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.


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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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.


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.

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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!


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.


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!


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


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.


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.

Brand Equity – Brand Value_1_A


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


“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


“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


“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, 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 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


“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


“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.”


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®.

Brand Equity – Brand Value_1_A


The Innovative Brands Leading the Way in Customer Experience

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

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

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

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

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

Apple: Technology Becomes Responsible 

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

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

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

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

Spotify: Fine-tuned, Personalized Experiences 

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

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

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

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

PlayStation: The Immersive Portal for Play 

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

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

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

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


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


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!


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”.


Webinar Replay: The 2022 Prophet Brand Relevance Index

Our research uncovers a new pattern of relevance, with brands appealing directly to the head and the heart

51 min

Prophet’s brand experts join executives from Sony and Teladoc Health to share the results of and discuss the most relevant brands in the seventh annual Prophet Brand Relevance Index® (BRI).

In this year’s Index, we asked more than 13,500 U.S. consumers about what brands are most relevant to their lives. Watch the webinar for insights on more than 293 brands across 27 categories.

Key Takeaways

  • A new pattern of relevance emerged. Brands are finding new and unforgettable ways to deliver experiences in the new normal by connecting to us as humans – appealing directly to the head and the heart.
  • Brand relevance = growth. The top 50 brands saw 133% more growth than the S&P 500.
  • How are top-ranked brands are winning with consumers? See which trends – from tapping into authentic expression to enabling self-care – consumers say they can’t imagine living without.


The Prophet BRI serves as a roadmap for building relevance with consumers, the type of relevance that leads to business growth. Contact our team to learn how to apply the insights from the 2022 Index to your organization.


Get Ahead in the Great Reprioritization

The best employer brands appeal to the heart and the head, with a clear purpose and distinct values.

For years, the workforce has accepted the dichotomy known as “work/life balance”: A fiction that these were two separate domains, compartmentalized from one another. Over the past two years, this illusion has been shattered. The pandemic collapsed domains of work, family, school, relaxation and wellness into a single reality. Knowledge workers were no longer able to easily compartmentalize their feelings about their work environments when there was no longer a physical separation for them to draw an imaginary line.  

Naturally, something had to give. For front-line “essential” workers, it was jobs that didn’t pay enough to compensate for the risk they assumed. For knowledge workers, it was employers who were inflexible; who were misaligned with their personal beliefs or values; or whose purpose no longer felt meaningful enough. Subsequently, large portions of the workforce recognized the illusion of work/life balance for what it was. And they recognized the truth hiding behind it: It’s ALL life. 

With that newfound clarity, a collective re-prioritization has been shifting the relationship and expectations people have with their jobs and their life. This has been variously named the Great Resignation, the Great Retirement and, perhaps most accurately in our view, the Great Reprioritization. Because in the end, that’s what is happening. The workforce is re-examining their priorities in relation to work and to employers. Now more than ever, there is a deep need to integrate personal values into the professional aspects of one’s life. But what is it that employees want?  

“We find that relentlessly relevant brands appeal to consumers simultaneously in the head and the heart—these brands, their products and experiences are pragmatic and innovative, personal and inspired.”

Prophet’s 2022 Brand Relevance Index® (BRI) and annual Organization & Culture research series, Catalysts, reveal a compelling story at the intersection of consumer brands and employee experiences. We find that relentlessly relevant brands appeal to consumers simultaneously in the head and the heart—these brands, their products and experiences are pragmatic and innovative, personal and inspired.  

We also find that the best employer brands are those that appeal to the heart and the head. These are organizations that have a clear purpose and values, and the ways of working, operating model, and training help employees accomplish their personal purposes. And it is the organizations appealing to employees’ hearts and heads that are coming out ahead in the face of the Great Reprioritization.  

The Head, Heart and Human-Centered Transformation Model™   

At Prophet, we describe the organization as a macrocosm of the individual. Its DNA includes its brand purpose and values; its Mind is comprised of its talent; its Body is the operating model that creates value; and its Soul arises out of the mindsets, behaviors, stories and symbols that generate belief in its DNA. Whether you wish to forge a heart or a head brand, you must think holistically about how best to align your firm’s DNA, Body, Mind and Soul to achieve the desired outcome. The greater the misalignments, the more room for a competitor to win and you to lose your customers…and your talent. 

