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.


2022 Prophet Brand Relevance Index®

Prophet asked more than 13,500 consumers in the U.S. about the brands that matter most in their lives today. We measure their relationship to 293 brands in 27 categories, looking closely at 16 attributes. A new pattern of relevance emerged in this research: Brands are finding success in our new normal by connecting with us as humans—by appealing to the head and the heart.

“Brands are finding success in our new normal by connecting with us as humans—by appealing to the head and the heart.”

Download the Index.


How to Use Brand Humor for More Than a Laugh

Deadpan? Absurdist? Irreverent? To land laughs, know what kind of funny suits your brand and your audience.

Do you know what’s funny? When you try your hand at brand humor or humorous advertising but it lands with all the grace of a herd of wildebeests. Oof. But it’s not all bad gnus. (Womp.) With a few pointers, you can break out with more mirthful marketing—whether that’s funny copywriting, playful brand storytelling or funny ads—and there’s good reason to. You won’t just crack your audience up by using humor effectively; you’ll crack open more engagement, conversions, recall, brand equity and more, and this applies to both B2C to B2B.

(One brand is laughing all the way to the bank with conversions leaping to nearly 200% when they used humor in copywriting. We’ll get to that in a minute.) But first…why did humor even evolve in humans?

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Humanity

“Homo sapiens” is Latin for “wise man.” But maybe “wise guy” is a better fit. Because, from snickering at the back of the cave to snickering in the back of a movie theater, we’ve been finding things funny for a long time—like 35,000 years now. (Talk about a running joke!)

And while scientists still haven’t completely figured out the biological imperative for humor (and its attendant physiological response: laughter), they have some compelling theories. These are mostly around humor as a kind of social glue, from facilitating bonding to masking nervousness to dampening aggression to showing superiority to attracting partners. Laughter itself seems to have evolved from heavier breathing during play like play fighting or tickling.

Another intriguing theory is that humor enhances cognitive strategies by revealing incongruities. The idea is that our brains constantly make assumptions about what we’ll experience next or who other humans might be—and reward us with amusement when we realize our assumptions weren’t correct. It’s a little nuanced but still rooted in social connection.

Strike Paydirt When You Strike Them as Funny

That social connection is the true power of using humor effectively in marketing, verbal branding, or advertising; it links your humanity to your audience. It helps you find common ground, surprise and delight, diffuse tension and be relatable to your key customers or stakeholders.

But that’s not all. Being funny can lead to serious business results, improving everything from purchase intent, evaluation, and recall (turns out, people remember funny sentences more), to reach, engagement, and brand advocacy.

Take Wendy’s, for example. They’ve been roasting people on social media so hilariously that people now volunteer to get sent up in a #NationalRoastDay tweet. It’s a badge of honor at this point, and a great example of humor amping engagement and affinity.

“You won’t just crack your audience up by using humor effectively; you’ll crack open more engagement, conversions, recall, brand equity and more.”

Or consider Dollar Shave Club. That one funny breakout video? It cost only about $4,500—but generated more than 11 million views and massive media coverage. It also works for brands like Manly Bands, a wedding ring retailer who saw conversions jump to 93% (the conversion rate for one ring in particular increased to almost 200%!) when they traded boring for funny in their brand copywriting. And there are all kinds of success stories of using humor in advertising, from underwear to underarms.

But Don’t Save All Your Chuckles for Consumer Brands

B2B audiences would love more pop in their procurement—in fact, one Google study found B2B buyers are more emotionally connected to their vendors than consumers are to theirs, and nearly 50% likelier to buy when there’s a personal, emotional connection.

And again, funny campaigns boost recall, persistent behaviors and engagement for these buyers, too. But there’s another reason to dust off your comedic chops: not a lot of B2B brands are doing it, creating a massive opportunity to differentiate on top of all those other benefits.

Who could forget MailChimp’s FailChips? Or LinkedIn’s ridiculously relatable gifs for marketers? What about iStock by Getty’s hilarious take on over-posed stock images? Adobe Marketing Cloud even found a way to send up the mean streets of pay-per-click advertising.

What’s So Funny, Anyway?

