Brand-Building in the Metaverse: A Marketer’s Guide 

Understanding how this next frontier will redefine the relationship between brands and consumers.

It’s hard to have a conversation about technology these days without hearing the terms blockchain, Web 3.0, NFT, decentralization or Metaverse. These concepts are undoubtedly the building blocks of the next generation of the Internet – but as a marketing or innovation expert, what exactly should you be considering?  

Below, we provide our thoughts on how this next frontier will redefine the relationship between brands and consumers – and how brands can position themselves to win. Brands must be clear on their “why” (strategic objectives) as well as their “what” (experience value proposition and activation strategy). 

What is the Metaverse and Web 3.0? 

First a simple explanation of what the Metaverse and Web 3.0 are. Web 2.0 is built on contribution, interactivity, collaboration and social media. However, whoever controls the data on their “centralized server” has access to a lot of information.  

This imbalance is what Web 3.0 is trying to solve. Web 3.0 is a space where people operate on decentralized platforms. This means moving away from the big tech giants and intermediaries and shifting towards democratized, collective governance. The users create the content! 

We are at the beginning of the Metaverse. There are still a lot of limitations including visual, user experience, commercial infrastructure and sustainability considerations. However, brands are already out there on the Sandbox, Decentraland, or other platforms, exploring unique value propositions to offer to users and their consumers.  

Is Your Company Leveraging the Metaverse to Elevate Your Brand? 

In the Metaverse, consumer brands will continue to enable commerce, interactions and experiences for people. Brands must think about how they will engage with customers in this new world. What will their needs be? What will touchpoints–including marketing and sales channels–look like? What are the limitations, or rather, the possibilities of what a brand can stand for in the Metaverse? How should marketing campaigns be launched to attract the target audience?  

We found that brands that have invested in the Metaverse follow five key trends, which reflect a wide breadth of opportunities for marketers: 

  1. Broadcast: increase brand awareness through large live events
  2. Engage: drive consumer engagement by creating communities and immersive experiences, especially younger demographics
  3. Advocate: engage loyal customers with exclusive offerings 
  4. Inform: create gamified, interactive education on their products and services
  5. Sale: launch virtual offerings and explore new business models  

The Metaverse offers a novel and uninhibited space for brands to test and learn. Because of this, brands are eagerly diving in, testing the waters and making a splash with bold moves. However, the Metaverse is far from merely a new touchpoint/channel/platform for marketing activation. Eventually, it will redefine the entire world brands operate in.  

Marketers need to maintain a long-term perspective as they consider brand building in the Metaverse:   

1. Bolstered and Enriched Brand Promise and Equities 

Entering the Metaverse does not mean starting over. A strong brand in the physical world can focus on bolstering its image in the Metaverse by reinforcing its message, amplifying its reach and innovating new ways to delight customers.  

Because the Metaverse also offers a fundamentally different way for consumers to experience the world, brands should seize the opportunity, which offers them the ability to explore how their existing equities can be reimagined in a new space and in a holistic and multidimensional way. Entering the Metaverse can unleashes new possibilities for both themselves and their customers.   

For instance, Nike created the virtual world, Nikeland, on Roblox’s online gaming platform. Nikeland is complete with customizable avatars, Nike headquarters buildings, mini-games and apparel. It builds on the brand’s mission to create immersive and engaging communities that offer a personalized experience for every user.  

Louis Vuitton, one of the most storied brands in the fashion industry, has embraced digital transformation in the Web 2.0 world with a successful omnichannel approach. In the Metaverse, LV has continued to stay at the front of the pack by launching the mobile game “Louis: The Game” to commemorate the 200th birthday of its founder. In the game, players can explore six different Metaverse worlds while learning about LV’s history, earning virtual branded memorabilia and even collecting in-game only NFTs. The game allows the brand to honor its deep heritage and timeless legacy in an entirely new way that enriches the customer experience and deepens their connection to the brand. 

2. Multi-Sensorial and Immersive Branded Experience 

Regardless of which approach you choose to take, the Metaverse has meaningful implications on how a brand comes to life visually. Nike extends its signature curve of the Swoosh into the Nikeland with a bright and dynamic color palette. LV applies its iconic emblem to the character and landscape designs of “Louis: The Game.” These robust visual assets have made their Metaverse experiences stand out among the others.  

