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Three Ways Leading BRI Brands Stay Top of Mind for Consumers 

Three things head brands do well to fulfill consumers’ fundamental needs and become an everyday go-to

Each year Prophet asks more than 13,500 U.S. consumers about the brands that matter most in their lives. We codify our findings in the Prophet Brand Relevance Index® (BRI), a tool to help companies understand the significance of relevance and how it can be harnessed to unlock growth. The 2022 BRI revealed the highly coveted group of relentlessly relevant standouts—brands that resonate by appealing directly to our heads and hearts. 

But some brands stand out because they appeal to our practical nature above all else. They’re the brands we rely on day after day—to help us problem solve, check off our to-do lists and keep our lives running smoothly. Brands that rank highly in our head category build relevance with consumers by reinforcing promises with performance and enabling autonomy.  

In addition to our overall BRI ranking, we have identified the top brands that speak directly to consumers’ heads.  

While top performers among head rankings excel at making the best products, delivering consistent experiences, and meeting important needs, among other attributes, we discovered three additional things head brands do exceptionally well to fulfill consumers’ fundamental needs and become an everyday go-to.  

1. Pursue Partnerships with Industry Leaders  

Top-performing head brands reinforce their positioning as a trustworthy, reliable solution by pursuing authentic partnerships with leaders in the space. Zelle (#9 in head rankings) enables easy, real-time transfers between hundreds of trusted yet “traditional” banks that have yet to get on the digital bandwagon. The Costco Next (#24 in head rankings) loyalty program allows members to purchase products directly from “hand-picked” suppliers. Brands like these take steps to surround themselves with trusted organizations and consequently appear legitimate to consumers when guaranteeing a job well done. 

Clorox (#65 in overall BRI rankings, #14 in head rankings) does this especially well. The leading cleaning brand appealed to consumers as a necessity for keeping our homes clean and safe early during the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite already offering household products with medical-grade certifications, the brand seized the opportunity to partner with hospital systems to stock their inventories and pledged multi-million-dollar donations to those working on the front lines. These extra steps helped position a brand already known for quality cleaning products as an active part of the solution. Clorox successfully bridged the gap between health and wellness and household maintenance, becoming a fixture in under-the-sink cabinets across the nation. 

2. Simplify Complex Tasks 

High-ranking head brands provide clear, easy solutions to complicated problems, giving consumers a sense of control and ownership. They understand daily errands can be time-consuming, confusing, and frustrating. So, they tackle these common tasks with enthusiasm—providing streamlined, accessible, convenient, customizable experiences, to keep things functioning. While brands like InstantPot, Tide, and CashApp have reinvented the way we cook, do laundry, and split the bill, one brand stood out for its ability to make one of the least flashy annual to-dos somewhat enjoyable.  

Filing taxes–it’s one of the most important interactions we have with the government each year, and yet it often leaves consumers feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and frankly, bored. Yet, enter TurboTax (#70 in BRI Rankings, #7 in head rankings), a tax preparation software that has succeeded because it was the first to solve such a tedious process, streamlining the many stages of filing traditional paper tax returns. TurboTax’s software relies on a recall method, prompting users at each step of the process to claim additional deductions or list additional work, eliminating human error associated with the process. Its partnerships with top investment brands and banks also mean consumers’ information can securely and automatically be uploaded into the return, with the click of a button. Customers can even input documents on their own time, as opposed to setting up a meeting with a traditional accountant. These innovative fixes help TurboTax remain relevant as the best-selling tax preparation software and take some of the sting out of filing taxes, which consumers are greatly appreciative of.  

3. Raise the Standard by Defining Your Own Grade of Excellence  

Many highly-rated head brands design trademarkable technologies to integrate with all their products. These brands underpin dependability with high-performing, trademarked technology and consequently reinforce their reputations as trustworthy, reliable options by championing it. Unsurprisingly, many automotive brands appear among BRI rankings– Tesla, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Honda—no matter how luxurious or basic, eco-friendly or gas-guzzling, cars are an integral part of life. At any point in time, they can be filled with kids, groceries, suitcases, camping gear, moving boxes, empty coffee cups, and memories. So, we rely on them to get us from A to B as safely as possible.  

Toyota (#23 in BRI rankings, #16 in head rankings), known for manufacturing top-notch vehicles with reliable performance, positions its cars as “built to last, created to perform and designed for life.” Similarly, Honda (#30 in BRI rankings, #22 in head rankings) rose to the top of the head category due to its cars’ long-term dependability. With products that consistently rank among the best energy-efficient options, rarely break down, and consider safety from the beginning, the brands could solely rely on their performance to make sales. Instead, both brands continue to innovate new driver-assistive technology and redefine safety standards with ownable, pervasive technology. Trademarked Toyota Safety Sense™ technology is standard on all new models, to complement its already award-winning built-in safety features. The Honda Sensing® suite boasts modernized safety and driver-assistive technologies featured in a range of its vehicles. So, when it comes to making a smart investment, consumers turn to the cars they know uphold the highest standards—even if those standards were set by the brands.  

What Lessons Can We Learn from Leading Head Brands? 

To go from an amenity to a necessity and build relevance in the daily lives of consumers, brands need to: 

  • Pursue partnerships with top leaders in the space to demonstrate your commitment and expertise
  • Find a way to simplify complex tasks—prioritize user experience and service design when creating your offerings to ensure consumers can use your products easily or quickly
  • Whether it’s messaging around a new technology or suite of offerings, continue to raise standards of reliability, performance, and experience, and find a way to talk about (or trademark) it that’s unique to the brand

FINAL THOUGHTS

Want to learn more about how the most relevant brands are tapping into the head and heart of consumers? The Prophet BRI serves as a roadmap for building relevance with consumers. Contact our team to learn how to apply the insights from the 2022 Index to your organization. 

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How Budweiser APAC is Creating Authentically Iconic Beers: A Conversation with Matt Che 

The industry-leading beer company discusses how to manage a strategic portfolio of resonant, purposeful brands in an authentic and effortless way. 

Building brand relevance with Chinese consumers remains top of mind for emerging and legacy brands alike. Budweiser Brewing Company APAC (Budweiser APAC), part of AB InBev and a key player in both the global and China beer markets, claims some of the most storied beer brands in the world as part of its portfolio – from Budweiser, founded in 1876, to Harbin, founded in 1900. Despite their longstanding histories, these brands are constantly evolving and innovating to maintain relevance in an increasingly fragmented and competitive market.  

Tom Zhang, an associate partner at Prophet, sat down with Matt Che, CMO of Budweiser APAC, to discuss how the Budweiser APAC portfolio continues to house the top beer brands and resonate with Chinese consumers through strong purpose and values.

Matt Che 
CMO at Budweiser APAC 

Matt Che is Chief Marketing Officer at Budweiser APAC, who leads the marketing team in China, Korea, India & Southeast Asia. An over-20-year veteran of marketing and sales, Matt oversees all brand marketing activities including Budweiser, Corona, Hoegaarden, Cass, Harbin, Blue Girl and Sedrin, etc. He is also held accountable for driving marketing-led business growth. 

Regarded as a trailblazer in the industry, Matt contributes to the growth of Budweiser APAC by creating a series of aggressive campaigns and driving marketing digital transformation. 

Matt Che earned a master’s degree in arts from the University of Birmingham. He also completed various marketing courses for executives at Harvard University, Stanford University, and Kellogg School of Management. 

As a major FMCG group, how does Budweiser APAC maintain a pulse on Chinese consumers and the latest trends? 

We must remain curious and constantly consider how the relationship between our brands and consumers is evolving. My thoughts are three-fold.  

First, there is a shift away from educating the consumers. Brands need to think about how to communicate product benefits and brand values in a way that is “effortless” and most resonant to consumers, allowing them to take in the information willingly and easily. Rather than standing on moral high ground and preaching to consumers, brands should view consumers as their equals and strive to grow together. To be a relevant brand means being humble. Champion the consumer. Recognize, appreciate and celebrate them. 

The next trend I see is a shift in focus from brand building to full-funnel marketing throughout the consumer decision journey. With the maturation of digital, social and new retail, there are more ways to not only build brand awareness but also close the gap between awareness and purchase. However, the marketing mix from awareness to consideration to purchase is varied, and we need to consider different content assets at each stage of the funnel to deliver the right message at the right time. As marketers, we must hold ourselves accountable for the full customer lifecycle.  

Lastly, the innovation cycle of FMCG products is changing. Previously, innovation was centered on a few big bets that would generate significant commercial impact. Now, innovation is also a way to drive brand equity. For instance, we launched the Budweiser Brewmaster Reserve in China, an ultra-premium product made with the highest-quality ingredients. Rather than measuring its success with immediate sales KPIs, we are looking at whether it contributes to brand equity. Marketers should approach innovation more strategically to shape the today, tomorrow and future of the brand. 