Take USAA, for example, a Top 10 brand in this year’s BRI. USAA has relative strengths in the heart and head—namely in trust and dependability, meeting an important need and upholding beliefs and values that align with those of its consumers. In looking through the lens of Prophet’s Human-Centered Transformation Model™ we see USAA appeals to the heart and head by aligning the core elements of the organization.  


For 99 years, USAA has been singularly focused on helping military families build financial security. Many employees seek out working for USAA to fulfill their desire to serve those who have served. Across sources such as Glassdoor, Indeed and Niche, employees remark how the company mission permeates operations and that employees are well taken care of “to encourage them to do the same for members.” As a result, 82% of employees at USAA say it is a great place to work compared to 57% of employees at a typical U.S.-based company according to Great Place to Work. 


USAA has been a leader in digital member experience and was able to leverage such capabilities to keep members and employees safe throughout the pandemic. While doing so it also improved the efficacy of training. One example of this is USAA’s piloting the use of augmented reality-enabled glasses with field adjusters. This technology allows adjusters’ managers to see the damage without physically being present, thus eliminating dozens of hours of travel time for adjusters and enabling more efficient, practical training for new employees.  

More widely known might be the extensive and immersive training USAA employees go through which covers not only the fundamentals of their position but also helps employees understand the military culture. Prior to the pandemic, employees embarked on a boot camp-like training that simulates challenges military personnel experience regularly—such as eating meals-ready-to-eat (MREs) for lunch. The training is intended to give employees a better understanding of members’ perspectives and help them deliver more empathetic and effective service on the job. 


USAA has famously realigned the customer-facing components of the organization intuitively along the journey of its members. This effectively reduced the complexity and distraction of the full product portfolio to ensure that members are exposed to the products and bundles most relevant to their immediate needs.  

Internally, USAA is committed to leveraging technology to free up capacity for employees so they’re able to focus on service, not paperwork. For instance, USAA has deployed machine learning to digitize paper medical records and create materials for life insurance underwriting. The previous manual approach could take up to five days, whereas machine learning has reduced the time to just one day and has improved accuracy and capacity.  


USAA’s commitment to immersing employees in the member experience is also embedded in the mindsets, behaviors, stories and rituals of the organization. One particular ritual is referred to as a “Mission Moment.” At the start of a meeting, an employee will share a story about a member. This story can be anything from their background, service, or interaction with USAA in moments that mattered along their journey. This seemingly simple story frames the rest of the meeting in a more member-centric mindset.  


More than ever, organizations need to understand what matters to consumers and employees in order to create experiences, products/services and jobs that appeal to and satisfy the head and the heart of their respective audiences. And doing so authentically will require a holistic approach across the core components of an organization’s ecosystem. So, what are you waiting for? 

Are you interested in better aligning the core elements of your organization to be more authentic for both your consumers and employees? Our brand and culture experts can help, reach out today and hear how we are helping clients just like you. 


2022’s Relevance Report: What Brands Can Learn From Apple, Peloton, Spotify and Bose

This year’s index uncovers important shifts, including a need for self-care, DIY swagger and a little escapism.

Prophet just released the 2022 Brand Relevance Index® (BRI), and boy, has it changed the way we look at the constellation of brands that dominate our culture. Of course, relevance is always a moving target. But this year’s BRI–our seventh–proves how quickly brands can gain and lose favor. As we sifted through the latest findings, a new pattern of relevance emerged. The best brands are increasingly finding success in our new normal by the way they connect with us as humans.

Some go straight for the heart, resonating with us emotionally. Others appeal to the head, drawing us in with practical benefits. And an elite few do both. These relentlessly relevant all-stars take the top three spaces in our Index this year, led by Apple, coming in #1 for the seventh straight time. Peloton ranks #2, followed by Spotify at #3. While Peloton and Spotify have been in the news recently for a number of reasons, it’s clear that loyal consumers continue to stand by their favorite brands. Bose and Android come next, with Instant Pot, PlayStation, Fitbit, TED and USAA rounding out the top 10.