However, in the Metaverse, establishing a brand using logos, typography and color palettes alone is not enough. Current brand identities and visual systems are largely made for two-dimensional usage, but the Metaverse requires us to expand our thinking and create brands that are conversational, multidimensional and multi-sensorial. Brands need to create meaningful interactions to immerse the users and reward their visit. 

How does a brand express itself through aspects such as dimension, motion, sound, touch and conversation? How can a brand build towards a holistic identity that is not just an eye-catching way to create buzz, but rather a lasting way to reinforce what it stands for and position itself for long-term growth? These are the important questions brands must consider while entering the Metaverse. 

Think About Your Metaverse Strategy Today 

Whether you’re a skeptic or an evangelist, there is no doubt that the Metaverse will create an unprecedented shift in how consumers and brands interact. As Web 3.0 technologies continue to develop and companies race to build our future virtual world, brands must think about how they will show up and how they will engage their customers in the marketplace of tomorrow. Traditional and digitally native brands alike have an opportunity to redefine themselves in the hearts and minds – and screens – of their consumers.  

As a wrap up, these are the questions brands must be able to answer: 

  1. Your target audience: Who is hanging out there? 
  2. Your business outcome: What are your strategic objectives? 
  3. Your experience value proposition: What do you do there? 
  4. Your campaign strategy: How to activate and engage your audience?
  5. Your costs: What costs do you need to have in mind?  


The Metaverse is like the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona; it will take a while to complete. But we have strong convictions on how to be successful in the Metaverse. Stay tuned for our next articles that address these points in more detail.

Schedule a conversation with our digital practice today to discuss how your brand can be set up to win.


How Attending Cannes Changed My Perspective on Brands: 6 Takeaways  

A Young Lion shares lessons from attending Cannes, including how young talent can change marketing.

As I left New York City for Cannes, I was both nervous and excited, unsure of what to expect for the week ahead. I was proud to be selected as one of 30 global participants under 30 for the Cannes Lions Brand Marketers Academy– a weeklong program for rising stars in marketing to come together and learn from leading CMOs and CEOs. I was looking forward to meeting some amazing people from many different industries and brands. Nothing, though, prepared me for such a mind-blowing experience–personally, professionally and as a global citizen. 

Of course, I have plenty to dish about. To name a few, I finagled my way into Spotify’s private Dua Lipa concert; I bumped smack-dab into Ryan Reynolds; I heard Paris Hilton speak articulately about Web3; and when human-rights activist Malala took the microphone, I admit, I cried. 

As I sort through my notes and memories, still reminiscing about an incredible farm-to-table dinner from my stopover in Paris, I know at least seven Cannes-backed ideas are going to shape my career and fuel the work I do for brands. 

1. Be a Climber, Not a Camper 

Many speakers, including marketing execs from Procter & Gamble, GSK, Google, Meta, Mastercard and Activision Blizzard, talked about the importance of developing a growth mindset, embracing ambiguity and always looking to learn. In fact, the best advice that all these industry titans kept sharing was: The second you get bored in a role, you know it is time to switch and take on a new challenge to learn.  

Climbers are always growing and must ensure their personal and professional brands are solid before reaching the top of the mountain. But these world-class marketers use that philosophy in a more generous way, helping others shine. While you will encounter campers throughout your career, and not all feedback is good feedback, it is clear that these leaders see building ladders and bridges for others as a critical part of the growth process – as demonstrated by the time they spent in our classroom during the week. 

2. Creativity + Empathy = Business Impact 

Marketing results run on great campaigns and solid brand building, and Cannes Lions exists to celebrate them. Yet these CMOs hammered home that true creativity cannot connect with people unless it is rooted in empathy – real “I see you” levels of compassion. 

Empathy requires active listening to consumers and coworkers. Marketing is not a democracy, of course. But great leaders must provide safe spaces for diverse thoughts, disagreement and debate. 

And I will never forget this advice as the most important way to evaluate new creatives: You only see work for the first time once. What do you see? Is it different? Is it expressing the brand in a new way? How does it make you feel? 

3. When It Comes to DEI and ESG, Gen Z Has X-ray Vision 

People get tired of members of Gen Z painting themselves as great truth-tellers. But in this area, we are already experts at spotting the malarkey. Much research confirms that Gen Z is more alert to all manners of green, pink and rainbow washing. And as I sat with the other global academy students, listening to frequent diversity, inclusion and sustainability pitches, I’m happy to report young marketers are even more attuned. I came home 300% convinced: If brands and companies cannot pursue these essential goals in transparent and authentic ways, they shouldn’t bother. Gen Z (and others) will see right through them.  