It mostly comes down to incongruity. It’s about an unexpected reversal or left turn, usually near the end of a sentence, like, “I’m sorry I’m late. I got here as soon as I felt like it.” Ba-dum tss!

But there’s an art to using humor in marketing and branding. Done wrong, humor can distract from your message, weaken your credibility, and alienate or, worse, offend your audiences. This usually happens when:

  • Making fun of a specific group of people
  • Being ham-handed with a sensitive topic
  • Cracking a joke at an inopportune time (like a natural disaster or PR crisis)
  • Using a kind of humor that’s at complete odds with your brand
  • Attempting to wield humor without truly understanding its subtext (something you’ll find out fast if you get it wrong)

Three Principles to Land Your Punchline

With a few pointers, you can reap the benefits of using humor in content marketing, from emphasizing brand or product benefits to enhancing brand storytelling to building emotional connections, to engendering support (and funds) for societal issues, to generating explosive engagement on social.

1. Know Your Audience, Industry and Topic

It’s pretty table stakes for general branding and marketing but glossing over this can really kill your comedic campaign. You need to truly understand the personas in your target audience segments before you try to roll out a humorous ad or funny product video.

And you’ll want to go beyond typical demographics and go deep into psychographic segmentation to uncover things like beliefs, values, personality traits, lifestyles and hobbies so you can tailor your humor accordingly. There are two reasons: 1) you need to know what your audience responds to and 2) how not to alienate them. Zoomer humor, for example, is incredibly nuanced and increasingly meta-ironic or post-ironic—use either incorrectly at your peril.

So, find out what makes your audience tick. Are they impassioned social activists that appreciate pot-shots at the status quo? Stressed-out shoppers with a penchant for sarcasm? Extremely online intellectuals who like a bit of irony? Stay-at-home parents, who prefer deadpan to dad jokes? Knowing their likely personality profile will help you figure out what they might find funny, how far you can take it and what they could find offensive.

You also have to know your brand’s unique value proposition, product benefit, service offering, customer pain points, any product or brand weaknesses, and the context in which you operate—and know it inside and out—to know what’s funny about it. Try brainstorming your brand’s attributes, benefits, product use cases, industry quirks, even your product weaknesses—and then see if you can make unexpected and comical connections between them and your audience, competitors, recent trends, adjacent industries—get creative! You can use any of these elements to craft chuckle-worthy content.

Canned Laughter? No, Cannes Lions.

For instance, Zendesk, a customer service software provider, used a common customer service pain point—annoying support agent calls—as the basis for their funny “Sh*t Support Agents Say” video.

Love Cheetos but not orange-stained fingers? Same. But you can even poke fun at your own product limitations like these. In fact, doing so won Cheetos a 2021 Cannes Lion for their digital, social and out-of-home campaign that was based on exactly that: the (now iconic?) orange powder stain. You could say they created campaign success that was hard to…touch.

Even if you represent a more typically “dry” industry like materials engineering or healthcare, you can still generate solid results with humorous campaigns. In one study, a funny and a non-funny healthcare ad went head to head in a split test—and the funny one won, increasing time spent, credibility and message recall, no joke.

2. Know Your Form of Funny

But which kind of humor will work best for your brand? Because there are different ways to be funny in marketing—to different effects. Let’s take a look at some of them, with examples.

Light Humor – Sometimes a chuckle is just as good as a guffaw when it comes to making an emotional connection and delighting your audience. Light humor is more about being playful in your tone as opposed to landing a zinger of a punchline, like Bank of America’s “Can’t Stop Banking” video that poked gentle fun at the phenomenon of being on our phones.

Deadpan – Using deadpan humor can create a doozy of an impact. It’s a dry-wit display of emotional neutrality, usually contrasting a highly emotional moment—like Allstate’s Mayhem campaign (unleashing untold mayhem for competitors trying to keep up, no doubt). That Dollar Shave Club video mentioned earlier? Also deadpan.

Observational – This is when you make fun of a recent trend, larger human condition or current event. It’s delivered as a kind of conspiratorial, winking aside that tells the audience you get it, you relate and you’re both on the inside of that joke, whether it’s Apple poking fun at “the whole work-from-home thing” or Wendy’s roasting women’s razor maker Gillette Venus with their cheeky tweet, “You’re going to love our new pink straw. It’s an extra $2.50.” Pow! Take that, pink tax!