With Budweiser APAC’s extensive portfolio, how will you drive innovation of products and experiences to meet increasingly diverse consumer needs?  

The traditional notion of brand loyalty no longer exists in this age of fragmented markets. Instead, each brand should strive to build occasion-based loyalty. Consumers might go out to KTV with friends and choose Budweiser, then grab some late-night street food with Harbin. On the weekend they might have a picnic and bring some Hoegaarden, and then order a Corona at the beach while on vacation.  

Rather than spending our marketing budget attempting to make one brand the beer of choice for every drinking occasion, we take a very nuanced approach in segmenting consumer drinking need states and occasions to a high degree of specificity. In each of these need states and occasions, what are the consumer’s functional and emotional needs? Once we understand those, can beer as a category deliver on them? If so, then we can consider which of our brands has the story, value proposition, and DNA to own an iconic demand state and occasion.  

Of course, we will still source sales volume from adjacent drinking occasions, but the center of gravity and the “hook” we communicate to consumers must be clear and distinctive. Once we have this, we must then be disciplined about focusing brand-building efforts on channels and occasions that are core to the brand, allowing each one to own distinctive space in the portfolio. 

Many Budweiser APAC brands go beyond the product to communicate a higher purpose to consumers. Why is this important? 

A strong purpose is what makes a brand stand the test of time. Consumers might select you once or twice based on eye-catching packaging or a unique product, but purpose is how brands can earn an unwavering position in their customers’ hearts and minds. The way purpose manifests will change over time, but the purpose itself should be timeless.  

For instance, Budweiser has always championed authenticity – being true to yourself and living on your own terms. For the Qixi Festival (Chinese Valentine’s Day), Budweiser launched the “All Love Is Love” campaign. We released limited edition bottles that featured illustrations of people of all genders, and the bottles can be paired together in different combinations to feature two figures kissing.

The message is clear – regardless of how you define love, we respect, celebrate and champion it. We’re communicating with our customers as equals, meeting them where they are to convey the brand’s higher purpose.  

Purpose must be built over time. Rather than inundating consumers with a once-a-year massive campaign, we should reinforce the messaging consistently to build a purpose that is lasting and authentic. This is an example of “effortless marketing” in action.  

This reminds us of Corona. Corona is a strong example of how brands commit to ESG initiatives. Why is this important to Budweiser APAC and consumers? 

ESG is among the top priorities for AB InBev globally, and it’s deeply rooted in what we do. As the largest beer company in the Asia Pacific, Budweiser APAC is committed to achieving a future that’s sustainable and inclusive.  

Although there have already been many exciting results, I don’t think we as marketers should overly commercialize ESG. While its successful integration into company strategy, operations, and culture can potentially drive customer love and as a result sales volume, this cannot be the starting point.  

For instance, Corona’s brand essence is about a slice of lime, the sunset, and the ocean. It’s clear and simple. As a result, the brand is genuinely concerned about ocean conservation and marine protection. Corona partnered with Blue Ribbon, the biggest ocean conservation organization in China, and launched limited edition bottles on World Oceans Day, encouraging consumers to use less plastic.  

This March, Corona also initiated the “Ocean Restoration” program for the second year, partnering with fishermen across Fujian and Hainan provinces to recycle plastics from the ocean. Through our continued efforts, Corona is now the first beverage brand in the world to achieve a net-zero plastic footprint, meaning it recycles more plastic than it produces.  

However, the goal of Corona’s ESG efforts is not to convince consumers to drink more Corona but to convey the importance of protecting our planet for future generations. If these initiatives draw consumers to the brand, then that is a positive externality of our ESG efforts, but it cannot be the intention behind them. 

Nowadays, many marketers experience tension between longer-term brand marketing and shorter-term demand generation. How do you resolve the tension to balance “fast and slow”? 

As I mentioned before, marketers have the challenging task of building today, tomorrow and the future. It’s a difficult balance to achieve, especially as marketing has traditionally been less focused on immediate commercial growth in favor of long-term brand building. But our remit is expanding, and we must not only identify consumer needs but also the commercial potential of these consumer needs.  

In my role, I’m working more closely with our commercial leaders to ensure alignment from the get-go and help balance the tradeoff between “fast and slow.” It’s important to align across marketing and sales teams on what long-term success looks like as well as what challenges might arise in the short term. Collaborating with sales allows us to better identify commercial realities such as pricing, competition, and potential cannibalization within our portfolio. 

In April, AB InBev appointed our first global chief growth officer, a newly created position that aligns sales and marketing under the same umbrella. This indicates a clear mindset change.  

Budweiser and Harbin are the official beer sponsors for the 2022 World Cup. How will Budweiser APAC use the event to engage fans and create a memorable brand experience?  

With the resurgence of COVID-19 in some areas of China, consumers are once again dealing with certain levels of anxiety, uncertainty and stress. Thus, we are adjusting our messaging.  

We want to keep things simple and help consumers unleash the fun – not only the fun of the World Cup but the fun that comes with being with family and friends and forgetting about your worries for just a moment. We want consumers to be able to just enjoy the game and enjoy a beer. 


FINAL THOUGHTS

For marketers to shape the today and tomorrow of their brand, they must have a systematic approach to understanding the increasingly complex consumer landscape. To build brand relevance, they must balance long term-brand purpose and short-term demand generation across the full marketing funnel. 

To learn more about how your organization can build brand relevance and drive uncommon growth, contact us today.  

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Reimagine Retail in the Face of Social and Technological Disruption  

With BRI insights, a look at how the retail vertical in China should build relevance.

As we experience the continuing battle against COVID, we have witnessed many new retail trends emerge since the lockdown, specifically in Shanghai. Some examples of this include group buying by communities, the transformation of brick-and-mortar stores and fronted warehousing. The major changes in consumer needs, brought on by new normals like social distancing, are bringing important challenges to the retail industry. In our eyes, change means not only challenges but also opportunities. It’s a chance for previously less-considered brands to connect and reach out to consumers.  

As a growth and transformation consultancy, our annual Brand Relevance Index® (BRI) regularly observes the moves and shifts of brands across different industries around the world. This year, we found that successful brands build relevance by appealing to consumers’ heads and hearts. Brands that appeal to the head are ruthlessly pragmatic and pervasively innovative, while those that appeal to the heart are customer-obsessed and distinctively inspired. All-star brands that are relentlessly relevant usually hit simultaneously in the head and the heart. 

Right Place: Continuously Optimized Channels 

In the conventional retail experience, retailers such as shopping malls focus on maximizing the use of space and creating a comfortable shopping environment. However, the pandemic uncovered a pressing problem. The normally well-functioned channel system, both online and offline, could be overwhelmed by sudden influxes of customers. Retailers thus must reflect on how to improve the stability of their systems across different channels in order to promptly respond to unexpected disruptions.  

Amazon Go (Amazon ranked #15 in the 2022 BRI) provides unmanned shopping services, solving the problem of long queues faced by most retailers. A recent survey showed that over 60% of local residents wanted an Amazon Go in their neighborhood. Another example of brands tackling this issue is Walmart’s partnership with Gatik, a transportation technology company. Together, the two successfully deliver orders from warehouses to communities through driverless vans. We expect a brand-new era of logistics to arise in the post-COVID era, and the early adopters will stay ahead. 

In addition, new channels have been spawned by the pandemic, for example, the community-based group buying happened on private chat groups. We expect that this trend will stay post-pandemic. Determining how to manage and monitor consumer experiences away from official brand channels becomes a challenge for brand owners. During the pandemic, many businesses launched curated product packages based on communities’ demands and designed branded promotional materials for social networks. Retail managers joined chat groups to answer questions personally. These behaviors are unprecedented, allowing brands to touch their customers directly in the last stretch of their buying journey. 

“It is crucial for brands to provide consumers with highly convenient, consistent and reliable experiences at every corner of their lives to appeal to the head.” 

Right Products and Services: Innovation Inspired by Real Occasions 

The pandemic has also accelerated consumers’ demand for different products and services centering around the home. People’s expectations towards their living space have also evolved – they want a place where they can work, study, play, exercise and live rather than only a place for rest.  

IKEA (#40 in the 2022 BRI) has long been a frontrunner when it comes to designing retail experiences based on occasions. Instead of showcasing products based on their categories–as traditional furniture malls do–it created a series of unique home spaces, leaving customers room to be immersed and unleash their imaginations. IKEA captures people’s hearts by creating a microcosm of what people want in their homes, rather than a cold shopping mall – a key reason why IKEA leads in the home retail industry. 