4. The Marketing World Needs More Ikigai 

For all the talk about brand purpose, I didn’t know of the centuries-old idea of “ikigai” until Jim Stengel, a consultant and former CMO of P&G, preached this. It means “reason for living”–the purpose we feel we are here to fulfill. It is easy to get sidetracked by what others want from us or expect us to be, personally and professionally. His challenge to all marketers is to discover what we are passionate about, what we love doing. What is your superpower? What are people giving you feedback on? Know your own brand and strengths. Whose life do you admire? Design your own ikigai to fit this purpose. 

5. Push Deeper Into Authentic, Human-Centric Brand Insights to Unlock Value  

Most of us believe we understand the brands we work on. But with no linear path to purchase or an expanding customer ecosystem, the definition of what is on or off for a brand is constantly being tested. The brand experience must be consistent and authentic – across real-life and metaverse touchpoints. When companies genuinely understand what a brand is good at, we can find new ways to add value to consumers. We can navigate between the virtual and real worlds with that human-centric truth. 

6. Embrace the Next Big Thing 

Every speaker stressed how important it is to give up the idea of being right or perfect. Throughout my time at Cannes, the importance and power of embracing mistakes were emphasized.  

One thing that is not okay according to these presenters? Marketers not being at least a little curious about new trends and technology, even if it turns out to be an inconsequential fad. Curiosity and knowledge are essential tools. Lose it, and you become irrelevant–no matter how tenured you are in the business.  

Marc Pritchard, P&G’s Chief Brand Officer, epitomizes that next, new thing with passion, essentially firing himself every 18 months from a category within the business. With each reinvention, he is looking to learn more about disruption– from gaming, tech titans and yes, the metaverse– and is committed to infusing sustainability and DEI standards across all touchpoints. I especially love his confession that he doubts himself daily. As a result, he says he never “wings” anything and always prepares, meticulously. 


After several pandemic years of so few in-person professional conferences, a week at the Cannes Lions Brand Marketers Academy reminded me why I started in this industry. To keep growing–and to develop more effective growth strategies for clients–young female marketers like me need more exposure. Especially in these times of economic turbulence, new ideas, perspectives and approaches are key to maximum business impact. 


Lean Into Leadership: Amy Silverstein

Since joining the firm as chief financial officer two years ago, Amy has played a critical role in Prophet’s growth trajectory. I’ve been fortunate to develop a great partnership with her— partially because we work hard to show the ROI of our marketing efforts, but if I’m being honest, it’s really because Amy is a leader that cares deeply about the firm and its people. She’s a wonderful mentor— always willing to listen, share ideas, guidance and advice. Numbers fill her day, but she spends a lot of her time on people, empathy and leadership. I cannot imagine Prophet without her. 

Amanda Nizzere: What’s your go-to productivity hack?  

Amy Silverstein: It’s very simple. Most of my day is dedicated to my family and to work; and in all honesty, I feel very blessed to have both and wouldn’t have it any other way. To kick start my day, I try to carve out 30 minutes each morning for a quick workout—a run outside or some yoga. A little “me” time before getting the kids up and off to school changes my entire outlook and enables me to focus and bring my most productive self to the job. 

AN: Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?  

AS: Earlier in my career, I struggled with maintaining boundaries and balance between work and family. Everything felt urgent, everything felt critical and everything required perfect execution and delivery. To say I was tough on myself is an understatement.  

But a dear colleague of mine shared one simple truth. He said, “We make cornflakes here. We aren’t saving lives.” He wasn’t diminishing the importance of our work; in fact, he too was very hardworking and gave much of himself to his career and the success of our firm. But he went on to explain that while we should take pride in the work we do, we need to also take pride in what we contribute to our personal lives, to our family lives. We need to make sure that we give the best of ourselves to those who depend on us and love us at home, just as we try to bring the best of ourselves to work, too. I keep the word “cornflakes” close to mind always now, and while I may not always get the balance right, I am always trying.  

“We need to make sure that we give the best of ourselves to those who depend on us and love us at home, just as we try to bring the best of ourselves to work, too.”

AN: What’s the worst job you’ve ever had, and what did you learn from it?  