Absurdist or Surreal (and sometimes even downright impenetrable) – This humor is about being completely illogical to make people laugh and, generally, the weirder the funnier. It works as a foil to common, everyday situations where no one expects you to go off the rails (incongruity, remember?). Think: Skittles’ exhorting you to “Contract the rainbow!” or the Old Spice guy instructing you to, “Look down, back up, where are you? You’re on a boat with the man your man could smell like” before suddenly being on a horse.

Irreverent – A close cousin of the absurd is irreverent humor. This kind of funny lacks even a smidge of decorum or seriousness, instead favoring a brash, #nofilter and deliciously disrespectful breed of comedy designed to get attention and make you remember it, damn it. It’s about being bold and unflinchingly funny, like the consumer budgeting app, Cleo, which tells you, “If you don’t love Cleo, it’s probably you.” Or Manscaped, a men’s grooming brand that sells “tools for the family jewels.”

3. Know Your Moment

We haven’t even scratched the surface of all the ways you can be funny. But there are just too many kinds of humor to mention—which makes for a great segue into the problem of too much humor (see what I did there?). And, incredible, I know, but there really is a limit to making people laugh, as I’ve proven (that was meta-irony, by the way).

Indeed, one Twitter study found that 50% of people surveyed think that over-reliance on humor comes off as outdated. So it’s important to find moments for strategic levity, such as a singular campaign or a single asset like a video, banner ad or landing page—or even just a single component of those assets, like a hilarious headline, asinine aside, cheeky CTA or funny footnote. You can even have just an amusing brand name without the rest of your content is particularly comical. Remember, your mission is to surprise and delight—and you can’t do that if every line is a zinger.

Even if your verbal branding strategy is based on a uniquely hilarious brand voice, be judicious in its expression and the frequency of the funny so you don’t lose focus, attention, credibility…or your audience. Video is an ideal place to start. In fact, funny videos are the likeliest to go viral, like when had hellishly good fun with their “When Satan Met 2020” video (absurdist meets observational for those following along)—and generated some heavenly results, like 6.7 million views.

You Don’t Need a Ladder to Reach Funnier Heights…or Do You?

And, as we’ve seen, funny videos don’t just work for industries like online dating, which, okay, some might say is low-hanging fruit. Murphy Ladder isn’t an overtly funny brand…all the time. But they found a way (not to mention the most irresistibly irreverent actor) to make a product video literally hit you in the face with funny instead of beating you over the head with bland brand messaging.

Speaking of brand messaging, again—you can build an entire verbal brand strategy around humor. You’ve seen all the great reasons to do so. But before you do, you’ll need to apply rigor and a methodical approach (seriously, get downright pedantic) to defining your brand of humor, its expression, the principles underpinning it, and its guidelines, so your brand copywriters and communicators know exactly how to be funny while being firmly on-brand and on-strategy.


Get the Last Laugh!

Not sure? Start small and run simple A/B tests, try some focus groups, or run qualitative and, hell, even quantitative studies to understand what’s working and why. And whatever you do, commit to it—the only thing worse than being un-funny is Frankenstein-ing a campaign or piece of content with half-baked humor. Now, get out there and make people smile!

Given how effective humor is, it’s funny more marketers don’t use it. If you’re afraid—don’t be. Literally half of your customers want you to give them funny ads. All it takes is a super deep understanding of your audience, your brand of humor and your moment.


How Brand-Demand Love Wins Across the Marketing Lifecycle

The second post of a series about integrating brand and demand marketing capabilities to win in a complex and dynamic landscape, based on our conversations with CMOs across industries.

As we highlighted in the first post in our Brand-Demand Love series, we think it’s time for a more integrated and complementary relationship between brand and demand-gen marketing. Why? Because the current separation isn’t aligned to the dynamic purchase behaviors of consumers across an increasingly complex landscape. As Karla Davis, VP of Marketing at Ulta Beauty, told us:

“What is brand, and what is demand? That’s a little gray now.”

Karla Davis, VP of Marketing at Ulta Beauty

When accomplished senior marketers question the validity and usefulness of the traditional brand-demand paradigm – and many do – then surely, it’s time for a new model. After all, the effective coordination of brand and demand-gen activation strategies represents an integrated and agile marketing capability – the gold standard amongst marketing pros.