Retail stores that create an immersive experience are now gaining popularity and becoming the carrier of service innovations. MUJI, for instance, has launched Muji Infill, a home decoration consulting service at its flagship store in Shanghai. This concept turned a home retail space into an immersive showroom that addresses every home living need. 

Some technology brands are also ramping up their retail presence in response to consumers’ home needs. For example, Huawei is opening smart home experience outlets across China to provide all-in-one IoT solutions. As technology giants enter the market, traditional retailers need to think more carefully about the path for innovative businesses, to meet the ever-changing needs of consumers. 

Right Time: Seamless Customer Journey 

Last but not least, the pandemic has accelerated the transformation of the traditionally linear customer journey (need, visit, browse, select, pay and pick up) to become more dynamic. Customers sometimes come across a new product through online browsing before they even have the need for it. They can complete the purchase online without a visit to the store and may return or exchange the product afterward. 

The in-store experience used to be the core milestone of the home shopping experience. When a consumer tries to find a sofa, it is difficult to picture the real product and how it would look in their home just by viewing its pictures online. Responding to this customer pain point, many major retailers have pioneered AR-enabled tools that allow users to see how different furniture fit in their home decors. In the United States, retailers including IKEA, Amazon, Target and The Home Depot, have made the AR-based shopping experience one of the key milestones in the customer journey. 

As we welcome web3 technologies, the retail industry is greatly impacted. The way how retailers showcase their products and interact with their customers in virtual shopping will be disrupted. However, this does not mean copying the traditional retail model into the “metaverse.” It requires retailers to rethink their customer journeys and business models in light of new consumer behaviors.  

How should retail spaces and products be presented to consumers through web3 technologies? And how will new technologies be used to optimize browsing, shopping and the return and exchange experience? Some retail brands are already leading the way. Walmart, for example, is quietly preparing NFT products like virtual currencies and products, from appliances, and toys to decorations. TYB (try your best) is a “community commerce” platform based on web3 technology, where consumers can co-create with brands to win NFTs and virtual collectibles.  


FINAL THOUGHTS

Despite the constant disruptions, the fundamentals of retail remain the same – to provide the right products in the right place and at the right time. Changing consumer demands and emerging business innovations, while posing challenges to retailers, also bring endless opportunities to rebuild their relationship with customers. Perhaps it is the perfect moment to reimagine your retail strategy. 

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How Top Brands Get to the Hearts of Consumers

Three standout trends the top heart brands are doing to become relentlessly relevant to consumers.

It’s no secret that the brands consumers are obsessed with hit closest to our hearts–the ones that make up our identities and help express who we are. The brands we call “magic makers” make us feel true affinity and loyalty: the sneakerheads, gamers, Tesla owners and devotees get it. There is no logical explanation for this kind of love— the kind of love that has lines wrapped around the block at Gucci and people camping out to see the next Marvel movie, even amidst a global pandemic. In the 2022 Prophet Brand Relevant Index (BRI), our annual study which asks 13,500 U.S. consumers which brands are most relevant to their lives, we learned what the top-performing brands do to attract such devoted consumers. For one, they create emotional stories and connections that consumers just have to have and experience. Unlike their counterparts, brands that appeal more to our head and practical side, these brands, fill an emotional need that goes straight to our hearts.

In addition to our overall BRI ranking, we have identified the top brands that speak directly to consumers’ hearts.

Top 25 Heart brands, ranked:

So, what do the top heart brands do to be considered relentlessly relevant to consumers? We discovered three standout trends where brands appealing to consumers’ hearts are excelling.  

Bringing the Fantasy to Us

To create “magic,” brands need to do more than fill a need in our life—they must make us feel like part of something bigger and provide connection and stimulation to escape monotonous days. Gaming and platforms such as PlayStation, Nintendo and Xbox enable escape and connection, and respondents agree that they could turn to their consoles to engage in new and unexpected ways. Marvel, Disney, MLB and NFL joined our top ten for brands that “Connect with me emotionally,” making us feel part of something bigger than ourselves. The power of these “magic makers” is to transport us out of our lives and into the past, the future or another planet entirely—and recently that transport mostly happened in our homes.

Nothing gets you closer to a shared in-person experience than live sports and the NFL had an especially strong showing in its first year in the BRI. Despite a variety of controversies, the NFL had more viewers in 2021 than in the previous six years. Because the experience of watching a game depends on live viewership, advertisers could count on a present audience, a rarity in today’s TV market. Innovations in adjacent categories also helped NFL: Sports betting laws opened up and a record 45.2 million Americans are expected to bet on NFL games and wager more than $20 billion, according to CNBC.

Inspiring Authentic Expression

2021 was the year the “creator economy” exploded in full force. From Etsy and Pinterest to YouTube and TikTok, extra time at home coupled with the “Great Resignation” led to increased engagement with social platforms for both viewers and creators. There are over 50 million who consider themselves ‘creators’, according to Forbes, especially among younger generations with strong aspirations to maximize their platform as a career. Creators love these platforms because they allow them to monetize their personal brands and connect directly with their audiences in ways that were never possible before. 

Ranked 13th on “Heart” and 21st most relevant brand overall, Etsy helped connect makers with products they needed and wanted during the pandemic. Etsy reported in 2021 that they had sold an astounding $346 million dollars just in reusable face masks. These products not only fulfilled a need but also felt special and infused with the maker’s craft and love. 

Making Us Feel Special

While still stuck at home during the pandemic with nowhere to go, the 2022 Index shows that we embrace brands that make us feel alive and special, even when they are impractical to our current needs.  Some of our highest performing magic makers were luxury brands: Tesla, Gucci, Sephora and Mercedes-Benz were beloved by consumers and rounded out our top 20 for “Makes me feel inspired.” In the last year, luxury brands rebounded faster than many expected. In times of uncertainty, enduring status and quality symbols can feel reassuring.

Luxury brands have seen record levels of growth coming out of the pandemic. “Revenge shopping” or the phenomenon of those with means spending on luxury goods to fill a void left by canceled social and cultural events may explain the quick comeback of high-end brands. Luxury items aren’t just objects—they deliver a transportive experience that activates their brand. Luxury may not solve problems, but in a time when we sacrificed so much, it delivers the fulfilling indulgence that only a wildly expensive, exquisitely designed object or experience can.

What Can Heart Brands Teach Us?

To go from a commodity to relentlessly relevant, brands need to connect with our hearts. Top heart brands have found ways to connect with consumers’ emotions by:

  • Targeting micro-communities of fans who are obsessed with the same sports team or TV show. Instead of trying to appeal to everybody, narrow in on the people who are most likely to connect with the product or service offered.
  • Bringing together commerce and community. The best brands create loyal followers who look for every new product drop and turn up to every store experience: turn consumers into brand evangelists.
  • Delivering on personalization and quality, whether that’s highlighting the stories of artisans and innovators who design products or offering a customized experience through an algorithm or brand design, makes every person who walks through the doors feel special and loved. Magic.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Want to learn more about how the most relevant brands are tapping into the head and heart of consumers? The Prophet BRI serves as a roadmap for building relevance with consumers. Contact our team to learn how to apply the insights from the 2022 Index to your organization. 

Brand Equity – Brand Value_1_A

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Four Critical Shifts for Tech Brands Today

Technological advancement has long been a driving force moving society forward. From underlying network advancements to ongoing software and hardware innovations, many of today’s biggest companies have achieved success by being at the forefront of technology.

But when considering what matters to consumers, what does it really take to become a technology leader in this modern era?

In this year’s Prophet Brand Relevance Index®, we once again saw technology’s rising impact in building brands that are relentlessly relevant in consumers’ lives. Major tech companies like Apple, Spotify, Bose and Android have continued to dominate the top five and fast-rising tech brands also captured people’s heads and hearts in an unprecedented way.

While the fundamental principles that define a leading brand stay true, our findings emphasize that the way in which these principles are delivered needs to evolve in order for brands to stay at the technology forefront.

1. Ruthlessly Pragmatic: From Economics and Efficiency to Consistency and Dependability

For many, pre-pandemic living demanded efficiency, productivity and outcomes – and technologies enable that. Tech leaders compete on superior specs, technical ability and cost-effectiveness, especially in Asia. But, one of the likely lasting trends resulting from the pandemic is a shift towards a slower, simpler life. With consumers looking for quality over speed, superior performance is now increasingly defined by a dependable, reliable and consistent experience.

Dyson believes in the value of engineering perfection in daily chores, as opposed to “get it done quickly.” Its strong emphasis on prototyping and refinement to achieve the art of precision is evident across product categories. Consumers trust Dyson for how consistently dependable their products are – no matter if it’s a vacuum or a hairdryer. They can rely on Dyson to accomplish their tasks, without dreading any mishaps when using.