AS: I was working at a not-to-be-mentioned investment banking firm very early in my career and had been pulling all-nighters for 2-3 days prepping for a board presentation with a key client. I was sick as a dog, but I somehow managed to get the presentation done.  

When I walked into the office of my managing director to deliver the final deck, he looked at me and said, “Don’t you dare come into my office. I don’t want to catch whatever it is you have. Drop it at the door.” It was at that moment I learned the importance of prioritizing a supportive and positive culture when choosing a job. I left shortly after that interaction.  

AN: What’s a mistake you made early on in your career, and what did you learn from it?  

AS: When I first started in investment banking, I didn’t have the same depth of accounting acumen that some of my colleagues had. The mistake I made was allowing myself to lean into Imposter Syndrome. It delayed my ability to own my role, learn what I needed to and shine.  

Luckily, I had strong mentors who saw what I brought to the table. They taught me that it was ok to not have all the answers and to not be able to do everything right out of the box. They taught me to not be afraid to ask questions or ask for guidance, and to recognize that we all, even at the most senior levels, have things to learn, areas to improve to grow ourselves and our contributions.   

AN: What energizes you at work?  

AS: There are two things that energize me every day at work. First, I love that I am learning and growing every day, that I am challenged with complex problems to solve and able to contribute value on a regular basis.  

Second, I love the amazing team I work with. They are bright and talented and bring incredible expertise, intelligence and thoughtfulness to their work. Not only are they curious people who are always looking for new ways to learn and grow, but they are also exceptional human beings—kind, compassionate and a joy to spend time with. Can you tell I feel very lucky?   

AN: If you could snap your fingers and become an expert in something, what would it be?  

AS: I would love to be a sommelier. I have a deep passion for great food and wine, and over the years have become a pretty good cook. But other than knowing what wines I enjoy, I really do not have much knowledge about wine—what vintages and regions produce the best of certain types, etc. And I don’t know how to best pair wine with food. I would love to be an expert in that! 

AN: If you could write a book about your life, what would the title be and why? 

AS: It would be titled, “To be Content.” I spent my young adult years and through my 30s always striving for more and more. I never took a step back to realize how blessed I truly was with all I had, and rather was always focusing on what I didn’t have, what I still wanted (whether it was children, further advancement with my work, wealth, etc.). As many people will tell you, the “Aha” moment does present as you get older, and I have found my last decade or so truly fulfilling as I have come to appreciate the smallest to biggest joys in my life. I am content and so genuinely appreciative of all I have.  

“I spent my young adult years and through my 30s always striving for more and more. I never took a step back to realize how blessed I truly was with all I had.”

AN: What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?  

AS: Before I had my children, I was incredibly adventurous. I have flown a few Cessnas, sky-dived in Rotorua New Zealand, whitewater rafted level 5-6 rapids in the Victoria Falls in South Africa, to name a few. I was fearless and willing to try any adventure (except bungee jumping) that came before me. Once I had kids, however, my courageous side faded away. I’m sadly now so afraid of heights I can barely walk to the top of a lighthouse without grasping onto the handrails for dear life. My children do not believe my tales of adventure!   

About the Series 

Throughout my career, I have been fascinated with the building blocks of leadership, from motivation, coaching and communication to mentorship, empathy, inspiration and more. Unraveling and understanding what makes a strong and impactful leader tick can help each of us implement new strategies to grow as individuals and leaders ourselves. Over the years, I’ve listened to podcasts, read books, attended conferences and listened to TED Talks about various leadership topics, but some of the most impactful lessons and pieces of advice I’ve learned have been from those around me—my mentors, colleagues and industry peers—which led me to create this interview series. I invite you to join me as I interview various leaders in my network to share new tools and wise advice from them that you may just want to add to your own leadership toolbox. 


Amy is Prophet’s chief financial officer and a member of its executive committee, with a tenured career running financial departments at large agencies. People go to her to discuss ideas and strategies as wide-ranging as how to advance the growth trajectory of the organization, how to analyze and assess the ROI of potential investment opportunities, how to secure necessary funding for new growth investment ideas and how to negotiate the gnarliest of contracts, among other things. Want to learn more about Amy or have another question? Reach out directly here


Demystifying Today’s Confusion Around Brand Purpose and Social Impact

Both brand purpose and ESG strategy are important to build a relevant brand, but they do not have to be one and the same.  

