning to follow suit. 

The advent of GenAI, combined with a robust verbal branding strategy, offers a remarkable opportunity for businesses to elevate their marketing effectiveness to new heights. By harnessing the capabilities of technology alongside human experience, a powerful synergy can be achieved, captivating audiences and forging authentic connections. While AI undoubtedly streamlines content creation, it is the human-centric strategy that truly breathes life into words, allowing brands to leave an indelible mark on their customers. 

Driving Impactful Brand Communications Through Verbal Strategy, not Words 

At Prophet, our approach to branding is deeply human-centric, driven by the understanding of businesses’ overarching vision and objectives. Regardless of whether the goal is to stimulate demand, ignite transformation, or nurture customer loyalty, brand strategies must be strategically aligned with these pivotal business imperatives. 

In a landscape filled with the allure of advertising and captivating social campaigns, visuals and imagery often command the spotlight. However, a vital strategic element tends to be overlooked – verbal branding. Verbal branding extends far beyond catchy slogans and memorable jingles. It encompasses the strategic use of language across diverse touch points, including voice, messaging, content strategy, and copywriting, all aimed at conveying a brand’s essence and forging emotional connections with the audience. 

A successful verbal strategy ensures a consistent and distinctive presence across all consumer touchpoints – encompassing social media, digital marketing, and product interfaces. By meticulously defining a verbal branding strategy, businesses can carve out a unique space for themselves within a competitive marketplace, striking a resounding chord with their intended audience. 

Harnessing the Power of GenAI in Verbal Branding 

Despite having a well-defined verbal strategy, businesses often encounter numerous challenges during execution. From managing content volume and cadence, investing in talents and suppliers, creating iterations and personalization, to ensuring effective collaboration across departments and accurately measuring return on investment (ROI), the path to successful verbal branding is rarely straightforward. 

AI, when strategically applied under the guidance of human experts, can prove to be a game-changer for businesses looking to overcome these hurdles. GenAI can play a vital role in content generation, coordination, and data analysis, leading to increased efficiency, cost reduction, and an overall improvement in the effectiveness of branding efforts. 

1. Generate formulated copy for digital marketing.

For digital marketing, marketers often need to generate precise yet personalized messages at scale – a task that’s highly time-consuming, technical and repetitive. GenAI-powered platforms like ChatGPT are transforming digital marketing by enabling rapid content generation and producing various copy variations, given the appropriate guidance. Emergent platforms like Lokalise have also allowed for content localization, especially across different languages, and are much more efficient. Additionally, through metadata and machine learning technologies, AI tools can also improve content personalization. For example, CopyAI is a tool that specializes in personalized sales copy and dynamic social media content. The interactive AI interface allows marketers to experiment with different angles and variations, leading to more effective and compelling messaging. 

However, verbal strategy and language refinement remain indispensable in this process. While GenAI can churn out content quickly, human experts are needed to define the brand’s tone of voice, verbal strategy and personalization tactics, while curating and elevating AI-generated copy. In this process, human expertise remains crucial to edit, refine, build, and take the content to the next level. Only through the experienced guidance of human experts, can businesses create impactful and authentic content that resonates with their target audience. 

2. Provide insights and baselines for content marketing.

AI excels in synthesizing data and thus can help writers generate topic ideas by identifying trending topics, competitive keywords, and popular content formats. Platforms like Jasper and Content at Scale can do just that. Such assistance can save marketers valuable time in brainstorming ideas for content that’s relevant and engaging at a high cadence. Moreover, GenAI-powered tools can be used to identify grammatical errors and enhance the overall readability of content. 

Despite these remarkable strides in AI capabilities, the skillset of experienced writers and verbal experts are irreplaceable in content marketing. Developing content calendars based on brand strategy demands a deep understanding of the brand’s marketing priorities, target audience and business objectives. Additionally, human creativity and expertise play a crucial role in crafting high-quality content that is literarily masterful while seamlessly aligning with the brand’s vision to resonate with the audience on a more fundamental level. 

3. Optimize the conversational experience of chatbots.

Customer service is a critical touchpoint for brands, and providing seamless support is essential for building customer loyalty. Chatbots and digital assistants have emerged as powerful tools to enhance business resilience in this aspect. By offering immediate support, reducing operational expenses and capturing valuable customer insights, these AI tools are reshaping the customer service landscape. Although they primarily rely on Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Machine Learning (ML) technologies, companies are now integrating GenAI into Chatbots to make the experiences richer and more seamless. 

However, ensuring a comprehensive brand strategy is in place is vital for creating outstanding conversational experiences. Brand strategy, on the one hand, plays a pivotal role in defining the role of the chatbot in the brand portfolio. On the other hand, it is equally important for creating and implementing detailed verbal guidelines for AI-driven interactions. By designing chatbots’ identities through branded personas, businesses can deliver immersive experiences to their customers that are not only authentic but also instrumental to their brand strategies. For example, we partnered with AXA to create a humanized user interface, the “Empathetic Navigator” Emma, to help transform the insurer from payer to partner. In doing so, Emma became AXA’s signature experience to offer a more human approach to being a partner and connecting with its customers. 

Key Considerations When Applying GenAI Solutions 

Despite its exciting potential, using GenAI to activate marketing strategies requires careful consideration of several factors.  

1. Data security and authenticity should be prioritized.

As AI tools and practices are currently an emerging area with limited oversight, it’s crucial for businesses to validate that the information provided is accurate and non-proprietary. Keeping confidential and proprietary data out of AI training process is also essential.  

At Prophet, we developed AI guidelines that serve as a valuable compass for our work. We use the guidelines to omit confidential information and proprietary data from external AI processes, rigorously verify outputs and continuously promote knowledge sharing for collective improvement. As AI technologies evolve and fresh ethical challenges arise, organizations must remain poised to adapt and revise their strategies to ensure alignment with the latest security standards and considerations. 

2. Understanding regional nuances is crucial when deploying GenAI for verbal branding across different markets and languages.

Different AI tools may have varying strengths and weaknesses based on the cultural context they were trained. For example, in China, Baidu WenxinYiyan, Tencent’s Hunyuan and iFlyTek’s SparkDesk have arisen as admirable contenders. Additionally, policies and regulations as they start to emerge may differ across regions. Just recently, China became the first country to launch official regulations around GenAI, while the EU is also in the process of evaluating its AI Act. Therefore, businesses should consider using AI models trained specifically for each target market to ensure better relevance and compliance. 

3. Going a step further.

Customization is key to leveraging AI effectively for branding objectives. Tailoring the AI solutions to the business’s unique needs, persona, tone of voice and style can create a more authentic and relatable verbal branding experience for the audience. Continuously verifying and adapting the outputs generated by AI is essential to maintain consistency with the brand’s identity and messaging. Businesses should learn from the AI-generated content and customer feedback to improve the system over time, making it more accurate and reflective of the brand’s values and objectives. 

Harmonizing GenAI and Human Expertise: The Path Forward in Verbal Branding 

Undoubtedly, the integration of GenAI in content marketing and brand communications workflows has brought about a transformative shift in content creation. The efficiency and scale at which AI operates are truly remarkable, allowing businesses to achieve more than ever before. However, it is crucial to recognize that the real magic happens when AI collaborates with human expertise, creating a symbiotic relationship that propels branding efforts to new heights. 


As AI continues to evolve and become an integral part of our business strategies, our guidance and approach must adapt accordingly. Understanding that AI serves as a valuable tool, rather than a replacement, will be crucial to our success in an ever-competitive landscape. By harnessing the evolving power of AI while embracing the significance of human oversight in verbal branding, we can truly stand out and thrive in this dynamic and rapidly changing world. 

Learn more about our verbal branding capabilities. 


Positioning AI Brands With Better Brand Storytelling and a Sharp Value Proposition

For companies developing AI products and services, time is running out. Now is the time to clarify value and build trust.

It’s hard to keep up with the number of companies charging into artificial intelligence. But for those – particularly in the technology industry – that want to build market share in AI, finding ways to get ahead of the crowd is imperative. And time is of the essence. We are in a pivotal moment, and those who get it right will come out as the clear winners not only today but in the foreseeable future.  

It’s not only about developing top products or services. To position themselves as category leaders, companies building AI capabilities need to think about telling a holistic story that evolves with the technology and customers’ uneven rate of AI adoption. Stakeholder perceptions are still being decided. Companies need to win talent wars, educate investors and soothe a society that is distrustful of AI. 

The moment for throwing ideas into the market and seeing what sticks is over. Those who will lead in AI will be those who get their story right, and define these four key elements: 

1. Product + Innovation

AI is driving the most significant technological platform shift in our lifetime. But with so many companies touting their advancements, there is a risk that new products get lost without the depth or differentiation needed to stand out in a fast-moving, crowded ecosystem. ​ 

Companies building AI products need to start with a better understanding of the user journey and experience. While the initial goals may have been building a superior product, customer centricity needs to move to center stage. That requires asking hard questions about the design and intentional experience for users. How will products solve customers’ biggest problems? How fast can they do it? How accurately? Interoperability is essential, too. Where does it fit in the ecosystem? Does it leave room for partnerships? All these things – not just the product itself – determine its value. Are all these facets articulated in a clear value proposition? Can that value be conveyed in messages that are neither too complex nor oversimplified? 