The shift: As we emerge from the pandemic the definition of pragmatism is no longer surface-level results. Brands must use technology in a way that delivers long-term, dependable performance.

2. Pervasively Innovative: From Bigger and Better to Designing with Care

Great technological leaps have been made in the past few decades. Tech brands have focused their innovation story on “bigger, thinner, faster, stronger” to claim leadership. But with a renewed focus on what really matters in life, consumers are more interested in how technology can enable and empower – rather than disrupt – their lives. Innovation is less about “best in the world”, and more about human-centered design that delivers incremental but consequential progress.

Samsung has always been a leader in the TV category. It used to focus on innovations such as OLED and its curve feature but its latest flagship, The Serif, presents a shift – it isn’t the most innovative choice when it comes to the specs (size, thinness, etc.) but it is able to chime into the ambiance of users’ life and become an integral part of their lifestyle.

“Many of today’s biggest companies have achieved success by being at the forefront of technology.”

Peloton also rises fast in the post-pandemic era. It focuses less on hardware advancement but on content creation, offering curated and fresh home exercising experiences that give the brand a unique edge as a user-centric innovator.

The shift: As technology is increasingly democratized, technology leadership can no longer be defined by groundbreaking patents as the only tickets to entry. Instead, innovation can be achieved by zeroing in on customer pain points and leveraging technology in meaningful ways to solve them.

3. Customer Obsessed: From Connected Devices to a Connected World

IoT and smart living aim to create a more seamless life but not all ecosystems today have consumers at their center – some were developed to expand portfolios and create switch barriers. As consumers mature and the future of Web 3.0 fundamentally changes how people connect, the role of technology also needs to move from connecting devices for an easier life to enabling human feelings and interactions, with people’s inner selves, their surroundings and the world at large.

As DJI expands its portfolio, its marriage with Hasselblad wasn’t only about building an ecosystem but also about helping creators experience it differently. Fusing Hasselblad technology onto the consumer drones allows creators to capture extraordinary color and granularity, heighten their senses and strengthen their connection with the world.

The shift: Technology is no longer an end in itself; true customer obsession means using technology as a means to enable and empower meaningful human connections.

4. Distinctively Inspired: From What I Like to What I Believe

The “early adopters” are critical for technology companies and therefore many brands focused on building “newness, imagination or adventure” to mirror their attitudes. But true advocates for a technology leader are people that follow the brand through generations of innovations and upgrades. More than ever, consumers are demanding brands that align with their core beliefs and values and connect them with like-minded individuals.

Where brands normally compete against each other on technicality and performance to win the hearts of consumers, Tesla leads with a core belief to accelerate a sustainable future. It has inspired a like-minded group to follow the brand since its inception. Their unwavering advocacy has become a major driver of Tesla’s exponential growth around the world.

Grab, Southeast Asia’s dominant player, originally in transportation and delivery services, has the mission of driving the region forward by creating economic empowerment for everyone. This belief guides the brand whenever it expands its business horizons. For example, its latest financial products include micro-loans and microinsurance to serve historically underbanked populations.

The shift: Technology is progressive and pervasive. Brands need to go beyond mirroring attitudes and personality expression and must instead lead with core beliefs and shared values that move people and society forward.


FINAL THOUGHTS

To be a leader in technology today means delivering consistent experiences, improving lives through purposeful innovations, enabling meaningful connections and driving societal progress.

As we emerge from the pandemic, we are reentering a world where technology has – and will – continue to play a dominant role in shaping our lives and our collective future. A shift to Web 3.0 will demand brands to pay more attention than ever to how they stay relevant as underlying technologies and consumer expectations continue to evolve.

Download the 2022 Brand Relevance Index® today for more insights on how companies can establish technology leadership to build a more relentlessly relevant brand.

Brand Equity – Brand Value_1_A

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Organizing Brand-Demand Marketing Teams for Success

In the fifth and final installment from our Brand-Demand Love series, informed by our conversations with marketing leaders across industries, we’ve outlined the steps to integrating brand and demand marketing capabilities to win in a complex and dynamic landscape.

If we think of marketing organizations as households, they are often not very harmonious, thanks to the common tension between brand and demand generation teams. Our blog series has described why these two marketing disciplines struggle to work together to achieve mutual success. To attain productive and peaceful integration, brand and demand teams must define the best ways to organize people and teams, collaborate productively and deploy the right capabilities and tech.

Overcoming Fragmentation 

In our discussions with marketing leaders, the brand-demand split in organizational structures was a common challenge. “One of the big barriers for marketing in our industry is how we’re structured,” a technology CMO told us. “There’s the performance marketing team on one side and then there’s everyone else, including brand people, on the other.”  

In many businesses, brand and demand are viewed as unrelated capabilities, run by disparate teams with little to no insight into each other’s activities or results. Other common symptoms of unhealthy brand-demand organizational structures include:  

  • Separate planning cycles and budgeting exercises 
  • Distinct KPIs that often do not align with broader business objectives
  • Lack of knowledge sharing
  • Talent deployed to standalone channels or capabilities, with little cross-functional collaboration or rotational assignments 

When marketing teams are organized this way, it’s impossible for brand and demand teams to communicate openly, share data freely, or collaborate productively – much less fall in love again. 

A manufacturing vice president of marketing told us that fragmentation is largely down to leadership:

“If your teams are fractured and chaotic, that’s because your leadership is fractured and chaotic.”

This speaks to the importance of leadership in ensuring different functions work together toward shared, big-picture goals. 

Rethinking the Marketing Organization Chart  

There’s no single ideal structure for a marketing organization, but certainly, brand and demand should not be managed as separate entities. Some top performers organize their teams around customer type, while others use product line, channel or functional discipline. Again, there’s no definitive best practice. A B2B manufacturer that restructured its marketing operation around how customers buy, rather than product lines, became more responsive to business needs.  

Marketing at 7-Eleven is organized by discipline, according to CMO Marissa Jarratt, but with a recognition that no one works in isolation. For instance, the company established a customer analytics and insights team to inform business decisions. “Then came the responsibility to socialize those learnings across the organization in a thoughtful way,” she said. “You can have really smart people, but it has to be a team sport.”  

Fostering Collaboration 

No matter the organizational model companies choose, collaboration is key. Collaboration can take many forms:  

  • Joint strategic planning sessions 
  • Monthly knowledge-sharing sessions 
  • Flexible campaign planning exercises and roles, including metrics definition and budget allocation  
  • Integrated campaign performance readouts 

All of these activities can – and should – include external agencies, consultancies and other third-party providers, as well as in-house agency capabilities where relevant. “We need holistic collaboration from our partners to help us work through our evolution,” said Shelley Haus, CMO of Ulta Beauty. Indeed, several marketing leaders who we interviewed considered external partners to be part of the marketing organization and capable of helping bridge the brand-demand divide. 

Collaboration can also help solve tactical issues. For instance, brand and demand teams both want efficient and effective content marketing capabilities, which require coordination and asset sharing. “We need atomized content approvals and integrated digital asset management flows so content and images can be reused quickly and easily by many teams,” said a senior marketer at a large financial services firm. “Otherwise, teams can’t streamline timing or use a ‘test-and-learn’ approach based on integrated results from everywhere.” 

Boosting Brand-Demand Integration Through Capabilities, Talent and Tech 

Several marketing leaders we interviewed talked about the pressing need for new talent. Everyone is looking for data scientists, business analysts and digital strategists; thus, brand and demand teams should look to share in-demand specialist resources.  

More than one marketing leader described the need for more communication and training across disciplines to promote better understanding. Job shadowing and rotational assignments can help in these areas. Another challenge involves varying experience and backgrounds: “Brand marketers run the show and they all went to the same business school, while performance marketers all come from DTC brands,” said Ashley LaPorte, ex-CMO at Seventh Generation. Organizational design and cultures that emphasize collaboration and shared goals can help overcome these barriers.  

Compensation models and incentives are other effective levers for driving integration between brand and demand. Defining joint performance goals tied to overall business performance may facilitate the shift away from time and expense cost models to more incentive-based pay models, which would encourage brand and demand marketing teams to collaborate more frequently.  

Technology has a role to play as well. A strong MarTech stack can successfully integrate data across disparate sources and promote connectivity among different functional areas. Adopting content personalization at scale requires integration across brand and demand teams – and their corresponding tech stacks. Performance marketing functionality can also be embedded directly into tech platforms to give brand teams more access to relevant insights and tools.   