Certainly, many brands gained influence in our lives because of pandemic-related changes, as U.S. consumers continue to find new ways of working and learning. An astonishing 23 of the top 25, for instance, are brands primarily used in the home (Don’t worry, there are also encouraging signs that we’re headed out of hibernation, with travel and hospitality brands perking up nicely).

Our research is based on the same foundations we’ve used since we started dissecting relevance in 2015. We asked more than 13,500 U.S. consumers about four key drivers and attributes of relevance. But this year, we filtered these responses through two additional lenses. We asked, “How are brands appealing to the head?” and “How are brands speaking to the heart?” Through this approach, we uncovered important lessons for brands looking to become more indispensable to their audiences.

Brands that appeal primarily to our heads are the ultimate problems solvers. These rely on ruthless pragmatism and pervasive innovation, two core drivers of relevance. And they have become more relevant as the pandemic wears on, with consumers looking to become more self-reliant.

“The best brands are increasingly finding success in our new normal by the way they connect with us as humans.”

These brands are competent and dependable. Led by companies like Bose (#4), Instant Pot (#6) and KitchenAid (#18), they reassure us that they’ll keep life running smoothly, no matter what.

Next, we have the brands that speak to the heart. These are driven by customer obsession and distinctive inspiration. It’s the kind of passion that turns consumers into passionate evangelists. That can only happen by making sure each brand experience makes consumers feel good about themselves, whether drenching them in sweat, like Peloton, or filling them with smiles, like Pixar (#17).

Our relentlessly relevant all-stars do it all, pulling our heartstrings even as they shine in every aspect of execution. Think of how brands like Apple, Spotify, and Android connect us to our work and the world. These all-star brands help us fulfill our goals to find happiness and strength.

How Brands Can Increase Relevance

No matter where they landed on this year’s Index, we think any brand can get closer to their customers, following the trends we’ve uncovered. Some clear steps toward building more relevance:

Build tech that’s more human – Apple, Peloton, Spotify and Android prove that when tech is personalized and helps us connect human-to-human, it resonates. Whether we are communicating directly through messages and social media, joining a new community or discovering new voices, these brands give us the power to express ourselves through technology.

Enable self-care – In an anxious age, Calm, #12, the app for sleep and meditation, scored highest of all 293 brands we studied on the “Connects with me emotionally” ranking. Despite its production problems and falling revenues, Peloton continues to earn adoration because it makes people happy. And Fitbit provides a gentle push towards better health.

Back promises with performance – More time at home means people are closer to machinery all the time, with reliability becoming more important. (If it takes months to get our hands on a new appliance, who wants to fool around with something second-best?). Besides Instant Pot and KitchenAid, Dyson (#19), Whirlpool (#45) and Keurig (#34) also made impressive showings precisely because consumers see them as better than their competitors.

Encourage autonomy – Nothing feels as good as DIY confidence, whether air-frying a chicken or filing taxes. Financial brands did well as a result, including Afterpay (#11), a financing service for online transactions, TurboTax (#46) and Zelle (#39). Highly digital and customizable, these offerings put more control in the hands of the user with ease and reliability.

Make magic – People are still eager for brands they can access from home, even as the pandemic drags into its third year. They want to escape, and content creators made up a considerable portion of our top performers this year. Marvel (#14) and Pixar (#17) outpaced even Netflix (#29), coming in first and third respectively for the attribute “Makes me Happy.” Gaming platforms such as PlayStation (#7), Nintendo (#23), and Xbox (#35) also took on outsized importance in daily life.

Emphasize authenticity – Social and technology platforms that encouraged people to strut their stuff also did well. From Etsy (#24) and Pinterest (#41) to YouTube (#70) and TikTok (#144), watching people “Create” online–whether they’re dancing, knitting or interviewing Noodles the Pug–does more than entertain. These platforms democratize the way people can create, sharing joy and inspiration with others.


Whatever tomorrow brings, we can be sure that brands will play a huge role in our lives. To achieve uncommon growth, brands will have to provide a must-have service while delivering experiences that make us feel alive. What are the most relevant brands in your lives right now?

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.