Feeling the Brand-Demand Love Across the Marketing Lifecycle

Brand and demand-gen activation cannot be viewed as separate or competing functions, but rather as interdependent and mutually reinforcing capabilities that comprise the core of the overall customer experience.

Each set of tactics has a significant role in attracting buyers and strengthening relationships at every step of the customer journey and across the entire lifecycle. But, taking the perspective of marketers, it’s easy to see why the brand-demand balance is fluid. When considering marketing activation investments, companies might adjust their orientation as:

  • Brand-led
  • Demand-led
  • Balanced

As business objectives evolve and companies navigate distinct phases of maturity, the optimal marketing approach will vary. For instance, a brand needing to differentiate from a competitive pack may need to be brand-led to generate awareness and consideration, while a business undergoing a portfolio launch, expansion or refresh may have more balanced brand-demand priorities.

For businesses focused on customer acquisition or market share gains, demand-led models will serve their immediate priorities in tandem with brand campaigns. Many direct-to-consumer brands, unique in their offerings, initially focused on acquisition only to shift towards brand marketing as their category became crowded. Mature organizations that find themselves at a point of market saturation and businesses without fully defined offers will both rely on brand-led marketing efforts to develop, sustain and enhance customer relationships.

Learning from Airbnb

Airbnb’s decision to cease all demand generation activities coming out of the pandemic suggests just how much the brand-demand pendulum can swing. When the pandemic shut down all travel, the company eliminated its marketing activation spend, which totaled $1.62 billion in 2019. As lockdown restrictions eased, Airbnb saw most of its traffic return to pre-pandemic levels, prior to re-investing in marketing activation campaigns.

“I don’t anticipate doing a lot of incentives because we have a huge amount of demand for the service already,” Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky told CNBC. “We are never going to spend the amount of money on [demand] marketing as a percentage of revenue as we did before the pandemic [because] our brand’s incredibly strong.”

Not every brand is Airbnb, of course, and it’s far more common for brand marketing spending to get in the crosshairs of budget cutters. The brand-demand mix is fluid for large and small marketing organizations. Other companies will find they need a different balance at different moments within their growth curves and maturity cycles.

External factors also play a role in defining the right balance at the right time. Social issues, including diversity and inclusion and climate change, are leading some companies to deploy brand spending to align with important causes.  Ashley Laporte, director at the communications firm RALLY explained her company’s approach as “Less about cause marketing, and more about helping companies take part in driving systemic change.” Taking positions that consumers support may lead to some increase in demand, but it will be hard to attribute sales directly to, say, thought leadership regarding a company’s commitment to net-zero admissions.

Another CMO in the manufacturing industry said she wanted “credit from business leaders, the board and institutional investors” for effectively positioning the brand relative to these issues, especially since it made the business more attractive to rising generations of workers.  An industry analyst told us, “Brands are being tortured with the cultural and societal unrest that’s out there,” and not just because investments related to these tricky issues are extraordinarily hard to measure.

What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Mastering the brand-demand mix means being flexible and committing to making necessary adjustments over time, like those that take place across the course of loving relationships. One partner’s needs may take precedence during a certain phase of life, but afterward, things rebalance as conditions change. It’s never exactly 50-50 (or 60-40 as in the famous Binet & Field model for budget allocation, which we’ll explore in more detail in a future post). Such a rigid formula may cause opportunities to be missed and doesn’t match the real world, where marketers must continuously adjust based on changing market conditions and business needs.

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 suggest speaking the “language of love” to business leaders and other stakeholders who struggle to see beyond the numbers in evaluating the merits of brand investments. The key is to connect business objectives to the power and resonance of brand. Marketers that can bring empathy and emotional intelligence to these conversations will be more likely to find supportive partners – and isn’t that what we’re all looking for?

In our next post, we look more closely at proven principles for shaping effective go-to-market strategies – the “vows of the brand-demand marriage.”

Get in touch today if you’d like to learn how to bring brand and demand together to win across the full marketing lifecycle.


Into the Metaverse: How Should Brands Engage Today?