The new research report, “Brand and Demand: A Love Story” is here! Learn how today’s Brand and Demand Generation leaders are bringing their functions together to drive greater impact.
Download today!


FINAL THOUGHTS

We believe the most successful and productive relationships – in business and in life – involve shared goals and commitments. Achieving these goals requires collaboration, communication and an effective division of labor. For brand and demand teams to deliver optimal performance in line with their shared goals, they must organize their “home” in ways that reflect and support these principles. Because brand and demand must live together, we’d recommend they aim to do so with utmost harmony and respect for each other’s unique genius and power. That’s how they can reignite the love in their relationship.  

Do you need help breaking down the silos separating your brand and demand marketing teams? Our Marketing & Sales practice can integrate your teams to achieve mutual success. Get in touch

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How Sales and Marketing Drive Relevance

While sales and marketing have always required a bit of art alongside science, Prophet’s latest 2022 Brand Relevance Index® (BRI) shows that the balance is shifting. The COVID-19 crisis has changed how people consider brands, increasing the human tendency to consume emotionally. In today’s climate, we want to feel brand love before we deploy our dollars. We want to buy from companies that make us feel good, seamlessly marrying depth of relationship with convenience and meaningful experiences. And, ultimately, that’s changed how demand is actualized.

Leaders of this year’s index–our seventh–reveal these new patterns. The best brands are increasingly finding success in our new normal by the way they connect with us as humans. Some go right to the heart, building emotional resonance. Others appeal to the head, drawing us in with practical benefits. A small group of all-stars, led by Apple, Peloton, Spotify, Bose and Android, manage to do both.

Even when faced with significant speed bumps, these companies know customer relationships are everything in the world of demand generation. Relationships sit at the intersection of growth, experience and data. Brands that understand that dominate this year’s index. They are prioritizing innovation investments in the service of customer needs. The most relevant marketers push beyond the status quo, driving brand marketing investment to conversion.

We see them acing demand generation in two ways. Relevant brands are …

Deepening Relationships

The next iteration of acquisition and retention is maintaining devoted relationships with customers. Peloton, which ranks #2 overall and comes in first in our “Heart” metrics, perfectly illustrates that brand passion. Devotees could care less about its sputtering stock valuation. They just prize it for the rich experience, and the ongoing value exchange between consumer and company, across channels and touchpoints.

Relevant brands like Peloton have built products that seamlessly integrate into the lives of their customers and then rely on advocacy to promote pipeline. When something is indispensable to us, it’s easy to inspire others to participate. Tactics like Peloton’s “refer-a-friend” are mutually beneficial and authentic.

Spotify (#3), PlayStation (#7) and USAA (#10) are also thriving on the rich sense of discovery and community-building.

Fostering customer relationships requires a transition from investment to brand perception metrics. And it calls for prioritizing improved retention and loyalty models that focus on relationship longevity.

Demand generation and performance marketing allow brand marketers to relentlessly test and learn. When relevance is a moving target, performance branding will enable us to reach customers in new ways and experiment with tactics. Performance marketing is the finger on the pulse of all relationships.

Monetizing Experiences

It’s not news that the brands at the top of the index are known for providing engaging and unforgettable experiences for customers. In turbulent times, relevant brands help people feel safe and make life easier. They encourage us to experience parts of ourselves that we’ve missed in this constrained pandemic period. Generating demand and monetizing these trusted experiences requires careful finesse.

Increasingly, we see opportunities for investment in revenue streams through user interface and experience. Innovative brands are reframing go-to-market strategies. For example, some are redefining sponsored commerce beyond traditional search and banner ads, building an ecosystem for media that can extend into brand-owned properties, channels and ad units. These brands have an opportunity to explore what we call “BYO (build your own) Walled Garden,” obtaining both valuable first-party data and ad revenue.

“Innovative brands are reframing go-to-market strategies..”

Apple is the most obvious example, moving from device-driven relationships to becoming an arbiter of news, music, video and apps. It’s no surprise that it’s ranked #1 since we started our relevance research in 2015.

Companies like Fitbit (#8), TED (#9) and Teledoc (#21) are also flourishing through expanding ecosystems.

Others are gaining relevance through the rise of open payment architecture. Afterpay (#11) leads our index in financial services, showing that consumers value digital-first, customizable solutions that are reliable and transparent. Of the 293 brands we measured, it ranks #1 in the “Lives up to its promises” attribute. These “Buy Now/Pay Later” models afford trusted and convenient opportunities for customers to transact in channel. And they create new revenue streams for savvy organizations.

These customer-acquisition efforts have a direct influence on brand perception–both positively and negatively­­. And they are increasingly defining cross-channel customer strategy. As the marketing value chain collapses, we have instantaneous feedback between brand-marketing investment and revenue attribution. Growth-minded CMOs find the delicate balance in customer experiences that support both brand and demand.


FINAL THOUGHTS

The Future of Branding is Performance-Oriented and Vice Versa

We see first-hand the value clients achieve when they overcome capability silos–even within marketing. Coordination across customer-facing disciplines is fundamental for building relevance through customer understanding, targeting and addressability. It’s also critical in achieving greater precision in measuring upper-funnel brand impact, both due to data and experiential continuity.

To achieve uncommon growth, brands have to measure the sales stimulation that arises from brand awareness and perception shifts. With marketing fatigue and increasing budget pressure, the onus is on brand advertising to evolve from “spray and pray” to value-added and relevant placements.

Likewise, performance marketers need to lean into the incredible value of a beloved brand. Demand generation must support–not undermine–brand trust, love and relevance.

Get in touch today if you’d like to learn how to develop effective go-to-market strategies to unleash your company’s “Brand-Demand Love.”

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Brand-Demand Love: Achieving Success and Satisfaction Together

Informed by the conversations we’ve had with CMOs across industries, this fourth installment from our Brand-Demand Love blog series explores how to integrate brand and demand marketing capabilities to win in a complex and dynamic landscape. 

Even in the most complimentary relationships, financial matters are often a source of significant stress. For brand and demand-gen marketing teams to achieve the fully integrated and highly productive marriage we have been describing so far in our series, they must address the potential friction points involving budgeting, investment and performance measurement.

Agreeing on big-picture goals and investment priorities is the first step, followed by defining metrics to track performance. Receptivity to new approaches and flexibility to adjust as needs change is also key. As our research with marketing leaders has made clear, these issues are critical to unleashing uncommon growth through more effective and agile marketing capabilities across the customer lifecycle. Brand and demand teams ultimately share a pocketbook and prosper (or struggle) together.

Building Balanced Budgets and Allocating Investments Equitably

Many marketing leaders confess to being “obsessed” with finding the right investment mix. There is no shortage of conventional wisdom on how to allocate budgets and balance the investment mix. One common industry standard is the 60/40 rule, an investment recommendation proposed by Binet & Field’s 2013 study. The thesis: Allocating 60% to brand and 40% to demand yields the most effective balance of near-term acquisition and long-term performance.

Such rules of thumb seem to offer quick, evidence-based solutions. They also help defend brand investments, as many marketers want—and feel an urgent need to do—as e-commerce and digital have gained the upper hand in budget battles. However, this may not fully account for the variables of consumer behavior, broader market trends or the unique business contexts faced by different organizations. Modeling investment and measurement decisions against product lifecycle stages (e.g., product launches, mature offerings) can help marketers track progress toward specific goals.

Marissa Jarratt, chief marketing officer of retailer 7-Eleven, seeks to manage marketing investments like a portfolio. She balances higher-risk bets that offer big potential upside while also making safer plays that bring more predictable returns. “This is becoming more of a science,” said Jarratt. “We’ll take risks if we think it can drive a target downstream impact or outcome.” Such a balanced view of risks and rewards helps optimize the media mix across funnel stages and seasons.

Sudden market shifts put a premium on agile planning and budgeting. As Ashley Laporte, director at communications firm RALLY, told us:

“It’s not about finding the perfect proportions to balance brand and demand but finding a flexible framework that understands how everything connects.”

Mastering the Metrics and Digging into the Data

Performance metrics and attribution models continue to proliferate and evolve. There has been a pronounced shift away from brand surveys toward more agile measurement approaches. The leaders we interviewed expressed uncertainty about which metrics and KPIs are the most accurate and how to enable insight-based decision making.

Even firms that can transcend traditional difficulties in measuring brand performance face challenges. As Jennifer Warren, VP of global brand marketing at Indeed, told us, “Business and finance leaders want to know how a 2% lift in consideration translates to sales and revenue.” Such visibility is difficult to achieve, as is determining ROI on long-term, multi-year brand investments. Marketers are now being asked to develop KPIs to measure the effectiveness of purpose-driven strategies around sustainability, for example, or diversity and inclusion efforts.