The idea of brand purpose is not new. For years Prophet has helped clients fuel business growth by defining their purpose – an evergreen and inspirational North Star that articulates the core business strategy and guides internal and external audiences by answering two key questions: What do we believe? And why do we exist? While brand purpose has long been a critical first step in building and maintaining brand relevance, today, it has become a highly discussed and often misunderstood catchphrase.

A recent “Wall Street Journal” article investigated “the brands-with-purpose strategy,” questioning Unilever’s decision to assign each of its 400 brands a socially or environmentally focused purpose. As purpose continues to rise to the top of brand builders’ “to do” lists, these conversations illustrate a growing misconception: Purpose is being conflated with social or environmental impact. While it’s true that purpose and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) strategies are both critical to building a relevant brand, not all brands’ core reasons for existing can or should be centered around social or environmental impact. 

Brand Purpose and Its History

Over the last century, in the first iteration of purpose, brands often focused on signaling strength and building employees’ and shareholders’ confidence. Under legendary CEO Jack Welch in the 1980s, General Electric existed “to be the world’s most valuable company.” Brands formed consumer relationships through one-way mass media communication, and consumers had more transactional expectations of brands, so many brands anchored their purpose (or mission, as they were often called) around a strong product portfolio, optimized operations and a healthy balance sheet that resonated primarily with shareholders. This is no longer a viable option.

In today’s world of unprecedented access to data and elevated customer expectations, brands have an ability – and indeed a responsibility – to speak directly to the needs and motivations of consumers. McDonald’s falls squarely in this realm. The fast-food giant exists “to make delicious feel-good moments easy for everyone.” With a focus on the customer, the brand is built around taste, happiness, ease and accessibility. Many brands today successfully anchor their purpose around the key impact they make in customers’ lives, even as they implement strong and cohesive ESG strategies.

Over the past two years, the pandemic, social justice movements, political polarization and climate crisis have accelerated the transition to the next stage of brand purpose. In this environment, consumers are more socially- and environmentally-minded than ever before and, thus, a socially- or environmentally-oriented purpose can be a viable strategy.

For those brands attempting to build relevance by elevating social or environmental impact into their purpose, two key considerations can help ensure authenticity and avoid accusations of virtue signaling or greenwashing – creating an authentic connection between the business model and social or environmental impact and taking meaningful action to back up the brand’s purpose.

Create an Authentic Connection Between the Business Model and Social or Environmental Impact

The closer the inherent connection between the business model and the social or environmental impact at hand, the more authentic the purpose becomes. Patagonia’s dedication to climate protection, for example, is a natural fit with its outdoorsy audience. Tesla’s quest “to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy” aligns with the gas-free cars it produces. Oat milk brand Oatly exists “to make it easy for people to turn what they eat and drink into personal moments of healthy joy without recklessly taxing the planet’s resources in the process.” As an oat-based milk provider, Oatly can credibly deliver against this purpose simply by continuing to produce oat milk over dairy or almond milk.

Take Meaningful Action to Back up a Brand’s Purpose

Brands must also consistently take real, substantial action to bring their purpose to life. Oatly backs up its purpose with actions like opting to include its environmental impact statistics on the back of its packaging and leading a campaign to encourage lawmakers to require all food producers do the same. Some of Unilever’s brands including Ben & Jerry’s and Dove have been able to authentically build social impact into their purpose through true dedication, as evidenced by in-market moves over many years. Including their recent move to go as far as to sue their parent company “to protect the brand and social integrity Ben & Jerry’s has spent decades building.”

The idea that brand purpose must always be focused on social or environmental impact is a misconception. It is neither authentic nor prudent for every brand to integrate social or environmental impact into its purpose, and many brands with strong ESG strategies do not articulate social or environmental impact as part of why they exist.

Warby Parker, for example, investigated what mattered most to its customers and decided to focus its purpose on style, fit, value and the buying experience – needs that its customers valued more than the brand’s ESG commitment to donate a pair of glasses for every pair purchased. The beloved direct-to-consumer glasses and contacts brand exists today because they “believe that buying glasses should be easy and fun. It should leave you happy and good-looking, with money in your pocket.” While its “buy a pair, give a pair” ESG strategy continues to be a critical driver of employee recruitment and retention, its purpose centers on the key impact it makes in consumers’ lives.

Purpose is the North Star – It’s Not the Whole Universe.