It’s not quite here. But brands need to know whether they intend to tiptoe, dabble or dive right into Web 3.0.

Many of us have been living in a world that feels a bit like Microsoft’s metaverse for the past two years. From Outlook and Teams to LinkedIn and Xbox, Microsoft has built a growing network of digital experiences that keep many of us in its ecosystem throughout much of daily life.

While the experiences don’t yet connect to form the fully immersive digital world deemed a “metaverse” it’s clear they are well-positioned to become a key player. Recently, this ecosystem got a monumental reinforcement in the form of the biggest acquisition in the company’s history: A near $70B acquisition of Activision Blizzard, one of the largest video game developers and publishers in the world. Through this move, the embattled Activision Blizzard will receive a lifeline from Microsoft in exchange for the developer’s hits, including “Call of Duty,” “World of Warcraft” and “Candy Crush.”

Microsoft is not the first tech firm to make a significant move toward the metaverse, with digital players increasingly positioning for this future. From Facebook rebranding their parent company to Meta, to Snap acquiring a host of augmented reality companies, many digital companies see the metaverse as the next frontier.

These companies are recognizing the significant shift in how consumers are engaging with digital platforms and are placing huge value on the impact these platforms can have with Gen Z and beyond. But with the metaverse arms race accelerating and the benefits of digital engagements clear, how can brands win in these new worlds as they continue to develop?

Brands Building Digital DNA

As the metaverse continues to unfold, brands shouldn’t wait to start engaging. Early adopters will earn an advantage by diving in with the platforms today, building native credibility in a market skeptical of brands, while gaining a competitive edge on brands that are slower to adopt this next frontier.

Brands that wait until the platform reaches consumer saturation will not drive incremental benefit beyond that of an additional ad channel – the opportunity in the metaverse is much more significant. There is no better way to prepare your brand for the future than to jump in now and refine your digital strategy and presence as you go.

To help with this transition, Prophet has identified three key brand strategy questions to consider:

How Can Your Brand Meet a Need in Consumers’ Digital Lives?

Brands entering these virtual worlds shed their physical limitations and have an opportunity to rethink the value they provide to their consumers. The companies that win in this space are the ones that create experiences to meet a need within this digital ecosystem while reinforcing the brand equity strengths carried through from the physical world.

Nike was able to answer this question in preparation for the introduction of NIKELAND on Roblox, clearly identifying that they would be able to support consumers in digitally expressing themselves, both in lifestyle and clothing.

How Might Your Brand Come to Life Within a New Digital Environment?

The metaverse creates immersive opportunities for brands to build relationships in real-time, beyond the bounds of the sequential conversations that dominate social media. In the metaverse, brands must be wholly authentic and dynamically engaging – and the ones able to strategically translate their voice, imagery and experiences into this context will earn new levels of consumer favor.

While AI-based conversational technology is yet to be widely utilized by brands, we can look to advanced virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa or Samsung’s Bixby for inspiration on how brands will soon be capable of continuous, real-time conversations with consumers. These dynamic and infinite touchpoints will demand continuous on-strategy voice and tone to build brands within these new platforms.

Ultimately, How is Your Brand Going to Commercialize the Metaverse?

Commercialization in these digital spaces goes beyond anything possible today. It’s more than just selling products – digital engagements provide an unparalleled opportunity for collaborations and completely immersive branded experiences on platforms where creators have the most power.

As augmented reality blurs the lines between reality and technology, brands will have unprecedented context for consumers’ daily lives and will need to commercialize themselves in ways that feel authentic and value-added. When brands overstep their bounds or present themselves in overly commercialized or sales-focused contexts, consumers will perceive the integrations as creepy and reject the offerings entirely.

“The companies that win in this space are the ones that create experiences to meet a need within this digital ecosystem while reinforcing the brand equity strengths carried through from the physical world.”


Metaverse-defining moves like Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard will only accelerate as both big tech incumbents and forward-thinking startups converge in this next evolution of our internet.

Prophet’s Technology, Media and Telecom team has partnered with metaverse pioneers, and we’d love to help you think through these key questions as you consider your brand’s strategy within these new worlds. Whether you’re a traditionally analog brand looking to connect with Gen Z or a digitally native brand accelerating growth through new channels, let’s chat about how you can become a leader in this next phase of digital consumption.