Despite the challenges, being data-driven enables marketers to speak the language of the business. As Portia Mount, VP of marketing, commercial HVAC Americas at Trane Technologies, put it, “When financial leaders say, ‘let’s cut all the brand stuff and just do demand,’ our job as marketers is explaining what the impact will be if we shut something down.” Better performance data and stronger customer insights make for more productive conversations in explaining that choosing between brand and demand is not a zero-sum game.

“I don’t think that there is a silver bullet for measurement,” said Tyrell Schmidt, U.S. chief marketing officer, TD Bank. “We are really careful not to oversell performance, which is easy to do because it always drives the fastest results.”

A Shared View Builds a Shared Stake

Demand-gen leaders also face challenges in tracking performance as major tech companies like Google and Apple work to shift away from the use of cookies. Consumer goods firms struggle to get point-of-sale performance data from partners (e.g., e-commerce platforms and big-box retailers) and look to fill the gap with third-party data (e.g., credit card records, basket analysis). The bottom line: as much data as marketing leaders have, they are always looking to attain the most relevant data.

The lack of alignment between brand and demand adds another layer of complexity. Today’s “incongruent” KPIs result from a lack of incentives to “play nice,” according to one CMO. Ideally, rich data and aligned KPIs are used within an agile budgeting and forecasting model that incorporates multiple time horizons (annually, quarterly, daily) and enables opportunistic, real-time adjustment.

Integrated performance dashboards accessible by both brand and demand teams have enabled some firms to generate holistic insights by combining both short-term (e.g., search data) and long-term (e.g., Net Promoter Scores) metrics. These efforts reflect the need for marketers to experiment and innovate in their approach to financial matters. At Prophet, we recently partnered with a health services client to develop an integrated performance dashboard across brand, demand and customer experience teams, enabling a cross-functional understanding of campaign performance.

Summarizing the Questions You Need to Ask

Looking ahead, brand and demand teams must commit to open communication and engagement to achieve a strong and harmonious relationship. When it comes to financial matters, flexibility is also key. In order to pave the way to a household of shared finances, you need to ask the right questions and the following are worth considering in setting the right investment priorities and measuring the effectiveness of collective efforts:

  • How much impact does brand marketing have on conversion?
  • What impact do customer acquisition efforts have on brand perception?
  • What’s the appropriate level of investment across brand and demand without sacrificing overall performance?
  • What do specific metrics tell us? Which metrics are most meaningful and why?
  • Are we measuring campaign performance holistically and across the funnel?
  • Do we have a shared view of brand and demand and how they connect to the business in the short and long term?
  • Are key measurements used to inform annual planning cycles?

The new research report, “Brand and Demand: A Love Story” is here! Learn how today’s Brand and Demand Generation leaders are bringing their functions together to drive greater impact.
Download today!


FINAL THOUGHTS

In our next post, we’ll look more closely at how to set up a “happy household” ­– that is, organizing teams and building the right capabilities so brand and demand can have a comfortable nest for their life together. 

If you’d like to learn more about how your organization can overcome common challenges while integrating brand and demand marketing capabilities then get in touch here

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How Financial Services Brands Can Become Relentlessly Relevant

Prophet has released its latest Prophet Brand Relevance Index ® and it’s clear that banks, insurers and other financial services firms need to do more to energize their brands. This has been true for large and traditional financial services brands for several years running, though newer digital-native brands and fintechs have gained traction quickly, both in the market and the Brand Relevance Index.

At a high level, it’s clear that consumers are increasingly willing to give new and emerging brands a chance and will reward those that offer compelling value or a winning experience. In some cases, the edge comes from building a better mousetrap (e.g., easier payment transactions); in others, it’s more about articulating clear values and attracting people who share them.

For this year’s study, Prophet’s BRI team updated the methodology with more detailed questions about how consumers engage with brands emotionally (the heart) or intellectually (the head). Not surprisingly, financial services brands rate more highly in the latter category, particularly in areas like dependability, consistency and filling important needs. The best brands, however, are capable of connecting through both the head and heart, which is how they become brands consumers can’t live without.

Looking at our rankings, we can identify what differentiates the top brands across all sectors and how financial services firms might bolster their brands and become relentlessly relevant.

Top Ranked Financial Services Brands Showcased Two Things

1) A Clear Purpose That Creates Relevance and Passion

USAA, the top-ranked financial services brand in our index at #10, might show the way forward for financial services firms. It has a clearly articulated purpose and mission and a strong customer-centric orientation. Put simply, USAA knows its job and whom it serves. That clarity results in stronger emotional connections with customers, as evidenced by USAA’s top heart score among financial services brands. Online bank Ally (#87) also communicates a notably customer-centric value prop in its marketing efforts, which helps explain its relatively high heart rankings for the category.

Once an organization has made clear what it is and who it’s for, it can reorient the customer experience with a laser focus on customer needs, as well as align the organization around the vision. Our latest research into customer-centricity shows what success looks like for banks and other financial institutions and some recommendations for how they can achieve it.

2) A Sharp Focus and Frictionless Experiences

Among our top 10 brands, Peloton (#2), Spotify (#3) and PlayStation (#7) all have well-defined value propositions and deliver people exactly what they want again and again. Within financial services, highly focused and easy-to-use apps – such as Afterpay (#11), Zelle (#39), CashApp (#52) and PayPal (#56) – that do one thing (or just a few things) very well far outrank financial supermarkets. The same is true for TurboTax (#46), digital insurer Lemonade (#100) and trading app Robinhood (#107).

These brands are relevant because customers know the value they receive for engaging. Highly effective – even elegant – experiences that remove friction from core transactions are also part of the success equation. For these brands to continue growing, they must retain the focus even as they add more services.

Afterpay and Robinhood are very much “of the moment” brands, so it will be interesting to see how their relevance rises or falls in future surveys. For traditional firms to compete more effectively against these “less is more” experiences, they need to ensure their transformation investments are aligned to innovation and growth.

All Head, More Heart

Consumers understand the usefulness of and need for financial services firms. They provide vital services that are indispensable to the daily lives (not to mention the long-term plans) of countless people and businesses worldwide. But they are, for the most part, not very inspiring and rarely make emotional connections with consumers.

“There’s a real opportunity for banks, insurers and investment firms to meet people where they are emotionally.”

After two years of widespread financial uncertainty and with more consumers looking to boost their financial confidence, there’s a real opportunity for banks, insurers and investment firms to meet people where they are emotionally. Insurers that have offered premium holidays and discounted rates for people driving less are on the right track. So too are banks looking to lead on sustainable finance and “greening” the economy, provided their commitments are backed up with meaningful action. Financial services brands that can show some emotion and empathy and demonstrate their human values will have the best chance to increase their relevance.

For newer financial services players, the growth challenge starts with retaining customers and expanding their offerings once they’ve reached a critical mass. How far will inspiring brands take them if they can’t master the practical, “head” side of customer relationships?

More established brands should look for ways to emulate the energy of their newer competitors, injecting some emotion into their customer relationships. At the same time, they should seek to refine their operations to achieve the optimal balance of head and heart.


FINAL THOUGHTS

It’s safe to say that uncommon growth – the type of growth that is purposeful, transformational and sustainable over time – in financial services won’t be possible without increasing brand relevance. Consider how banking, insurance and investment brands increasingly compete with companies from outside the sector, including many that are absolute masters at brand relevance. The top-ranked brand in our study this year was Apple – a technology company that has become a leading player in mobile payments and has an expanding pool of customers for the Apple Card. Their presence makes brand relevance a strategic imperative for incumbent financial services companies.

These are just a sampling of our findings. To see where your brand ranked, you can find the full 2022 Prophet Brand Relevance Index ® here.

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How Relevant Brands Capture the Head and Heart of Chinese Consumers

In Prophet’s seventh Brand Relevance Index®, we once again explored the powerful way that brand relevance drives impactful, profitable growth. As the world continues to shift and settle into the “new normal,” brands are breaking through to connect with us on a more human level. This year, our analysis found that successful brands are evolving, building relevance with consumers by appealing to the head and the heart.

As we revealed the top 50 most relevant brands in the U.S., we asked our colleagues in Shanghai to share their perspectives on what some of China’s most relevant brands are. Here are their thoughts on which brands stand out.

HEAD: Redefining the Everyday

Manner Coffee

“Manner Coffee truly democratizes coffee for the average Chinese consumer in a way that no other brand has. Manner connects to the head through ruthless pragmatism and pervasive innovation. Its price point of 15 RMB for a hot latte is less than half of one at Starbucks, yet it maintains high standards for the quality of its beans and its baristas. Its menu is constantly updating with seasonal drinks and limited-edition collaborations. Manner also holds a unique perspective on what a coffee shop should look like. Beyond office buildings and subway entrances, Manner is also integrated into the fabric of the city, with locations in theaters and fresh markets alike, turning it into a simple yet classic component of life.”