“Short-term, brands will continue to tout the presence of AI broadly as a product differentiator,” says Danny Pomerantz, a senior manager at Prophet. “However, consumer understanding of the utility of AI will increase nearly as fast as the technology itself, so brands will soon need to include more in-depth explanation of the role AI plays in meeting customer needs.”​  

2. Organization + Culture

In the fierce war for AI talent, hiring and keeping the best people requires a distinctive Employee Value Proposition. This EVP must distill the company’s purpose, creating the North Star that unifies the whole company. Given the potential impact AI has on society, employees are taking caution and being intentional in evaluating an employer’s value system – this is especially true for Gen Z workers who place higher importance on a company’s values and purpose than older generations.  

“To attract and retain talent that can build AI solutions, companies need to consider their WHY through the lens of all their stakeholders vs. a traditional overweighting and myopic focus on shareholder value. Other stakeholders include employees, the communities the enterprises operate in and serve, the customer of course, and society the planet,” says Tina Naser, senior partner and global practice lead in organization and culture. 

The most in-demand AI workers will want to work for companies committed to performance excellence and innovation. That means companies must know how current workforce ecosystems must change. How will creative and content generation evolve? What skills are most urgently needed?  

And they want to join companies that are committed to giving them room to grow, which may call for a refreshed organizational design. Employees, almost as much as customers, will become the catalyst for market positioning.  

“The companies that best integrate AI with the human workforce will be the companies that attract and retain the best talent,” says Michael Lopez, partner in Prophet’s organization and culture practice. “That’s how they will unlock new levels of growth and performance.”​  

3. Expression + Identity

Too often, tech companies don’t think about branding until after a product is built. But the brand itself must be designed into the way AI products express themselves – how they look, sound and engage with users. 

AI needs to be honest, quickly telling people that while these tools are helpful, they’re not human.  

“The baseline expectation for AI-powered copy is transparency, disclosing that it’s AI immediately and not a person,” explains Darcy Munoz, Prophet’s verbal branding lead. And since they are often used in straightforward jobs-to-be-done roles, they should prioritize helpfulness over branding. “But personality, deployed thoughtfully and judiciously –an unexpectedly human phrase, the perfect emoji, a well-timed robot joke –goes a long way to build brand love.”​  

4. Responsibility + Guardrails

The mistrust of AI is widespread. That means that even as companies race to build growth-driving technology and value for stakeholders and customers, they must position themselves – and all their AI offers – as responsible, carefully weighing the impact on society. The potential threats are grave, including the “risk of extinction.” That’s why 350 AI executives, researchers, and engineers signed a statement released by the Center for AI Safety. 

To manage potential concerns companies must be clear on their mission and upfront in promises to ethically contribute to managing AI. They must work with governments, competitors and concerned consumer groups, ensuring safeguards are constantly evolving for greater effectiveness.  

This visible commitment is especially important for reaching younger people, both as employees and customers. They are fierce in their commitment to working for inclusive companies that stand for making the world a better place.  

“Gen Z will be paying careful attention to which companies are at the forefront of responsible AI and which companies are lagging,”​ says Michael Lau, a strategy associate at Prophet and demographic expert.  

Amid the intense scrutiny of the business media, Wall Street, Washington D.C. and the general public, companies must honestly acknowledge their reputation. Samsung, Amazon and Apple are among the most trusted tech companies. TikTok and Meta score lowest. 

Tell a Sharper Story 

Companies that carefully consider all four elements have the raw materials to tell a powerful story and establish a unique identity. The next step is prioritizing who they want to hear that story and crafting narratives designed explicitly for core audiences. For some tech companies, AI is the headline. For others, it might be a chapter. But all must draw from a unified positioning strategy. That’s the foundation that aligns vision, solidifies ambition and articulates the pillars for messaging.  

Consider these four stakeholders: 

Customers: Educate customers to earn trust.

Many recognize AI’s benefits of conveniences, yet a recent study showed that 76% of consumers are concerned over the risk of misinformation. Prophet’s recent test of AI messaging with B2B customers found that without more explanation, mentioning AI didn’t help. It came across as vague and expected but without much distinction or value. That underscores the importance of communicating the customer value proposition using clear and compelling differentiation.  

Employees: Use corporate purpose to recruit, engage and retain employees.

While coming off a year of layoffs, the tech industry is still desperate for AI-skilled engineers and talent. Amazon, Microsoft, Meta, Nvidia, Tesla, Google, and many fast-moving start-ups have announced stepped-up investments in AI. As a result, they are refreshing their enterprise value proposition, each aiming to develop a unifying rally cry that sets them apart.  

Shareholders: Deepen messages for shareholders.

While many companies have been using AI for decades, the launch of ChatGPT last year was seismic. The AI fervor drew intense investor interest, often with little understanding. Executives tossed out vague AI mentions on earnings calls, often with little explanation. But it’s important to manage expectations amid the hype as savvy market investors search for strategy, differentiation and growth drivers. AI companies must help potential investors find those differences with clear messages that cut through the noise.  

Society: Commit to the responsible use of AI.

Historical context matters here. In the early days of social media, many believed technology tended toward the beneficial. Now that society has seen its ugly side there’s a high level of distrust and even contempt. And it’s important to note that even the most sophisticated AI thinkers still have no idea where AI will take us. AI is not a business-as-usual business. It will require exceptional efforts to earn and manage the public’s trust. 


Technology, media, entertainment, and telecommunications companies that offer AI products and services need to tell a compelling story. Product innovation alone is not enough to capture the market. Companies must articulate their identity, add value and provide guardrails to build and retain customers. Finding the right balance between simplicity and complexity will be critical as will moving fast and not missing the moment. Contact our team today to position your AI brand for success. 


Standing out in a Sea of Sameness: Five Ways Asset Managers Can Build a Winning Brand Strategy

Prolonged and emerging pressures are creating new challenges across the industry.

How do you gain market share and attract the best talent in a market that looks like a sea of sameness? Where clients, partners, and talent see you and your competitors as interchangeable? Asset managers have long operated with this mindset when it comes to brand positioning.   Compounding this challenge in recent years is the need to navigate challenges that include fee compression, market volatility, shifting regulatory environments and talent friction.  

Consequently, asset managers have rapidly expanded their areas of focus: taking on a new tension around focused expertise vs. expanding the set of offers to serve investors (e.g., new industries, specialties, alternative investments, ESG investing, real estate, digital assets, etc.). Many have used expanded offers to deepen their relationships with clients and successfully compete but at the price of sometimes murky associations around specialization. Such go-to-market strategies have made it confusing for new investors to confidently invest and, at times, for asset managers to confidently sell a broader set of investments and capabilities.  

Facing New Opposition  

Rising interest rates, inflation, inverted yield curves, disruptive technologies (AI, digital assets), and rising global tension have shrunken available Assets Under Management (AUM), which has only increased investor trepidation as they conserve cash at a time when access to capital is more costly.  

Automation and AI are also shifting the paradigm for acquiring AUM, and there could be a semi-industry rotation. The sales and client engagement processes are also evolving as a consequence of technology. It’s less about being “close” to investors for AUM and more about being “ubiquitous” and/or “famous” for something.  

The theme of 2021 was a world of too much money chasing too few assets. The theme of 2023 is too little AUM for too many asset managers and their expansive sets of offers. 

Consolidation is the next imminent frontier we are seeing. Franklin Templeton’s $1bn+ purchase of rival Putnam Investments and Lansdowne Partners’ plan to acquire UK equity investment manager Crux Asset Management are only the beginning.  

The Asset Management Brand-Demand Challenge  

While consolidation will make newly combined entities more competitive and allow them to capture efficiencies, it will not solve the two underlying challenges present in the asset management space:  

  1. A need to establish or regain slipping relevance: Every asset management brand covered in Prophet’s Brand Relevance Index (BRI) saw a decline in relevance from 2021 to 2022, and all but one declined in relevance versus other brands from 2022 to 2023. Relevance, which directly relates to the bottom line, is noteworthy to all stakeholders. It creates importance to investors but also attracts and retains premier talent in a tighter AUM environment and bigger asset management ecosystem—building both brand and demand for the business.
  2. A need to create coherence: As entities combine and grow, it is critical to ensure that not just the company but also its offers and capabilities are well-articulated, organized and understood—making it easier for investors to buy and asset managers to sell.  

5 Actions for Building a Winning Asset Management Strategy  

1. Acknowledge and understand your unique audience motivations.

Asset managers need to manage a range of stakeholders and monitor the emerging patterns in behaviors. For example:   

  • Investors: Institutional and individuals are typically seeking risk-adjusted returns that outpace the other options available in the capital structure.   
  • Portfolio Companies: Seeking sustainable growth through capital and expertise, but also looking for purpose and values alignment.  
  • Capital Allocators: Seeking value creation, preservation of capital, and risk management for both the firm and its clients.  They also need the best talent to convey expertise, broaden access to capital, and drive outsized performance. 
  • Talent: Looking to build unique career knowledge, gain experience, and get rewarded by working with the smartest people at asset management firms with the strongest cultures.  

2. Establish a clear brand purpose.

Asset management brands tend to place too great of an emphasis on what they do (alternatives, quant, fixed income) vs. answering bigger questions on how they do it (resources, ecosystem, talent) or, even further, why they align their purpose, promise, and principles to a particular vision. Brands that can’t get past what are likely to simply float along in a sea of sameness. Many asset management positionings have migrated to being ‘safe’ through a few primary lenses: looking towards tomorrow, spotlighting integrity and/or trust, and a focus on driving long-term value.  