Coming Soon: Winners in our 2022 Prophet Brand Relevance Index®

Get ready for a shakeup. Consumer post-pandemic perceptions are redefining relevance.

Mark your calendars, brand watchers. We are getting ready to release our seventh edition of the Prophet Brand Relevance Index®, and it’s full of surprises. Without giving too much away, we can tell you that we have 96 new brands in the study this year, many of which landed in our top 50 brands. And as we’ve seen in previous years, relevance continues to be a key driver of growth – with the top brands outpacing the average growth rate in the S&P 500.

The new crop of winners shows that while relevance has always been a moving target, two years of seismic shifts in consumer behavior have solidified the way people adopt and abandon brands. And these changes go far beyond the obvious. Of course, digital matters more than ever. And we can see brands that have made intelligent moves to meet these cultural moments are those making the biggest gains.

For the second year in a row, that’s meant honoring how much time people are spending at home. It’s not just where the heart is—it is where the head is, where the body is, where everything is. And so, it is no surprise that every single brand in our top twenty-five represents an aspect of our home life. And a number of brands in the top 50 show that as the pandemic evolves and confidence builds, people are itching to come out of hibernation.

But more importantly, our brand thought leaders discovered that new patterns of relevance are emerging. The team includes:

“We’ve found that the four components underpinning our relevance research are as meaningful as ever,” says Mulvihill. “Brands still derive their relevance from customer obsession, ruthless pragmatism, pervasive innovation and distinctive inspiration. Yet as we continue to refine the science of relevance and interpret post-pandemic changes, these components express themselves in new ways.” Based on responses from 13,500+ U.S. consumers, we looked at 293 brands in 27 categories. We’ve discovered that brands are finding success in our new normal by connecting with us through three distinct avenues.

Brands that solve life’s frustrating problems are leading the first path to relevance. These ruthlessly pragmatic, pervasively innovative brands stand out by fueling the current need for self-reliance and DIY confidence. As we recalibrate our routines through this increasingly digital life, we choose only the best support staff. We want appliances, products and services that are smart enough to enable a new reality spent mostly at home.

“Brands that solve life’s frustrating problems are leading the first path to relevance.”

Others win us over almost by magic, increasing relevance by speaking more to people’s hearts than their heads. Customer obsessed and distinctively inspired, these are the names that turn customers into fans, loyalists and collectors. Devotion and demand like this are born from experiences that make people feel good about themselves, whether by providing easy access to escape or luxury that makes us feel alive and special.

Then there are those relentlessly relevant all-stars that somehow do both, hitting us simultaneously in the head and the heart. It’s because they are easily personalized, making us feel like they actually know us. They connect us to our families, work and the world. They help us discover communities of others who share the same passions. They fill our intimate spaces with stories and sounds from the outside. They help us fulfill our goals to find happiness and strength. These are the brands brightening the world, every single day.


“In this year’s Index we not only wanted to understand what brands are most relevant but how these brands connect with people in different ways to become indispensables,” says Brandt Jones. “By looking at the data this way we were able to uncover fascinating truths about why we make the choices we make, not only because of the pandemic’s at-home reality but because of the role different brands fill in our lives.

Want to learn more about how the most relevant brands are tapping into our heads and hearts to win over consumers? Sign up now to be the first to receive a copy of the 2022 Prophet Brand Relevance Index®.


A Guide for New CMOs

For a crash course in what to do first, plan your listening tour and ask the right questions.

Are you in a new role as chief marketer, or perhaps new to your category? This simple guide offers straightforward ideas and insights that can help you succeed.

To start, think about what you need to do in your first 100 days. It is important to consider:

  • Do I need to develop a transformation agenda?
  • Can I create a more compelling go-to-market strategy?
  • How can I make our brand more relevant to customers?
  • Are there foundational tools to put in place, such as a documented customer journey or a marketing plan?

Given the rapid change in marketing and the greater need to prove immediate impact, we help new CMOs flex the most impactful levers including content, data and digital marketing, as well as reimagine their marketing organization for the modern era of growth engine marketing.

Here’s a quick guide of what to ask, what to do and where to look in the first 100 days.