Purpose does not – and should not – provide all the critical elements of a strong brand strategy. A purpose must be brought to life through everything the brand does – internally, by whom it hires, how it supports its employees and how it recognizes the values it stands for, and externally, by the promise it makes to deliver value for customers, the way it portrays itself through its promotional marketing, and, yes, its ESG strategy.

Hellmann’s mayonnaise appears to be following in the footsteps of Ben & Jerry’s and Dove, after integrating an explicit emphasis on social impact into its purpose a few years ago. The condiment brand appears to have an authentic dedication to fighting food waste and is determined to build its brand about this social impact. Additionally, Hellmann’s focused on this food waste initiative explicitly and exclusively in this year’s Super Bowl commercial.

If it continues to consistently live up to this purpose through its actions as well as its advertising, it can create a relevant brand that could differentiate it from the competition – as long as it also continues to relentlessly reinforce its core promise to deliver the best tasting mayonnaise on the shelf. Though the Super Bowl commercial focused entirely on fighting food waste, its tagline “Make taste, not waste” indicates that Hellmann’s is on the right track to creating a relevant brand purpose by balancing consumer benefit and social impact.


Many relevant brands build their purposes around a dedication to making an impact in customers’ lives and maintain a strong ESG strategy that dovetails with this overarching purpose. Those brands who do opt to explicitly integrate a social or environmental impact into their purposes must create a coherent connection to the business model and deliver sustained moves in-market to remain relevant and authentic. 

Ready to understand what role social or environmental impact should play in your brand and organization?


Why Now’s the Time for Retail Transformation 

Prophet partnered with retail innovation consultancy PSFK to unearth transformative strategies retailers are using to successfully respond to retail disruption.

Has any sector experienced as much disruption as retail in the last few decades? From the rise of e-commerce and Amazon to the financial crisis and the global pandemic, retail organizations of all types have been buffeted by turbulence again and again since the turn of the century. That’s life on the front lines of the global economy.  

Retail, however, has shown remarkable resilience. For every retail chain that has struggled, or succumbed, a variety of new concepts have emerged. While shoppers have embraced all forms of digital shopping – from e-commerce and social commerce to BOPIS (buy online, pick up in-store) and the metaverse – retailers that develop truly memorable experiences continue to attract passionate fans and advocates. These firms look at every existential threat as an invitation to differentiate, innovate and connect with consumers in relevant and compelling ways. 

The bottom line is that retailers have no choice but to transform – and at a greater scale and faster pace than ever before. Reflecting that reality, Prophet partnered with PSFK, a leading retail innovation consultancy, to identify the most powerful and transformative trends shaping the retail landscape. Our new report – Retail Transformation Through Innovation – illustrates how these forces are playing out in the market today and what innovators are doing to set new standards in everything from operational excellence and organizational purpose to personalized experiences and advanced technology. It also shares recommended actions for retailers looking to drive uncommon growth through transformation.  

Our report explores the implications and imperatives for retailers relative to four primary themes:  

Connecting Data & Consumer Insights

By layering AI and machine learning across connected data streams, retailers are optimizing services and driving operational efficiencies across production systems, digital platforms and physical footprints. The most effective use of technology involves connecting data and consumer insights through data-Informed design and connected profiles. It also enables firms to optimize operations via intelligent inventory and more effective sharing of resources.   

Intelligent Guidance & Support

Retailers are leveraging new technology and models to speak, listen and market to consumers in more personalized ways. For instance, by enhancing their contextual search capabilities and launching personal shopping bots, retailers are providing intelligent guidance and support that make it easier for consumers to find what they want. Similarly, retailers are seizing opportunities associated with social commerce by launching shoppable creative and engaging consumer affiliates. 

Next-Gen Omnichannel Retail 

Retailers are evolving the omnichannel experience for today’s hyper-connected consumer by designing models that tap into virtual selling experiences and expand service offerings. Success in the next generation of omnichannel retail will be all about delivering solutions, rather than just selling products. That will certainly be true in the metaverse as more consumers’ lives are spent in digital realms and cross-world commerce becomes the norm. 

Environmental & Social Impact Initiatives 

Retailers are applying purpose-led strategies across the business and driving measurable impact by directly tying environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives to their operations, culture, and product offerings. At the community level, brands are engaging consumers through inclusive and equitable programs linked to their revenue and business models. They are also embracing full lifecycle design through circular supply chains and repair and repurposing programs that reduce waste.  