We believe many of the declines in brand relevance for asset managers can be attributed, in part, to a decline in various key client sentiment heart factors as outlined by Prophet’s BRI. Heart factors encapsulate the emotional connections that the audiences will forge with brands, e.g., ‘connects with me emotionally’, ‘makes me feel inspired’ and ‘engages with me in new and creative ways’. The erosion of these heart factors vs. more rational head factors which have remained stable, e.g., ‘know I can depend on’, ‘delivers on a consistent experience’, and ‘makes my life easier’ reinforces the idea that asset managers have reached a perceived parity across products, services, and the overall brand.  Such underscores the likely importance of conveying a clear ‘how’ paired with a well-defined ‘why’ in the brand purpose with clients.    

A clear how may include things like:  

  1. Your investment philosophy and approach 
  2. Your organization’s talent, values, and principles  
  3. Signature stories of lasting impact on employees, investors, companies, communities, and ecosystems 

A well-thought-out purpose is:  

  1. Authentic – ties back to what you do 
  2. Inspiring – connects with employees and customers emotionally 
  3. Shared – creates connection and builds community 
  4. Actionable – lived every day 

In Vice Chairman at Prophet David Aaker’s recent book The Future of Purpose-Driven Branding, he outlines the use of inspiring, and mission-driven signature social programs that deploy resources to address the most pressing societal challenges.  One shining example of this is State Street Global Advisors who commissioned the bronze sculpture Fearless Girl overlooking the New York Stock Exchange in anticipation of National Women’s Day.  This serves as a symbol of a part of the organization’s purpose to position on the gender equality gap and reinforces its position on taking an aggressive stance on its expectation that all portfolio companies hold at least one woman on its board.  The organization mentions it is prepared to cast proxy votes against board leaders when companies do not meet their diversity expectations.  

3. Power brand from within using a visible human-centered approach.

It’s hard enough to articulate a clear purpose in the crowded asset management space but even harder to ensure that brand purpose connects meaningfully to people and clients. The brands’ purpose needs to align with prospective talent and customers. Shaping a visible culture plays a critical role in attracting and retaining the best people which in turn garners the attention of clients. Bridgewater Associates famously pioneered a workplace culture relying on truthful and transparent communication dubbed “radical truth and radical transparency” as part of Ray Dalio’s principle-based approach. A human-centered approach involves bridging your brand purpose into a visible culture supported by a strong employee value proposition that:  

  • Articulates what makes your company a strong place to work  
  • Improves winning in the broad talent marketplace 
  • Develops an enhanced foundation to support future and evolving talent needs  

Doing these three things requires building from the organization’s purpose but also driving careful consideration around the Employee Value Proposition and employee experience.  In some recent Prophet qualitative research in the asset management space, we found building a winning EVP requires deliberate care to the employee experience levers talent is looking for beyond compensation, such as:  

  • Autonomy – giving employees the freedom to make decisions that matter to them 
  • Mentorship – surrounding talent with leaders that inspire them 
  • Clarity – on how the organization will value their performance and the capital available to them  
  • Resources – being equipped with the right support to guide decisions and accomplish goals 
  • Innovation – seeing their work and the work of the company evolving toward the future 

4. Revisit architecture, nomenclature, and value propositions.

Increasingly adding incremental investment products and services will raise organizational capabilities with impending M&A in the asset management space compounding that effect. But these new products, services, and areas of focus often get added to the existing array of capabilities that slowly stifle brand and portfolio coherence. Asset managers need to revisit the growing complexity of their investment focuses and develop an architecture and naming strategy that still complies with regulatory requirements but removes friction for both buying and selling offers designed to increase their AUM. Coupling this with strong value propositions that don’t just indicate what investments to provide but also how to pursue those investments in a way that serves to improve investor consideration and demand in addition to improving the ability for advisors to promote their services. The necessity for these services becomes evident when we consider a key finding from BRI, which reveals asset management brands fall short of advantageous relevance drivers that connect to aspects of having a strong brand architecture, use of nomenclature, and/or value propositions resonate with people in meaningful ways:  

  • Emotional resonance (connects with me) 
  • Value alignment (has a set of beliefs and values that align with my own) 
  • Essentiality (I can’t imagine living without).   

5. Experiment to win with experience both internally and externally.

In an industry where both brand and culture follow predictable patterns and a substantial amount of investment follows critical business-as-usual actions around quality reporting, transparency, educational resources, technology, etc., it can be easy for marketing, business development/advisor activities, experience investments, and cultural investments to follow these patterns. Applying a portfolio construction theory to marketing, hiring, and culture investments to experiment with actions that set a brand’s purpose and culture apart can yield huge returns. Asset management company, Vanguard, is famous for owning the retirement space not just for investors but also employees whom they affectionately name their “crew”. The Vanguard Retirement Savings plan for this group offers 4% in matched contributions and an unheard-of 10% company contribution without limit.  

Acknowledgment: The authors would like to thank Prophet Partner Adam Tremblay for his input in creating this article. 


As the asset management industry continues to encounter pressure and consolidation, the asset managers able to revisit the actions that surround their brand(s) to regain relevance and establish coherence will have outsized chances of being considered. Our Prophet team has supported some of the most respected global brands in asset management to better position for growth. If you are looking to grow your brand, connect with our global team of experts today.


Powering Sustainable Growth with Your Brand Engine

The most relevant brands require ongoing maintenance. Prophet’s Brand Engine Model outlines the five levers needed to drive growth.

During a recent assignment for a global automaker, a non-marketer on the client team pulled me aside. A little embarrassed, he asked, “What even is a brand and why does it matter?” Our side conversation spiraled. Is an NFT a brand? A religion? How about IP? Heck, can a person really be a brand? It took me a minute, but I finally got his deeper question: How does brand building lead to growth? 

It’s a question we all – consultants and clients alike – should consider more often. We know brands are valuable, if intangible, assets. While the value of a brand fluctuates by industry, there is no question that it has value. Brand value is calculated in the accounting of every merger and acquisition. While estimating these values is an industry unto itself, we know value derives from many elements – from the organization’s highest leaders to consumers’ interactions and experiences. Brands are valuable because they are a short-cut, a promise– representing a set of functional and emotional expectations. The value of the brand reflects complex understandings, strategies, symbols, and beliefs. 

Most companies understand brand value needs to be nurtured and protected. They are aware of what’s at risk. For most successful organizations, however, a brand is not just an asset. It’s also an engine of growth, powering the next horizon of success.  

For the past eight years, Prophet has surveyed thousands of consumers in our annual brand relevance study to understand which brands are most relevant to their lives. Our research has shown that the most relevant brands, have found ways to build customer loyalty, and ultimately drive more growth. The top-performing brands in our study, have outperformed the S&P 500 by 201% in the last five years.   

To quantify how brands build relevance, we used this research and our years of experience building brands to develop a Brand Engine Model which is powered by five critical components. It’s clear that brand is a critical driver of growth, and all organizations should be constantly building, nurturing and refining their brands or risk losing relevance with their customers. While marketing is often responsible for owning brand, it should not be overlooked across the C-suite as a crucial component towards supporting the business reach its revenue goals.  

Prophet’s Brand Engine Model 

Prophet’s Brand Engine Model
(See full-sized version in your browser)

Building a Powerful Brand Engine 

Ambition: Who are we?  

All engines start with a spark. For brands, that spark is ambition, defining the organizational purpose and role of the brand in value creation. Patagonia’s inimitable “Earth is our only shareholder” commitment sets a high bar. However, businesses as diverse as Nike, USAA and LEGO answer that question in ways that make people’s hearts soar. Every brand must have a well-defined purpose that sets it apart and gives all its stakeholders – customers, employees and shareholders – something to believe. 

Ambition supplies the instructions required to set the engine in motion. Without it, wheels spin, and brands lurch along, but with no velocity.  

Remember my client’s question about whether a person can be a brand? If that were true, that person would clarify ambition by asking, “What do I want to be when I grow up?”  

To set the agenda for ambition, companies need to ask:  

  1. What is our core belief that guides and inspires our actions? 
  2. What needs are we serving in people’s lives? 
  3. What business are we in and how might the brand allow the business to execute on our corporate strategy? 

Ecosystem: Where do we exist?   

The Ecosystem does more than define a frame of reference. It requires a deep understanding of how the brand fits into people’s lives. For both B2B and B2C brands, the ecosystem helps define the competitive landscape. Having a well-articulated ecosystem not only creates a sandbox for brands to own and operate, it also provides an opportunity for strategic and innovative partnerships. Whether it’s Peloton moving into Hilton properties, Calm app paying mental-health fines for tennis players, Gucci partnering with Oura rings or a Spotify playlist following passengers into an Uber, the opportunity for productive partnerships often leads to new revenue streams. 

Ecosystems also function as powerful collaborative areas for companies to build on their employer brand, engaging employees in ways that keep them curious. Google, for example, has famously encouraged its people to devote 20% of their work time to projects in their personal areas of interest. That way, the brand constantly re-invites employees into its incubator-esque way of thinking. 

To set the context for ecosystem, companies need to ask:  

  1. What is the context in which a consumer experiences a brand (e.g., depending on pre-existing biases, situational relevance, or physical environment)?  
  2. How does the brand(s) fit into consumers’ lives, relative to the other brands that they regularly interact with?  
  3. How should we organize our own architecture and relationships to optimize navigation, understanding, and brand equity building?  
  4. What brands do we want to be associated with (e.g., deliberate partnerships or inadvertent association)? 