What to Ask

Asking the right questions up front can help craft the right agenda, identify potential initiatives and create an actionable roadmap. Below are six questions you should explore with your team, colleagues, and agency partners.

  1. How relevant is/are your brand(s) to your most important customers and stakeholders? How relentlessly focused on the customer are insights, strategies and tactics?
  2. Is the marketing strategy aligned to the business strategy? What is marketing’s contribution to the enterprise? How do the rest of the C-suite and the board see marketing’s role?
  3. Are brand and demand priorities clear and integrated—or in competition and at odds? Is there a portfolio marketing strategy in place or is the strategy purely product-focused?
  4. How are you going to engage and empower the sales, communications and product teams? Is there a shared end-to-end customer journey? What culture of collaboration exists or doesn’t exist?
  5. What is the maturity level within the marketing organization for key digital capabilities such as customer data, content, personalization and attribution?
  6. Is your marketing team organized in the most efficient way possible and around your business priorities? How might you set up your operating model?


What to Do

Here are some recommended actions passed on from other leaders, proven to get you on solid footing and off to a smart start.

1. Schedule your listening tour

Meet with your direct reports and colleagues across the organization, and ask these questions: What do you want me to create? What do you need me to protect? What do you need me to prioritize? Be sure to share back the results and your plan.

2. Create these CMO assets

  • Introduce Yourself Presentation: Prepare a “top 10 list” presentation that addresses these questions: Who are you? Why are you here? What kind of change initiative are you leading? What do you believe about marketing? What do you value? How do you like to work with others? What are your top priorities? What are key milestones for your first six months? What do you expect from your team? What can they expect from you?
  • Vision, Agenda and Roadmap: These are often created in a workshop over a few weeks with a suite of collaborations They should include a description in which the brand can fulfill the business potential, and the springboards, or starting places, that exist now. One key artifact to create is a dashboard to help track progress.
  • Growth Era Marketing Plan: This plan is a modern replacement for the integrated marketing plan and has many of the conventional elements updated for marketing’s new role as a growth engine for the enterprise. Topics include business vision, opportunities, strategies and tactics, customer data strategy, calendar, investment, and key enablers (e.g. content, technology, people, partners).

3. Work in outcomes

Translate your priority initiatives from marketing objectives to business impact. For example:

  • Reducing cost: Investing in a content strategy that leads to search engine optimization will, for the business, reduce the cost of digital marketing that may need to be done.
  • Increasing revenue: Engaging in brand and marketing campaigns that increase customer loyalty can, for the business, increase the share of wallet and customer lifetime value.
  • Improving efficiency: Improving digital experiences can be a reason for a prospective client to work with you, therefore improving the volume of incoming leads, lead quality, conversion rates and retention.
  • Product innovation: Customer insights gleaned from marketing activities and shared with product management can optimize product performance and uncover new opportunities.

Ask your teams to quantify and report their work against broader business impact, not only marketing KPIs. A dashboard that integrates marketing KPIs and business performance can help sustain that conversation and connection.

“When asked business questions (e.g. what have you delivered for the business?), don’t give marketing answers (e.g. NPS).”

Raja Rajamannar, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, Mastercard

Where to Look

Prophet helps new and tenured CMOs set an agenda and transform their marketing inside and out. Talk to David Novak, Mat Zucker, Marisa Mulvihill and our brand and marketing strategy teams. Here are some additional resources which might be helpful:


  • The Next CMO: A Guide to Marketing Operational Excellence, Peter Mahoney, Scott Todaro and Dan Faulkner (2020)
  • Lies, Damned Lies and Marketing: Separating Fact from Fiction and Drive Growth, Atul Minocha (2021)
  • Chief Marketing Officers at Work, Josh Steimle (2016)
  • CMO Manifesto, John Ellett (2012)
  • Owning Game-Changing Sub-Categories, David Aaker (2020)
  • Creating Signature Stories, David Aaker (2018)

Articles & Speeches



The Chief Marketing Officer is a C-suite role that can lead, shape, and help deliver uncommon growth for the organization. Marketing is evolving fast, and every leader—new or tenured—needs the mindset and toolset to stay in front.