Tom Zhang, Associate Partner

Wuling Hongguang Mini EV

“Wuling Hongguang Mini EV is a micro-sized, four-seater electric car that debuted in 2020 and has since become the best-selling electric vehicle in China. The EV offers a convenient yet affordable option for daily transportation in China’s dense urban areas. Its advantageous size makes it easy to navigate, park and charge – perfect for dropping kids off at school, stopping by the grocery store and commuting to work. Also, Wuling continues to launch new models such as a convertible version and customizable options. The competition from traditional players is fierce though, and Wuling must go beyond being solely a pragmatic choice and define what it stands for as a brand in order to achieve relentless relevance with consumers.”

Charlotte Zhang, Marketing Manager, Asia

HEAD: Reinforcing Promises with Performance

Bananain

“The innerwear category has exploded in China in the past few years, with several new players taking on traditional industry leaders, and Bananain is at the forefront. Bananain leaps ahead by positioning itself as a technology company built on patented somatosensory technology (e.g., Tagless, Zerotouch, Airwarm) rather than simply an innerwear brand. This technology-led approach is deeply integrated into their growth strategy and design process, allowing their products to deliver on the functional benefits they promise. With the belief that people should ‘focus on the inside,’ Bananain exists to ‘raise the baseline’ and elevate the standards for self-care.”

Baron Zhang, Senior Associate

HEART: Creating Magical Escapes

VETRESKA

“With hundreds of new, local brands entering the pet industry, VETRESKA has identified a unique formula for success: Viewing pets as their owners do, as family members. This strategy worked especially well with the rapidly growing segment of young, female pet owners who have rising disposable incomes and a discerning eye for quality and design. With backgrounds in fashion, VETRESKA’s cofounders have gone beyond typical pet products to create a shared fantasyland for pets and humans alike. As a mom of two cats myself, VETRESKA allows me to provide the best for my pets and brings us closer together.”

Flora Wang, Engagement Manager

Songtsam

“With borders closed and international travel restricted during the pandemic area, Chinese travelers are rediscovering domestic destinations and seeking out best-in-class experiences. Songtsam is a boutique luxury hotel group in the remote Yunnan and Tibetan areas of China, providing access to what were once hard to get to destinations. Songtsam connects intimately with the hearts of the guests who stay there. The brand offers  a both undeniably indulgent and deeply reflective experience inspired by nature and the local culture, with a staff that is over 90% Tibetan.”

Tracy Xu, Senior Associate

næra Hotel

“næra Hotel is similarly creating an immersive and escapist experience, located closer to Shanghai. The hotel integrates local Jiangnan cultural elements in its design but also combines modern aspects, exhibiting the artwork of 35 local and foreign artists. In addition, næra’s experience is anchored in its nearby 3,000-acre organic farm, which supplies produce for its restaurants and allows interested guests to pick their own vegetables. Songtsam and næra represent a new breed of boutique hotels in China that are elevating the standards for domestic travel.”

Will Chiang, Associate

HEART: Enabling Shareable Experiences

Holiland

“Holiland, a traditional Chinese bakery chain, turns 30 this year. It recognized the need to keep up with new market trends in order to surprise and delight customers and stay relevant. It aimed to be seen as not only reliable but distinctive as well. To do so, Holiland collaborated with many in- and out-of-category brands – including Toblerone, Diantaixiang Hot Pot and UCCA Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing, to launch new and unexpected products. The brand also refreshed its visual identity and retail concepts, creating sleek, futuristic retail concepts that invite young consumers to come together to socialize and snap photos with friends.”

Yang Yu, Associate

MOBI GARDEN

“MOBI GARDEN is at the forefront of the new camping craze that has swept China. Originating as an OEM for foreign high-end brands, MOBI GARDEN combined its deep industry expertise and production capabilities with a unique understanding of the domestic market. This insight was key in their offerings of high-performance, cost-effective products that deliver safety and comfort as well as a premium “glamping” experience. The brand also recognized the need to position “glamping” as a lifestyle, creating shareable content while engaging with consumers through social media channels such as Douyin (TikTok) and RED. By making the outdoors more accessible and shareable, MOBI GARDEN offers a new form of social currency for China’s rising middle class.”

Shirley Liu, Finance Lead; Lily Xu, Talent Lead; Wynee Zhang, Executive Assistant

RELENTLESSLY RELEVANT: Elevating Modern Living

Swire Properties (Taikoo)

“Swire Properties, under the Taikoo brand in China, is redefining what urban life in China looks like. In an industry that is known to be stale, Swire creatively transforms urban space, community and culture through adaptive reuse, innovative retail concepts, and hyper-localized experiences. Its newest project in Shanghai, Taikoo Li Qiantan, features an open-plan and lane-driven architectural design that appeals to the head and unique experiences centered on wellness that appeal to the heart. The stores featured are a mix of well-known brands, rotating pop-ups and pioneering concepts such as Starbuck’s first Greener Store Lab in Asia. As a native Shanghainese, I can see this project putting the new Qiantan area on the map in a way that few other developers could.”

Joey Zhang, Associate

RELENTLESSLY RELEVANT: Inspiring Through Technology

Tesla

“Chinese consumers, once known for flaunting brand names and logos, are increasingly choosing brands that reflect their own perspectives and values, and Tesla embodies just this spirit. Tesla’s industry-leading technology fuels a mission that goes beyond itself or even cars in general – ‘to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.’ Elon Musk himself is a big part of the brand as well, speaking his mind and sometimes taking a stance that is at odds with other western brands and media. This characteristic appeals to Chinese consumers greatly. When he tweeted a cryptic, ancient Chinese poem in November 2021, the topic went viral on Chinese social media platforms as netizens praised his cultural knowledge and raced to decipher its meaning.”

Sean Hong, Senior Associate

RED

“When I think about brands I cannot live without, RED is at the top of the list. The social media platform allows me to experience life from new perspectives, places, interests and people, whether I’m on the go or in my daily living. On RED, I’m constantly inspired by users around me. It is not just following the latest trends, it is where trends are created. When I want to know something, I no longer use Baidu or Google. Rather, I turn to RED to get a more personal, unique perspective from influencers I trust. RED is also keeping up with the latest in tech innovation, launching its own NFT platform, R-SPACE, late last year where users can directly purchase NFTs within the app.”

Chuck Deng, Senior Associate

“Successful brands are evolving, building relevance with consumers by appealing to the head and the heart.”


FINAL THOUGHTS

As marketers and consumers, we’re constantly intrigued by the way brands, old or new, continue to stay relevant in the ever-evolving China market. But we are even more impressed by the holistic way they can connect with our heads and speak to our hearts. From elevating our daily lives to creating fantastical escapes, relentlessly relevant brands have the ability to surprise, delight and deliver unforgettable experiences.

To learn more about our research, including how to assess, create and maintain brand relevance, download our 2022 Brand Relevance Index®.

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The Innovative Brands Leading the Way in Customer Experience

The most relevant brands offer exceptional experiences, wrapping them seamlessly around their core offering.

Prophet’s 2022 Brand Relevance Index® (BRI) ranks hundreds of U.S. brands on the characteristics that consumers care about the most. In the seventh edition of our ground-breaking, annual research, we measured brands’ relevancy based on how human-centered they were, evaluating how strongly they appealed to consumers’ heads and hearts.

In the brave, new world of business that looks more digital, autonomous and quick-paced than ever, brands across all industries are racing to show up for consumers in a truly human-centric way. With the pandemic’s initial economic boost waning for many, brands must reshape their core offerings to not just accommodate but thrive in our new pandemic-tinged reality. Products and services must now be both emotive and productive, aspirational and practical, and accessible and coveted.  

“Brands must reshape their core offerings to not just accommodate but thrive in our new pandemic-tinged reality.”

To no surprise, we found that brands that scored high on relevance also delivered innovative experiences. Here are three brands that rose to the top over the past year by delivering exceptional experiences and innovative products: 

Apple: Technology Becomes Responsible 

Apple was again the number one most relevant brand on our index this year. However, there’s more to the story than an easy reign at the top. The technology titan’s dominance today seems second-nature, but it’s jarring to remember that inventions like the iPad and the MacBook are no more than 12 and 20 years old respectively. As the arc of technology lengthens, it is finally curving into the next phase of innovation maturity – products and services that are not just good to use, but good for you as well. 