Expression: How do we show up?  

To many, this component is classic branding. It tells a powerful story through an authentic, cohesive look, sound and feel. It is a way to create excitement across touchpoints. And it includes all the more common things associated with branding, from logo to commercial to content. Of all the engine components, it is often the most closely bound to strategy. While Apple and BMW do many things right, they are routinely flawless in this dimension. 

While this component feels classic, its importance should not be overlooked. When heritage brands refresh their visual identities it’s big news. Consumers and employees find comfort and build attachments to brands they feel deep loyalty to. From UGG to JetBlue, we’ve seen brands maneuver expression both expertly and not so expertly.   

To align a path forward for expression, companies need to ask:  

  1. How do we use our visual identity, voice, messaging strategy, and other signature stories to tap into the underlying human truths/emotions from our Ambition? 
  2. How might we use our visual identity, voice & messaging, and other stories to drive awareness, interest, and engagement? 
  3. How can, and should, we feel and sound distinct in-market to stand out from competitive brands and drive an ownable position? 

Experience: How do we engage?  

At every touchpoint, even if it’s beyond a company’s control, people form a perception of the brand. Experiences can deliver unique moments, using those perceptions to deepen relationships. 

Companies have come a long way in acknowledging the importance of experience but continue to under-invest in it. That neglect shows. One major study shows customer experience is plummeting, falling 20% last year. And one in five companies says they plan to eliminate CX.  

The best brands constantly think of both the owned and the un-owned touchpoints, curing problems and allowing the brand to flourish. UGG, for example, leans hard on diverse influencers with activations at music and film festivals. Lululemon creates thousands of store-as-community-hub events, partners with meditation organizations and hosts women-friendly road races. Jeep owners love the tradition of the `Jeep Wave,’ enthusiastically calculating their place in the ranking hierarchy before flashing the sign. 

To set the stage for experience, companies need to ask:  

  1. How should the experiences that we design make our customers or users feel (e.g., de-cluttered, inspired, appreciated), in a way that ties back to our core human truths defined in Ambition? 
  2. How can we make the lives of our customers/users easier? 
  3. How might our set of experiences serve as a revenue platform through efficient, digital-first channels?  
  4. How might these service channels drive long-term loyalty and stickiness? 

Intelligence and Measurement: Are we moving in the right direction?  

More than ever, marketers are being asked to prove their value and show business results. Applying intelligence and measurement allows for demonstrating success but it also enables quick optimizations to deliver better outcomes. It keeps the finger on the pulse of audiences. Virtually all marketers know this, yet many don’t yet have the tools and capabilities in place to harness their data to maximize output.  

Companies that spend the most on measurement and insights are among the world’s fastest-growing. Dove, for example, owned by Unilever, never stops mining its years of social-media success for insights about core users. Its latest hit is the #TurnYourBack campaign, encouraging people to shun TikTok’s unrealistic beauty standards, earning close to 800 million impressions. 

And McDonald’s extensive investments in ongoing customer research shape every menu tweak and new promotion, following people’s fast-changing perspectives on everything from which beef is healthiest, plant-based alternatives and Grimace’s return to glory. 

To set the limits for intelligence and measurement, companies need to ask:  

  1. What equities does our brand have with audiences, and how have these shifted?  
  2. How well are we serving their emotional and functional needs? 
  3. How are different parts of our business performing and how might our brand better serve our engagement and customers? 

Ultimately, the quality of execution across all five components drives brand value, transformation and growth. But no two engines are the same. Some brands might invest more resources in expression, others in experience. Pepsi isn’t the same as Pinterest. But a carefully calibrated brand engine can change gears as context shifts and unforeseen events happen. And with equilibrium, brands grow into de-risked, agile engines of growth.  


Every brand is an engine. When companies are willing to turn them on, fine-tuning and optimizing as they go, they move into the fast lane. They gain traction, passing competitors. They become an explosive source of uncommon growth and transformation. 

To learn more about creating relevant brands that drive growth, contact our team today. 


Building Human-Centered Brand Relevance Is Key to the Success of B2B Companies: A Case Study of G7 Connect 

How can B2B brands create relevance by appealing to both the “head” and the “heart” of consumers? 

Since 2016, Prophet has released our annual report brand relevance report, The 2023 Relentlessly Relevant Brands report to understand how brands become indispensable and stand the test of time by being relentlessly relevant. This year, we surveyed 11,500 consumers and found that brand relevance has become more important than ever. For the first time since the pandemic, consumers are prioritizing “heart-hitting” attributes in brands and are more willing to engage with brands that offer meaningful connections. This is a notable shift from prioritizing attributes that appeal more to their “head”, such as functional factors and cost-effectiveness. Both categories remain important and the most relevant brands find ways to win with both.   

When helping clients strengthen their brand relevance, we often hear the question, “What role do ‘head’ and ‘heart’ attributes play in building brands across different industries? Are ‘heart’ attributes less important for B2B companies as they are not directly engaged with end consumers?” This is a common pitfall. Indeed when catering to different customers, companies should take tailored approaches to building brand relevance. However, both “head” and “heart” attributes should hold equal significance for all companies, regardless of whether they are B2B or B2C.  

In this article, we highlight a recent client story of how we helped to build a B2B brand to create relevance by appealing to both the “head” and the “heart.” 

G7 Connect: The Hidden Hero in Road Freight 

Today’s consumers are accustomed to the convenience of online shopping and modern logistics, thanks to the advancement of digital technologies. However, express delivery is just a small part of the logistics industry, of which every aspect has yet to be transformed digitally. “Sweat logistics” is a term often used to describe freight, the most conventional business model in the industry that still dominates the bottom of the logistics food chain. It is a sector burdened by overloaded trucks, sleep-deprived drivers and inefficient management and processes. Many freight operators lack a clear understanding of how digital technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and SaaS can benefit the logistics business. 

G7 Connect is a leader in IoT SaaS technologies for road freight in China. For 28 years, it has been committed to advancing China’s entire logistics industry through technological innovations based on IoT, big data and AI. As a B2B company, G7 Connect caters to a wide group of audiences with extremely different backgrounds and needs, from regular truckers to small-to-medium-sized freight operators and senior executives of key consignors. For truckers, their needs are quite simple – they hope to drive safely every day and be paid fairly for their work. For shipping companies and freight operators, they need to consider the safety of their people, vehicles and goods; they care about reducing costs and improving efficiency across each aspect and look forward to unleashing higher productivity through new technologies. For business leaders at consignors, they wish to strengthen their control over the logistics process like warehousing and freight. 

Rooted in “Head” and Inspired by “Heart” – Building Brand Relevance That Speaks to Diverse Audiences  

Our biggest challenge when developing the brand strategy for G7 Connect was balancing the expectations of its different audiences – it was crucial to highlight the value that IoT SaaS technologies can bring in a simplistic and intuitive way. In this regard, appealing to the “heart” is just as critical as the “head”. As G7 Connect’s customers come from different professions and backgrounds, they also have distinctively unique functional needs (“head” attributes). However, each customer is a human first and foremost – a living participant in the logistics industry. Therefore, it is easier for us to identify their shared emotional needs (“heart” attributes). 

Through a human-centered approach, the Prophet team conducted extensive interviews with G7 Connect’s different customer groups and its customer-facing employees to better understand their needs and expectations. Based on our findings, we developed a refreshed brand purpose to appeal to its customers’ hearts. We created an impactful brand tagline, “Beautiful change happens now” to encapsulate G7 Connect’s commitment to continuously creating positive changes for all industry participants through digital technology. Moreover, we further clarified the core competitive strengths of G7 Connect’s offerings and capabilities as brand principles, reinforcing its differentiated advantages through “head” attributes. 

G7 Connect officially launched its new brand strategy and identity in the spring of 2023. Since then, a range of brand implementation initiatives have been quickly put in place. For example, the company’s annual “advanced freight operator conference” was given a universally resonating theme, “Connecting the Beautiful”. The conference also focused on deepening the understanding of G7 Connect’s core functional strengths by highlighting many of its leading products, from visible processes, refined cost management and secure algorithms to external partnerships. Moreover, by showcasing warm, authentic client stories rich with photography and testimonials throughout its communications, G7 Connect has demonstrated how it is delivering “beautiful changes” to every industry participant through comprehensive digital logistics products and services. 


For B2B brands, the power of appealing to the “heart” should not be underestimated. By creating an authentic brand purpose anchored on shared emotional needs, companies can strike chords and create connections with vast audiences in a more intuitive way. When the brand resonates with its customers, they will be more interested in learning what the brand offers and why it is better, thus eventually deepening their trust in the brand’s functional benefits (“head” attributes) as well. 


Why Do Only Some Social Media Brands Inspire?

Relentlessly relevant brands find ways to drive connection – see how social media brands are succeeding and struggling.

Each year Prophet surveys thousands of U.S. consumers about brands that are most relevant in their lives. The 2023 Relentlessly Relevant Brands report shows the brand relevance of more than 250 brands using data from those familiar with them. Analyzing the results from different perspectives yields provocative findings. This year we decided to take a close look at seven of the major social media brands on the “makes me feel inspired” survey question. Many people are impacted by social media brands in some way on a daily basis. We also decided to dissect this angle in part because the pinnacle of a brand connection is to be inspiring. We found an interesting dichotomy. The brands either fell into a clear high or low inspiring grouping. 