Reach out to our brand and marketing experts for advice and support on getting started with your agenda.  Have a resource we should mention? Let us know.


Brand and Demand Marketing: A Love Story

Marketing has always been shaped by shifts in consumer behavior, expectations and technology advancements, as well as its contribution to the enterprise. As the scope and speed of such changes expand and accelerate, it is more difficult for brands to know which types of campaigns and media work best, and the growth to which marketing can contribute.  

They must make hard tradeoffs in deciding where to invest finite resources, how to differentiate amongst competitors and how ambitious they need to be as a growth engine. Are the tradeoffs—and competition between forces—helpful or harmful? 

Today’s marketing industry feels different, according to our recent candid conversations with a dozen senior marketing leaders across industries. Customers are harder to reach and engage, even though we have vastly more data and insights about them and stronger personalization tools. Budgets are tighter and internal stakeholders more demanding. Tried-and-true best practices no longer apply. There’s a sense that rules are being rewritten in real-time. The once useful “marketing funnel” concept seems less relevant given that consumer behavior changes constantly and paths to purchase are increasingly non-linear.  

As a result, many marketing organizations experience significant tension between brand marketing and demand generation – a tension we believe undercuts growth and harms performance. Brand marketing typically describes long-term efforts to drive awareness of and preference for a company, product or service, while demand marketing seeks to get audiences to take action immediately (e.g., click on an offer, sign up for a newsletter).  

“This topic is one of the things that we’ve [been] trying to understand – where in the funnel do we need to spend our dollars in order to really drive business results and drive growth.”

– TD Bank, CMO

As the CMO of a challenger consumer goods brand told us, “Brand is about growing awareness and affinity over time,” while the primary objective for demand, or performance marketing, is “driving short-term conversion.”  

The “either-or” bifurcation of marketing into these categories presents huge challenges as marketers seek to optimize budget allocation, track performance and structure their teams and operations to drive uncommon growth. The worst part, the split between brand and demand generation isn’t aligned with consumers’ consumption patterns in today’s world.  

As a senior industry analyst told us, “Consumers have zero separation between the brand being communicated and their experience. In finding the right investment for brand and demand, it’s both, not versus.”  

Stop the fighting and find the love.

This article, the first in a series, is based on our recent market research with senior marketing executives and focused on the specific internal and external challenges CMOs face today related to brand and demand. These marketers also highlighted the levers they have at their disposal to create effective and integrated brand and demand strategies.  

Every marketing executive we talked to confirmed the importance of finding the right balance between brand and demand. We also heard repeatedly what a difficult balance it is to strike; everyone agrees that brand and demand efforts must be coordinated and synchronized. However, how to do this is much less clear. Despite the interdependence of brand and demand marketing, many tricky questions remain: 

  • How much impact does brand marketing have on conversion?
  • How does customer acquisition efforts influence brand perception?
  • What’s the optimal level of investment across brand and demand?
  • How can brand and demand show up most effectively across channels?

“This topic comes up all the time, in the B2B context, the brand piece is a hard sell because our team doesn’t understand why it’s important.”

– Trane Technologies, SVP of Marketing

In our brand and demand blog series, we explore this important conversation with a modern lens, examining how marketers can embrace the brand-demand love. Specifically, we’ll cover:  

  • The seasons of love: Understand why brand and demand are meant to be together and how they can overcome obstacles to love across the marketing lifecycle – we’re playing a long game 
  • Writing the vows: Set a strong strategic foundation, because every brand-demand marriage needs a rock-solid foundation of what it stands for and how it will approach the market – when to say “I do” and when “I don’t” 
  • Shared finances: Create shared goals and an investment agenda, define smarter metrics for allocating the shared pocketbook, or budget, and track the performance of those shared investments – brand and demand should not fight about money 
  • Setting up the household: Determine how to organize teams and build the right capabilities – brand and demand need a comfortable nest 

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 think it’s time for brand and demand to stop thinking of themselves as competing interests fighting for the same precious resources. Rather, they must be complementary companions with a shared agenda and intertwined goals. We believe it’s time for brand and demand to fall in love because together, they are the ultimate power couple to build relevance and unlock uncommon growth.   

Get in touch today if you’d like to learn how to bring brand and demand together to unleash the full power of your business.

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