Apple has come under fire in the past for customer-antagonistic practices like planned obsolescence and hardware incompatibility. However, the brand has improved its trust with users in the last year by rolling out products like the AirTag, which helps users locate lost Apple products, and iOS features like Screen Time and Focus mode, which helps users monitor and limit usage of their Apple devices.  

While reducing the usage of its products may initially seem counterintuitive to Apple’s business goals, we believe product responsibility is actually the next iteration of customer-centricity. By showing users that they care about more than just maximizing KPIs, brands are truly centering them in their design. Sure enough, Apple scored highest on our Index when it came to sentiments like “is modern and in touch” and “meets an important need in my life”, proving that doing what’s truly best for customers ultimately makes for a more trustworthy, human and innovative brand. 

Takeaway: Brands must be motivated by more than sales or singular KPIs if they want to create continuously innovative products and everlastingly relevant services.  

Spotify: Fine-tuned, Personalized Experiences 

Spotify rocked to the top of the BRI, coming in third overall. We’ve rarely seen a brand blend the art and science of personalization as well as Spotify has consistently done for customers. Hallmark experiences like Spotify Wrapped that use user data to create genuinely interesting, shareable narratives have now become synonymous with Spotify’s value to users and triggered an avalanche of copycat experiences across industries, from financial services to food delivery. 

By tapping into users’ pride in their unique music tastes and their distinctly young, trendy demographic, Spotify has been able to serve up one-to-one personalized features like musical birth charts and shared playlist generators. The brand also recognizes the importance of optimizing for a social, highly shareable customer experience, using this key customer insight to create features like Group Sessions, Lyrics and even launch innovative new physical products like Car Thing.  

Spotify is so tuned into their millennial-skewing demographic that one might even say it verges on “cheugy”, but one thing is for certain—Spotify has created strong business returns. Spotify’s user base expanded to 180 million active users in Q4 2021, up 16% YoY and generated over $10 billion in 2021 revenue, up 40% YoY. No wonder it scored the highest on this year’s BRI among consumers for statements like “makes me happy” and “is modern and in-touch.”  

Takeaway: Knowing what emotionally connects to your customers and showing them the data to back it up is the key to creating superior user experiences. 

PlayStation: The Immersive Portal for Play 

Sony’s PlayStation brand powered onwards, rising from number nine to number seven in this year’s Index. As the metaverse expands and Big Tech makes a big bet on the future of play being completely virtual, entertainment companies are seizing an even bigger opportunity space to innovate. PlayStation is certainly one of these movers and shakers, implementing a two-pronged innovation strategy that prioritizes both excellent hardware and unbeatable software.  

The latest PlayStation®5 (PS5™) model was an instant sell-out when it hit stores in late 2020, thanks to next-gen visual, audio and haptic features that allowed for an all-immersive gaming experience. Since then, PlayStation has prioritized building out more cutting-edge technology, like AR/VR, while making sure to optimize for important current channels like mobile and social streaming platforms. At the same time, parent company Sony continues to invest in top-notch content by inking exclusive deals with big franchises like Marvel’s Spiderman and Horizon.  

Even as the pandemic’s boost to the gaming industry wanes, PlayStation has held steady, scoring high on BRI Index sentiments like “delivers a consistent experience” and “is modern and in-touch.” And the numbers speak for themselves, as PlayStation coasted to first place with $24.87 billion at the end of 2021, beating out Microsoft’s Xbox at $16.28 billion and Nintendo’s $15.3 billion. 

Takeaway: Pairing relentlessly relevant core experiences with an innovative, well-engineered physical product makes PlayStation’s brand an endgame for users. 


FINAL THOUGHTS

From technology to entertainment, fitness to food, the most innovative brands on the BRI this year all share a common thread of exceptional experiences that wrap seamlessly around their core offering. The connection between brand relevance and user experience continues to strengthen as consumers expect increasingly more from businesses. Responsible products, personalized services and immersive content are all innovative ways brands can rise to the top and stay relevant in today’s human-centric world.   

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How Effective Go-To-Market Strategies Unleash Brand-Demand Love

The third post in a series about integrating brand and demand marketing capabilities to win in a complex and dynamic landscape.

We think it’s time for brand and demand to fall in love. After all, they’ve long been attracted to each other’s strengths and can shore up the other’s shortcomings. When brand and demand build a strong, sustainable and mutually satisfying relationship of equals it lays a foundation for increased brand relevance and ultimately leads to uncommon growth.

Like the best marriages and strongest teams, a commitment defines what is possible. Bringing complementary skills together leads to greater mutual success. In talking to senior marketing executives, we heard passionate interest in unifying marketing at every level and taking an integrated, agile and data-driven approach.

If one were to equate a relationship’s declaration of commitment to a declaration of commitment between brand and demand marketing organizations, one may reference a marketing go-to-market (GTM) strategy. An effective GTM strategy provides strategic guidance for achieving an organization’s performance goals across key channels and disciplines. Despite the importance of this guidance, marketing organizations continue to face challenges in developing an integrated GTM strategy across their brand and demand teams, leading to misaligned activation plans which ultimately impact the efficacy of campaign efforts.

The Prophet-developed framework described below highlights the key components of effective go-to-market strategies that powerfully combine the best of brand and demand. They are important because achieving the appropriate brand-demand balance is a constantly moving target, meaning GTM strategies must be designed for flexibility and ongoing adjustment.

Key aspects of the CMO agenda – from audience strategy to creative and content – are central inputs to designing an effective brand and demand capability. Indeed, they are the vows by which brand and demand teams can build solid and successful relationships.

Marketing GTM Strategy Framework

There are six key areas to address as part of an integrated go-to-market strategy, each with its own set of requirements and implications for execution.

Brand StrategyBrand Position, Architecture, Key Messages, Voice and Expression

The brand strategy forms the core of the brand identity and should manifest itself clearly and consistently across brand and demand campaign initiatives.

Audience Value PropositionsHow to Win with Your Audiences

Audience value propositions describe the reasons audiences should have an interest in your brand, product or service.

Customer Data and InsightsWhat You Need to Know About Your Audiences

The successful utilization of customer information provides insights into their behavior and opportunities to convert across channels. Both brand and demand campaigns generate key customer insights which can be used to improve all campaigns (for example high-performing digital placements on the sports-oriented websites may provide a rationale for purchasing TV ads on sports networks and programming). Establish a pipeline for sharing customer data and insights between teams.

Pricing and DistributionHow and Where Audiences Will Find Brand, Product or Service

Understanding how customers can acquire your product or service, including the cost associated with that acquisition, is a key consideration. While demand channels can provide a direct path to conversion, the impact of brand channels shouldn’t be ignored.

Creative, Content and ChannelContent and Experiences Will Attract and Convert Audiences

Creative and content contain the messaging and imagery that will connect audiences to your brand, product or service. While creative formats vary across brand and demand channels, a holistic analysis of creative performance provides opportunities for greater insights and improved content creation.

Media & Channel CommunicationsHow, Where and When You Will Find and Engage Audiences

The touchpoints by which a customer can be reached and converted are important facets of any GTM strategy. An integrated model requires a mutual understanding of media campaign strategy and channel selection.

When developing a go-to-market strategy, it’s crucial to understand the implications for both brand and demand marketing teams. While each team is responsible for the successful deployment of campaign efforts against their respective channels, their measure of success should align against the overarching goals of the organizations as set forth by the GTM strategy. Organizations should avoid us vs. them mentality when crafting their organization and recommendations but instead account for the holistic impact of their recommendations against an aligned, cohesive goal for the organization at large.

Again, there is no set formula for effective brand-demand integration. Even if there was, it would fluctuate based on multiple market variables. That’s why these strategic principles are so powerful ­– they keep marketers pointed toward the “north stars” of business strategy and organizational purpose while enabling the necessary recalibration of campaigns, budget allocations and other levers that produce strong outcomes.

In our next post, we’ll look more closely at the financial and pocketbook implications of brand-demand love. Specifically, we’ll examine how:

  • To define shared goals
  • Set an investment agenda
  • Define smarter metrics for allocating budgets and tracking performance
  • Highlight how brand and demand can stop fighting about money

The new research report, “Brand and Demand: A Love Story” is here! Learn how today’s Brand and Demand Generation leaders are bringing their functions together to drive greater impact.
Download today!


FINAL THOUGHTS

Understanding where brand and demand might have shared foundational components, from brand strategy to creative and content distribution, can create shared value across marketing objectives and enable greater agility between brand and demand goals. This sort of synergistic and complementary relationship is what we mean when we talk about brand-demand love.

Get in touch today if you’d like to learn how to develop effective go-to-market strategies to unleash your company’s “Brand-Demand Love”.

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