Social Media Brands That Inspire 

The high group included YouTube and TikTok, which were in the top 8%, and Pinterest was in the top 1% in the sample of 257 brands. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and WhatsApp, in sharp contrast, were in the lowest 20%.   

Each brand has its own story, which is interesting and insightful. It is hard to generalize, but it seems true that the high group has coolness, momentum and a superior ability to gain engagement in competition with those in the low group. Let’s take a closer look. 

The inspiration level at Pinterest is amazing and worth exploring. Why? First, it is user personalized—content relevant to a person, for example, can be pinned to their own board. There are also niche communities so that ideas can be shared around common topics. Second, the experience is visual, easy to use and inspiring. The user gets to discover high-quality images and use a search tool to find others. Third, the experience is enriched by having e-commerce opportunities embedded. 

The characteristics of the other two high group members are of interest as well. TikTok has short-video content that satisfies people’s attention span and is entertaining, discoverable and sharable with the possibility that any one spot could go viral. It has a user-friendly interface with creative tools and effects to enhance and customize videos that attract top talent. YouTube is convenient, assessable, and has vast user-generated content all of which attracts content creators and audience members. It offers high-quality educational, novel, entertaining and provocative content which means every person will find something that appeals to them. The AI algorithm is advanced; you are served up content that you will like. 

Social Media Brands Lacking Inspiration 

The lower four brands are not judged in isolation. They can slip by simply being “not as good as” the big three. But individually they each have issues that are not easy to deal with. 

Facebook has been battling negative public perception with respect to privacy and misinformation, fake news, and generally harmful or inappropriate content. This has spread into the political realm and has been amplified by polarizing attitudes. For the younger audience, the appeal of alternatives is a factor. 

Twitter has a character limit that can be limiting next to alternatives and suggests a lack of content. It is associated with cyberbullying, trolling and frenetic overuse among the young. Twitter has also received critical media coverage for its acquisition by Elon Musk and his controversial views and his decision to sharply downsize the staff. 

Snapchat has an interface that is harder to use than competitors. It is aimed at younger users where TikTok has made inroads. While disappearing content has plusses, it can be inconvenient especially if it is the preferred social media vehicle for a person. Their story is interesting because Snapchat was a breakthrough brand at the time of launch (almost like a fad), but other social media brands have replicated their unique features making them easily replaceable and relevant among the core user base who now tend to prefer TikTok. 

Because WhatsApp was acquired by Meta, concerns about privacy, data sharing and the potential appearance of targeted advertising have become visible. It is dependent on an internet connection and requires a valid phone number, which some are uncomfortable giving up. Because of their end-to-end encryption, it can be hard to control false information. Finally, it can consume significant storage space on devices. However, even with these limitations, WhatsApp continues to be the most popular messaging app with more than 2 billion global users and may offer Meta an opportunity to reverse some of their negative in-market perceptions.  


Having a brand that inspires usually means that an exceptionally strong brand relationship has been established. Inspiration is associated with having momentum in the marketplace, an engaging offering that is unique, self-expressive benefits and an absence of negatives. Want to learn more about the most relevant brands in the U.S. Download the Relentlessly Relevant Brands report today. 


Bringing Trust Back to Barclays: When a Strong Social Purpose Pays Off 

Not all brands create purpose-led products. Winning in the purpose era sometimes means using branded signature social programs.

There is a general acceptance that an organization’s effective social effort should also boost business, but many suggest that the route to winning in the purpose era is by directly helping society through efforts like manufacturing wind turbines, distributing healthy food or saving costs from reduced energy use. The problem is that few companies make wind turbines or offer organic food, and energy use goals over time become less and less dramatic in part because incremental progress gets harder.  

An alternative is to use branded signature social programs, whether internal or through a partnership with an external nonprofit, to advance the brand driving the business by providing energy and visibility, an image lift, and engagement opportunities for employees and other stakeholders.  

A reasonable question that comes to mind—can a signature program truly help a business that may not be closely related to the program? There is research in psychology and elsewhere that supports the belief that elements of an admired social program can affect the perception and liking for the sponsoring brand. However, more definitive and rare evidence comes from brands that have demonstrated the impact of a signature social program on a brand in the field. An example is Barclays, that conducted what is termed a “before-after: experiment,” where relevant measures such as perceived trust are taken before the “treatment,” in this case the communication of stories around new social programs and compared to those same measures after.  

Barclays is a role model for how to use branded signature social programs to regain trust, a key brand dimension in the financial services industry. The Barclays brand was damaged by the 2008 financial crisis with accusations that Barclays had manipulated key interest rates. In 2012, the trust level for Barclays in the United Kingdom was well below that of its competitors despite several years of PR and advertising arguing that the “new” Barclays should be trusted. It is not a stretch to conclude that Barclays was one of the least trusted brands in a heavily mistrusted sector in the U.K., Needing a restart, Barclays created a new brand purpose: “Helping people achieve their ambitions—in the right way.”    

The 140,000-employee base was encouraged to create programs responsive to the new purpose. Dozens of programs emerged. The Digital Eagles was created by a 17-person employee group (a decade later the team had grown to 17,000 employees) with a mission to teach the public, especially the older cohort, about surviving and even thriving in the digital world. Stories about how the Digital Eagles and other programs affected real people helped shine a light on the social purpose initiatives at Barclays. 

One story featured Steve Rich, a sports development officer, who had lost his ability to play football (soccer to Americans) because of a car accident. However, he could participate in “walking football”—usually played with a six-person team on a small field with no running—and again experience the joy of the sport. Wanting to help others do the same, he decided to raise awareness of walking football and turn it into a nationwide game in Britain. With the help of the Digital Eagles, Rich created a website that linked over 400 teams across the country and connected individuals with teams. It was partly responsible for the growing interest the sport has generated, the emergence of a national tournament, and the ability of people to connect with former football mates. His accomplishments and personal regeneration are inspiring indeed. 

Employees were inspired and energized by the programs driven by Barclay’s new higher purpose. And customers and prospective customers changed their perceptions of the brand (as reported by the Edelman Financial Trust Barometer for 2014 summarized in the WARC Study noted above). Two years after the emergence of the signature stories, such as those involving the Digital Eagles, trust in Barclays was up 33%, consideration was up 130%, the emotional connection was up 35% (versus 5% for the category average) and “reassurance that your finances are secure” was up 46%. The new campaign drove six times as much change in trust and five times as much change in consideration as the descriptive “this is the new Barclays” campaign that preceded it. In addition, Barclays received 5,000 positive mentions in the press.  

Barclays vividly demonstrates that a signature social program such as the Digital Eagles can lift a brand and is uniquely capable of doing so. There is little doubt that a sharp increase in trust and consideration means an increase in loyalty and even the size of the customer base. Barclays explicitly observes in the 2021 Barclays PLC Strategic Report that offering a complete menu of services to customers is dependent on the earned trust attached to the Barclays brand. The further implication is the Digital Eagles will be supported over decades because its impact on the Barclays brand makes the program a business asset.  


In the purpose era, trust is an even more valued attribute and, when lost, it is hard to earn back. Barclays demonstrates that communicating different intentions and programs does not move the trust needle. But the right social purpose and program such as the Digital Eagles told with emotional stories can climb the hill.  


Don’t Ignore Brand During the Banking M&A Riptide 

The next M&A banking wave may be upon us.  What can be learned from past integrations where brand was left in a suboptimal place? 

While there is no crystal ball, slow economic growth and an inverted yield curve continue as headwinds for the banking industry. Both have already exposed vulnerabilities of large regional banks like Silicon Valley and Signature Bank, as well as G-SIBs such as UBS and Credit Suisse. While the speculated wave of consolidation may be overblown, there will no doubt be M&A activity during the foreseeable, uncertain future.   

HBR continues to cite that between 70-90% of acquisitions fail. In addition, MIT Sloan studied 200+ M&As with values exceeding $250M during a 10+ year period starting in 1995 and learned that in nearly two-thirds of those deals, brand strategy was deemed to have a low to moderate influence in pre-merger discussions. This approach leads to the new identity or identities post-merger in a suboptimal place with limited clarity and often stems from a gap in brand expertise during the M&A process and following.  

Specifically, we see five common mistakes related to brand that hinders speculated growth performance and increase costs during and post-acquisition:  

  1. The deal strategy undervalues customer upside and risks: To complete a fully informed financial forecast, due diligence must quantify current and future demand, change tolerance and emerging customer requirements. 
  2. There is limited understanding of purchased brand assets: For a truly shared optimized portfolio post M&A, companies must understand how all brand assets work to drive choice, revenue, and pricing power. 
  3. Integration teams have a narrow framing as primarily a “re-branding” effort: M&A presents a rare, point-in-time opportunity to articulate a new corporate narrative, upgrade customer perceptions and drive lasting cultural change within the organization.  
  4. Integration planning without a go-to-market plan to win: Integration priorities should pair synergy plans with growth moves: product, service and experience innovation to drive growth through the new asset base. 
  5. The new enterprise under-leverages culture and employee engagement: Successfully informing, engaging and enabling employees BEFORE launching externally is critical to retaining human capital and driving cultural engagement. 

As inevitable market forces drive sustained or increased M&A in the banking industry, new and exciting opportunities emerge. Here are three practical things to consider that relate to your brand (and business) during M&A:  

  1. Consider customer context early and often: Ensure all functional discussions include conversations around customer impact and set a precedent that addressing the customer impact and experience is a priority. This is especially true at retail banks, often built around specialized customer focuses or geographic footprints with entrenched identities.  
  2. Evaluate the value and values of brand assets to guide the right transition plan: Typically, fewer stronger brands win out in banking. While long-term efficiencies exist for consolidating brands, careful work must be done to explore different end-states and migration scenarios. Perform the right evaluation ahead not just to understand the brand’s value, but also the inherent values the brand holds, and the customer perception to guide the right transition plan in context.  
  3. Discover or rediscover purpose and power it through culture from within: Banking consolidation done wrong can feel like a mismatched transformer coming together with messy operating model discussions and integration cadences that unfold over time. This can be especially distancing for distributed employees working in branches or regional offices closest to the customer. Investing early in the process to better understand and sharpen a combined new culture with a more meaningful purpose can serve as a North Star for smoother and more engaged integration.  


Despite certain leading indicators, it will be hard to predict exactly what will happen with M&A in the banking sector. However, we can learn from the past in some capacity through the diligence and integration process to better predict the future, learning about the importance of brand as a critical consideration in the process.  

For more information on capturing greater brand and marketing value through M&A, please contact us today. 


A Writer’s Predictions on AI-Assisted Writing

Prophet’s verbal experts share their POV on four trends we anticipate for AI and its future role in content development.

AI takeovers have long been our dystopian fantasy. Except we imagined something more apocalyptic, with explosions, volcanic skies and scarce resources, and the whole thing would be directed by Michael Bay. To our imagination’s dismay, the integration of AI into daily life has been pretty drama-free, taking on tedious tasks like filling in payment details, scheduling, and drafting texts.  

But when ChatGPT showed up, boasting its domination over the written word, writers had questions:  

What will happen to our jobs? What about the sanctity of writing as a labor of love? Is writing really writing if it’s developed by AI? 

While it’s fair to believe AI is overstepping, we also know this is just the beginning. With so much technology of the future already in motion, we can’t deny that a new era for writing, communicating, and knowledge sharing has arrived. Sure, it will take some getting used to, but we’re starting to come around to the possibilities AI presents for writers.  

Kevin Kelly, founding executive editor of Wired magazine and author of The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 technological forces that will shape our future writes: “This is not a race against the machines. If we race against them, we lose. This is a race with machines. You’ll be paid in the future based on how well you work with robots … It is inevitable. Let the robots take our jobs and let them help us dream up new work that matters.”  

Let’s not forget, we’ve been in this situation before: just like typewriters made way for laptops, and typing made way for audio recording, ML and AI will surely help professional writers become more prolific, discerning, and original over time. It might even help aspiring writers gain the confidence they need to get started. 

We’re eager to see what these tools are capable of, and below are four trends we anticipate in the coming months and years: 

From Content Creation to Content Curation 

As AI continues to take on the bulk of content creation, more people will be inspired to distill, edit and provide commentary on existing content. Content creators will eventually be succeeded by content curators. Similarly, strategists, editors, and commentators will become the creative forces brands and media outlets seek as they strive to keep up with the demand for niche and personalized content.  

Podcasting and video will also continue to reign since they provide authentic, undeniably human content built on connection and collaboration.  

Still, employers will need people to operate and monitor AI writing tools, which will naturally position AI prompting, co-writing, and editing as core competencies for employees in communication fields. In the same way that SEO writing matured into a core competency, employers will expect their staff to upskill, and seek employees who can use AI writing tools effectively.  

A Reinvigorated Emphasis on the Craft of Writing  

It’s no secret that the line between writer, content creator, and a guy with a Twitter account has all but disappeared over the last 15 years. AI will exacerbate that issue by enabling people to publish under-developed work faster.  

Fortunately, that will make fresh, high-quality content more valuable and easier to spot. We’ll see more recognition for human-derived work by way of badges next to author profiles—think the esteemed “verified” checkmark used on platforms like Spotify and Instagram. As these new hierarchies of quality become the norm, top-tier writers with the appropriate credentials will be celebrated simply by writing without the help of AI.    

Though, as we continue to explore the power and potential of systems like ChatGPT, we should also remind ourselves of their limitations. For example, ChatGPT is branded as AI, but it’s actually a machine learning (ML) tool operating through algorithms that mimic human intelligence. While it’s mostly impressive, it’s not sentient—and it’s not going to replace human writers any time soon. However, writers should still be actively looking for ways to welcome its assistance in their work. 

Marketers will Happily Delegate Information Gathering to Focus on Creativity and Strategy

With platforms claiming the ability to produce creative company names instantly, many marketers, brand builders and creatives understandably met the launch of ChatGPT with trepidation.  

At first, it felt like a threat to the very nature of the creative process. If it were true that AI could produce original work in a fraction of the time, would naming specialists have any hope for a secure professional future? Fortunately, it only takes a few queries within ChatGPT for that fear to subside. The platform cannot yet replicate the art of persuasive copywriting or effective naming. Sure, it’s fast, but it’s not creative.  

We, however, can take advantage of its superior productivity skills. As we well know, the brainstorming process begins with a clearing of the obvious or “bad” ideas. ChatGPT can help us surface and trash those ideas faster, freeing us to dig deeper, explore new avenues of inspiration and test unexpected executions. Essentially, we can build off what AI can deliver as a first step and springboard to something more distinctly human and original.  

Apprehensive Publications will (Eventually) Come Around 

Despite the current debate on whether to publish or recognize AI-assisted content in any capacity, eventually, we will award work partially written by AI.   

Not convinced? Look at the self-publishing industry. Self-published books, articles, and essays were wholly regarded as less than for years. Self-published writers were pariahs because they didn’t jump through the same institutional hoops as the “real” writers before them. Once thousands of self-published writers found their audiences and made a living doing what they loved, criticism subsided. Public figures shared their work on sites like Medium. Global sensations like EL James (50 Shades of Grey) and Robert Kiyosaki (Rich Dad, Poor Dad) and even some of Margaret Atwood’s early works were self-published. Self-publishing became a welcome professional trajectory. 

It’s of course ironic that with ChatGPT, self-publishing platforms are the ones playing gatekeepers. Medium, Amazon KDB, and Substack are among the publications that have shared formal statements regarding AI regulation, like this one from Data Science: 

“We’re committed to publishing work by human authors only, and we don’t—and won’t—accept posts written in whole or in part by AI tools.”

Data Science

Writers who respect the craft and want to see it upheld at their preferred publications will continue to push for better regulatory practices. Others will celebrate the new possibilities of AI-generated content, advocating for its necessity in today’s content-driven world. Medium is one such publication:  

“We welcome the responsible use of AI-assistive technology on Medium. To promote transparency, and help set reader expectations, we require that any story created with AI assistance be clearly labeled as such.”


Over time, the passionate opposition to AI-assisted writing will fade, and we’ll find a place for it in the hierarchy of writing quality. Soon, AI-assisted writing will become as commonplace as publishing your debut novel on Amazon.  


As AI writing tools like ChatGPT continue to mature, people will continue to explore its role in art, culture, content and communication. Though these tools currently present as many pitfalls as possibilities, in time we’ll find this technology will help us shift into a new era as writers, thinkers and collaborators.   


Defining a Higher Purpose to Build Brands of the Future: A Conversation with David Aaker on His 18th Book 

Prophet experts discuss how to build future-ready purpose-driven brands.

Prophet’s vice chairman and branding expert, David Aaker, has launched his latest book, “The Future of Purpose-Driven Branding: Signature Programs that Impact & Inspire Both Business and Society.” Following his recent books on portfolio strategy and the creation of a winning sub-category, David’s 18th book discusses how organizations can build lasting purpose through the creation of social programs. We sat down with David and Cecilia Huang, a partner at Prophet, to dive into some of the themes and insights mentioned in his newest book and their implications for brands in China.  

Why did you make this the theme of your 18th book? What are the leading market trends you see that indicate brands are becoming more purpose-driven? 

David Aaker: A dominant force is the fact that employees, especially the younger cohort, want more out of their professional life than increasing profits or even building insanely great products. They want to be proud of their firm’s efforts to make society better. Some customers also want to connect with firms that inspire with their social programs. Another factor is that social problems like climate change and inequality are so visible and so serious that the help of businesses is needed. Government cannot do it all. Finally, social programs can give energy and an image lift to businesses, which is sorely needed. 

Cecilia Huang: I’ve found these themes to be especially poignant in the China market as well. A survey among young people showed that 79% of the respondents felt the urgency to take action to build a better tomorrow. In turn, they also show appreciation towards brands that give back. For instance, the sportswear brand Erke gained significant popularity overnight among young consumers thanks to its generous donation pledge in response to the Henan flood in 2021.  

In addition, like their global counterparts, many young Chinese professionals who have started their first jobs begin to evaluate whether the potential employer’s values and culture align with their own before fully committing to the opportunity. How to internalize and motivate employees with a higher purpose has become a key challenge for today’s businesses. Thus, defining a compelling and effective purpose is paramount for every organization and will have a profound impact on the business inside and out.   

How should companies find a purpose that’s meaningful and differentiated? 

DA: A purpose that encourages social programs and creates a supportive culture can be very helpful in explaining to employees and others that the business cares about helping society with the serious issues and problems it faces. It is critical to show commitment to the effort by the CEO and other leaders. It is the organizational culture, beliefs, values, priorities, behavior and management styles that determine how the organization and its employees view and act on issues and options that come before them. A well-thought-out purpose can play a key role. 

Sometimes a business purpose is broad enough to include social programs. For example, CVS Health is about “Helping people on the path to better health”. This guides its business but also provides a home and a direction for its social programs. Tencent promises in its mission to create “Value for Users, Tech for Good,” which is incorporated into its ESG programs. Some of its key focuses include improving the accessibility of technology for elders and promoting scientific innovations through the Xplorer Prize.  

However, in most cases, companies need to develop a social purpose that is separate from a business purpose. A business purpose (or value proposition) can guide and communicate the business model and operation. The social purpose can then focus on the type of social objectives that the business has created. When unconstrained, both can be free to be more complete, more forceful and more credible. They should be complementary, even overlapping, and have staff and programs that interact and even intertwine. 

CH: It is also wise for companies to consider the shared values unique to the local culture and social context. In China, people strive to live a better life – to eliminate poverty and create opportunities for everyone. Therefore, consumers expect businesses to think beyond just “donating money” and get involved by devoting their capabilities and resources to solving societal issues. This can be done through a commitment to infrastructure developments, or by creating open platforms that empower the people.   

We had the pleasure to interview Xin Yi Lim, the executive director of sustainability and agricultural impact at Pinduoduo, and were deeply inspired by the tech leader’s sincere commitment to driving agri-tech innovation and empowering farmers. Another great example from China is Baixiang Food. Earlier last year, it was reported on social media that one-third of Baixiang Food’s employees were disabled, winning the struggling company enormous support.  

What is the role of the signature social program?

DA: With the purpose in place, there are three strategic thrusts or action plans (Figure 1) that will represent the future for firms that strive to move beyond being relevant to being in a leadership position in the purpose-driven age.  

  • Attack society challenges with signature social programs that have inspiring, credible brands.  
  • Integrate the signature social program into a business  
  • Build inspiring, credible signature social brands  

A branded signature social program is needed to represent a social purpose and to impact a visible social need. The brand is critical because it guides, inspires and communicates. Without a branded signature program, the “social effort” tends to be grants, volunteers and energy goals. These often also tend to be unfocused, hard to communicate and the same as other firms.   

The signature program should also elevate the business brand—adding visibility and energy, an image lift and opportunities for employees and others to be engaged through volunteering. When that happens, the program benefits as well gaining an endorsement and access to resources including volunteers and a communication budget. It is a win-win. 

Salesforce, for example, has a signature program called the Pledge 1% in which it devotes 1% of the company’s equity or profits, 1% of products and 1% of employees’ time to society’s good. The program, which was put in place at the launch of the firm by Marc Benioff, now has over 10,000 companies that have joined worldwide. The result is a point of pride for employees and an amazing image lift for Salesforce, especially among those 10,000 firms that have signed on. In the words of March Benioff, “It’s time for a new capitalism — a more fair, equal, and sustainable capitalism that actually works for everyone…”   

 For all this to work, the signature program needs to have a strong brand, a brand with high visibility, a respected image and employees and customers that are engaged. Some paths to brand strength are to form brand communities, create signature stories and to brand your unique appeals or attributes. 

How should international brands adapt and evolve their purpose across different regions, given there might be different social challenges?

DA: Unilever’s Lifebuoy sets a great example of adapting its social purpose for different countries. Lifebuoy was introduced in 1894 as a hygiene hand soap to fight cholera. Drawing on this legacy purpose, it developed the “Help a Child Reach 5” program of improved handwashing in areas without clean water. It has since reached its target to help more than one billion people across the world develop good handwashing habits.  

By collaborating with different NGOs and responding to specific problems unique to different places, Lifebuoy has set up different programs around the world. Its largest programs in Indonesia and Vietnam are a great example, which work in partnership with government organizations to reach mothers with hygiene education. In some of the poorest countries across Asia and Africa where people are at risk of trachoma, a preventable blindness, it has partnered with NGO Sightsavers to adapt schools’ handwashing program to include face washing. When communicating its social programs, Lifebuoy also takes into consideration different local cultures and carefully designs its stories in the most compelling way. One of Lifebuoy’s most moving films tells a story about a young couple’s interactions around a tree. It was later revealed that the tree represents the couple’s lost son, as it is an Indonesian tradition to plant a tree for every child that is born for their health and prosperity.  

CH: It is also important for companies to identify a social purpose that’s anchored in universal values. Brand purposes spawned by these shared values are the most authentic and resonant and are easy to amplify among vast audiences. International brands can define a higher-level purpose that’s rooted in one or two of these shared values and then translate it into more concrete social programs based on the unique cultures of different regions.   


In order to articulate complex social themes, storytelling is key. And social programs are rich sources of emotional stories that connect. Creating signature programs that inspire employees, customers and society at large is key to building purpose-driven branding that is meaningful, impactful and lasting.  

You can contact David Aaker here to interview him for your next podcast or article.   

Contact Prophet today to see how signature programs and purpose-driven branding can be a part of your company’s broader ESG strategy. 


Six 2023 Leadership Trends That Will Reshape the C-Suite

Profits, politics and planning will look very different in the months ahead.

The last few years have proven that disruption is the only “normal” in business. The world is still slogging through seismic plot twists of the previous few years, making inflation, supply chains, Ukraine and hybrid workplaces a critical topic on virtually every corporate agenda.   

While most forecasts call for nothing but grey skies, we disagree. History shows that periods of economic uncertainty heighten innovation and lead to new products, services and business models. After all, companies like General Motors, Microsoft and Electronic Arts formed during recessionary times.  

In 2023 we expect to see new ideas and products emerge from the rubble of disruption we’ve experienced on a global scale. But to get there, c-suite leaders will need to rethink how they lead their organizations.   

We expect the most successful c-suite leaders to lean into these six key leadership trends in the coming year.  

1. Productivity Improvements Will be a Critical Path to Profitability   

Over the last few years, a handful of digitally native organizations have chosen growth over profitability and had ample investors who were happy to take risks on future opportunities.    

Rising interest rates have ended that party. And as a result, investors are pressuring companies to continue to grow and make money or at least commit to concrete paths to profitability.   

Throughout the second half of 2022, many organizations abruptly shifted their focus from growth at all costs, even if that meant risking profitability, to achieving profitability by cost-cutting measures. 

 And while some companies may need to lean into cost-cutting efforts in 2023, more c-suite leaders will look to enhancing productivity within their workforce to achieve sustainable growth and profitability. For these leaders, the productivity improvements will come from technology, data and analytics.  

2. Balancing Short-Term and Future-Back Planning to Drive Sustainable Growth  

Long-term planning will always be a core component of business strategy. But the upheaval of the last few years has made it painfully clear that companies need to speed up the journey from thinking to doing. And that means integrating quick wins with future vision, so that the results you drive today do not hinder your long-term progress. 

Take, for example, Disney’s recent decision to increase prices for park admissions, annual passes and vacation clubs. This decision infuriated loyal Disney fans, who accused the company of price gouging. While the company may have achieved a quick win from this plan, the long-term effects of the decision may slow Disney’s progress toward its vision.  

In 2023, c-suite leaders will need to carefully balance short-term and future-back planning:  

  • Short-term planning: This type of planning requires leaders to think and make at the same time. Risks are reduced with small bets to show progress quickly. Using data and behavioral insights, companies can identify things they know, which they can execute now. They can also explore what they think they know with new and near-term concepts. And those efforts will inform what they think, allowing them to hypothesize, and validate along the way.
  • Future-back planning: This approach is about creating predictive models of the future, nine years or more out, to model the probable and preferable future. Which levers should a company pull to get there? Might they do better to build, buy or partner? It considers complex elements, such as politics and socioeconomic shifts, so leaders can confidently see where the business fits in the future and the immediate steps they need to take to get there.    

C-suite leaders who successfully lean into this leadership trend will be well-positioned to achieve immediate wins while also investing in the future of their organizations.   

3. Purposeful Data-Driven Decision-Making Will Reduce Risks   

Data-driven decision-making is critical to increasing confidence and reducing risks. And while that’s been true for decades, more and more companies realize they may have too much historical data and need more predictive data to better inform their decisions. As a result, many executives are making different demands of their AI and analytics teams, aiming to sharpen their business strategy.   

But being data-driven in your decision-making is only one part of the equation. During times of uncertainty, it’s essential to be purposeful in utilizing data to inform your decision-making.   

Amazon has long aced this approach, using analytics to evaluate whether a decision is a one-way-door or a two-way-door.    

Two-way-door decisions are safer and relatively easy decisions to reverse. For example, if the pricing strategy for a new service is hindering performance, it is possible to right-size and reposition the offering or pricing strategy.    

One-way door decisions are more complex, nearly impossible to undo, and require rigorous scrutiny. For instance, a company that misjudges the demand for a product or service has no opportunity to take that decision back. These decisions require rigor and high confidence levels that predictive data modeling can provide.    

In constrained business environments, risky decision-making can be detrimental to the success of your organization, which is why it is more critical than ever to understand the true impact of the decision and be purposeful in how you evaluate the opportunity.   

4. Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Regulations Will Require Businesses to Rethink Their Global Approach 

There was a time when everyone building a global business and a global brand thought they could have one approach that would work across different countries: One operating model. One brand positioning. One value proposition. That time is over. Every country has divergent priorities, consumers and governments requiring differentiated business strategies.   

Consider the increase in ESG regulations that have surfaced globally. For example, the European Union (EU) recently passed the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD). This new directive will soon require large companies that meet specific requirements or are listed on EU-regulated markets to disclose environmental and social metrics across their supply chains. It will also hold these companies legally responsible for their ESG commitments. To meet CSRD targets, large companies doing business in the EU will have to rethink their supply chains and operations and their entire value chain from product and service design to business models and innovation.   

And in the U.S., the Securities and Exchange Commission’s new proposed rule amendments will require domestic and foreign companies to disclose climate-related risks, governance of climate-related risks, greenhouse gas emissions, climate-related financial statement metrics, and information about climate-related targets and goals.  

Global businesses need to ditch their one-size-fits-all approach to international expansion to meet evolving government regulations and consumer preferences. Instead, these companies will need to find new innovative ways to tailor their brands, business strategies and operations to meet the diverse needs of each market. 

5. New Models of Production Will Unlock Sustainability, Efficiency and Customer Intimacy   

The era of mass production may be ending right in front of our eyes. As a result, we’re seeing a new leadership trend emerge from the c-suite: decentralization. Not only is this a solution for the supply chain challenges it is also a more sustainable and efficient way to impact local communities.    

Many leaders also realize that decentralization can get their products into the hands of their customers in a quicker and more sustainable way. Localized production also allows for co-creation with their customers, improving service and a low-cost path to differentiated and more relevant product offerings.   

There are risks, however. Getting decentralization right will require leaders to closely re-examine their operating models, decision rights, and leadership skills. Without leadership setting a solid direction for the organization, leaders risk efficiency without innovation or innovation without efficiency.   

6. Leaders Will Walk a Tight(er) Rope When It Comes to Political Issues   

The purpose-driven gospel of recent years insists that companies take a stand on issues–or risk losing employees and customers. But figuring out how to do so keeps CEOs, CPOs and CMOs up at night.     

BlackRock’s struggles are emblematic of this challenge. Six states (thus far) have yanked billions in investments from the world’s largest money manager, protesting its commitment to environmental and social change.    

Over the last few years, organizations have been called upon to take a stance on hot-topic political issues ranging from healthcare to ESG. But taking a stance (or not) has become more complicated as companies increasingly navigate accusations of being either too woke or not woke enough.    

In the year ahead, leaders will strive to sort out political agendas with three different pathways:    

  • Publicly support political issues     
  • Stay silent on political issues     
  • Show support for political issues within their workforce policies without publicly supporting the cause     

Regardless of where you or your company stand, the decision to engage publicly on political issues needs to consider the full range of potential consequences that might arise. Speaking out quickly might feel good in the first 24 hours, but unintentionally create outcomes that fly in the face of the very values you espouse. 


The only true business constant is continuous business disruption. Creative leadership, purposeful planning and data-driven decisions will be vital to driving profitability and growth during times of uncertainty.


CMO Focus: Five Trends to Watch in 2023 

Expect marketers to navigate economic upheaval and changing customer preferences by leaning into new approaches.

Chief marketing officers are looking to the year ahead with caution as the story of the economy plays out through 2023. While growing economic uncertainty means almost nothing will be predictable, it also creates opportunities for leaders to shine by doing more with less and leaning heavily into creativity and innovation. On the one hand, CMOs feel pressured to keep in step. They want to move faster and are looking for ways to add speed and tactical agility. But they’re moving more thoughtfully, too. They want to deepen their connections with people at a time when consumers are more conscious about their spending. Importantly, they feel well equipped “to go into battle” as they can lean back on lessons learned from the beginning of the pandemic. 

While building a strong brand is always critical, it becomes more important during economic downturns. When presented with brand choices, consumers are more likely to stick with brands they know and trust–even when given lower-priced options. So CMOs are questioning which moves will best strengthen trust with their existing customer base while finding ways to resonate with more consumers. 

In the coming year, we expect CMOs to: 

1. Flex Into Expanded Roles 

Their titles haven’t changed, but marketers recognize that their sphere of influence is shifting. The marketing function is no longer just responsible for using marketing to deliver value to the organization. They must prove and demonstrate how while taking on more ownership of the growth agenda. That includes uncovering new pockets of growth and figuring out new audiences and opportunities. 

As board-level expectations rise about marketing’s ability to prove its value, CMOs become integrators. They are bringing together different functions, from sales to product to ESG. This expanded responsibility for growth means moving beyond marketing key performance indicators to commercial KPIs, substantiating their impact on growth.  

And that means marketers must embrace a different language, leaving marketing jargon behind as they translate everything they do into the lexicon of business value. 

2. Refocus on Existing Customers Through Their Post-Purchase Journeys 

In times of economic uncertainty, companies should shore up their customer base, exploring new ways to drive loyalty. In lean times, brands must find ways to build trust and stay top-of-mind. Creating better customer experiences is a sure bet. 

The more companies invest in customer experience, the more they learn how to improve it. That means they’re making sure CX is brand-led, differentiated and personalized. The shift comes from seeing CX less as a defensive exercise and more as a positive relationship builder. It’s a way to expand the brand definition, bringing customers closer to its purpose. It creates more meaningfully engaged communities that act as stores of value during challenging economic times and sources of advocacy when conditions improve. 

Only data can inform that level of intimacy, so CMOs are becoming more outspoken about ineffective corporate data strategies. They’re learning that an overabundance of data often means they can’t thread the needle. And they’re constantly re-evaluating the role analytics play in the marketing organization, aligning marketing technology to produce more meaningful insights. 

It’s not just about having the right data. It’s also about having the right talent and teams in place to support the shifting needs of the business. We expect CMOs to continue to prioritize adding insight and experienced professionals who know how to ask the right questions of data and uncover insights that drive growth. 

3. Hold the Line on Brand Versus Performance Marketing Budgets 

The mix matters. And it requires extra attention in bumpy economies. Many companies are already slipping into fear-based budgeting, tipping into demand marketing at the expense of brand initiatives. It’s easy to do so at a moment when the rest of the C-suite is begging for quick results.  

But it’s also a mistake. And the most effective CMOs will make a case for sticking to the 60/40 rule, even as they find better ways to integrate brand as a growth engine. 

And they’ll increase efforts in key areas: 

  1. Experimentation: Under budgetary pressure, it’s tempting to back away from unproven channels. Those that continue to test and learn will see the best long-term growth results versus relying solely on quickly outdated benchmarks. But with the stepped-up scrutiny on budgets, experimentation should be agile. It’s okay to redeploy resources if the tests aren’t delivering results.  
  2. Channel Strategy: Social media is changing so fast that it requires teams to constantly refine goals and tactics. As TikTok becomes mainstream, Twitter (and new competition) evolves, YouTube gains clout and the metaverse beckons, brands need to constantly chart new directions. Few brands can–or should–be everywhere. But they all need to know how and why their customers use social.  
  3. Reporting: Tracking and socializing results should be done through business outcomes, not marketing metrics. This makes it more possible to connect brand and demand performance. No one in the board room wants to hear about clicks. The point of reporting is to evaluate past performance and make better, more effective strategic decisions for future efforts, getting the most out of limited resources. 

4. Welcome More ESG Moves into the Marketing Tent 

As governments, investors, employees and customers demand more accountability, environmental, social and governance policies are under the microscope–and their weaknesses are showing. Marketers can and should take on more, addressing the many ways ESG issues directly impact brand value. More CMOs are putting sustainability commitments and public announcements on the front of bottles, addressing it in packaging and formulation.  

They’re becoming more aware of how vulnerable brands are to greenwashing claims. That means focusing on the key proof points needed to substantiate ESG efforts.  

But most importantly, CMOs recognize that ESG has become a customer preference and a strong one. People want companies to make less harmful products and to behave responsibly. It’s no longer possible to think that only subsets of consumers care about the planet or labor practices. It’s a trend that will only intensify. 

We’ll see more businesses realize that ESG shouldn’t be thought of as a single set of initiatives. It’s a commitment a company makes, which then translates into many facets of operation and consumer engagement. 

5. Rewrite Their Personal Purpose 

Many CMOs are facing a significant amount of internal and external headwinds which can lead to a sense of frustration by not being able to deliver the impact they’re looking to achieve. While their creative energy and strategic skills may have propelled them to the top job, the harsh challenges of the last few years have sucked much of the fun out of their careers. Bludgeoned by the Great Resignation, skirmishes over hybrid work policies, positions that seem unfillable and looming economic storm clouds, many feel more like survivors than visionaries. They have less freedom to be creative. And motivating teams while managing department-wide burnout takes much more of their time than it once did. 

While the last few years may have presented a number of challenges, there’s ample opportunity to start taking their purpose-branding lessons to heart and redefining their career goals. Expect to see CMOs applying the lessons from tough times to dig deeper for motivation and find new ways to reignite their passion for marketing. Their goal is to transform resilience from a corporate buzzword to a personal mantra. 


We’re not surprised that the average CMO tenure hovers at 40 months, the lowest in a decade. Periods of constraint are inherently more demanding than growth spurts, and CMOs have to do more with less. But cutbacks also fuel innovation. We expect to see CMOs build trust with customers by leaning into personalization. They’ll find new ways to collaborate, forming creative partnerships that span silos. They’ll enrich their brands with thoughtful experimentation. And in doing so, they’ll unlock uncommon growth–even in a recession.