Though the industry has experienced much disruption, retailers have shown great creativity and resilience. Our report highlights many examples of bold innovation including retailers that are pivoting in the face of change. It also shares some recommended actions for those who may be just starting their transformation journey.  

While the path to uncommon growth will be different for every retailer, it’s safe to say those that fully embrace the transformation imperative increase the likelihood of a successful journey.  


Three Ways Leading BRI Brands Stay Top of Mind for Consumers 

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

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

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

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

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

1. Pursue Partnerships with Industry Leaders  

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

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

2. Simplify Complex Tasks 

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

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

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

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

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

What Lessons Can We Learn from Leading Head Brands? 

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

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


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. 


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

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

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

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

Matt Che 
CMO at Budweiser APAC 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Four Ways to Power ESG Strategy Through Culture

Learn how you can power an authentic ESG strategy and culture from the inside out. 

Companies around the world are acting on the new reality that ESG – environmental, social and governance – has become the next horizon for business leadership. From going ‘all in’ on a particular social mission, to systematically integrating sustainability and social responsibility into their operations, organizations are taking action.  

While ESG was once about compliance and risk mitigation, we believe it is now a requirement for unlocking uncommon growth. And the companies having the greatest success with their ESG strategies are the ones who have created authentic changes in the culture of their full stakeholder ecosystem. 

At Prophet, we view all organizations as a macrocosm of the individual. Each one has a collective DNA, Mind, Body and Soul. To drive meaningful culture change, leaders need to think about every aspect of this system.  

Prophet’s Human-Centered Transformation Model serves as a framework for effectively driving ESG thinking (and doing) into a company’s organization and culture. Let’s take a look at how these four elements can be used to power an authentic ESG strategy and culture from the inside out. 

1. Code ESG Into Your DNA 

Like the DNA of an individual, the DNA of an organization comes to life across every aspect of the business, helping to direct and blueprint any transformation. For some organizations that have been founded with purposeful, inclusive and regenerative business models, that DNA has been ‘coded’ with ESG from the start. For others, it may require some ‘re-programming’:  

Set a powerful, actionable and clearly-defined ESG strategy—and build it pervasively into your company strategy 

The most mature sustainable and socially responsible businesses are incorporating ESG concepts into the core of their strategy. Some examples include equitable and inclusive design of products or circular and regenerative business models. A materiality assessment can help determine which areas of ESG are most relevant to your organization and its external stakeholders—not only from a risk mitigation perspective but shared value creation. How might ESG help fuel transformative and sustainable growth for your business while doing good at the same time? 

Embed ESG into other key organizational frameworks such as purpose, values and employee value proposition 

The more it can be reinforced as a ‘red thread’ woven throughout the company, the better. How might you visibly showcase your commitment to ESG to help attract, retain and engage your talent? 

Enlist leaders in championing ESG from the top 

Vocal support from across the leadership team is critical to signal ESG as a priority. How can you ensure leadership is not only bought in but actively role modeling sustainable and inclusive behaviors, multi-stakeholder collaboration, etc.? 

Some companies such as Allbirds have always had strong ESG DNA. It established itself as a benefit corporation, which shows a high degree of commitment to a strong ESG-centric operating model. Being a B Corp means a company is legally accountable to all its stakeholders – workers, communities, customers, suppliers and the environment – not just shareholders. And this status ensures that the organization will practice stakeholder governance even after capital raises and leadership changes.  

The ESG orientation that’s genetically programmed into its organization ensures Allbirds takes flight in a sustainable way with commitments to regenerative agriculture, renewable materials, carbon neutrality and more. 

2. Set Your MIND to ESG 

Once an organization sets its ESG strategy, it needs to develop the skills to enable the change. A company’s collective Mind is formed from the talent and skills of its people, so you need to train up (and hire up) in a way that supports the organization’s approach to ESG—especially if it requires more of a departure from ‘business as usual:’ 

Identify the specific skills, capabilities and roles needed to support your ESG priorities 

It is important to consider not only technical skills (e.g., climate scientists) but also critical ESG mindsets such as collaborative orientation and coalition-building. How can you upskill and equip your talent to activate your ESG strategy? Where might you need to hire external expertise? 

Align talent systems in service of the transformation 

How can you ensure your talent systems are designed to hire, measure, and manage employees toward activation of the ESG strategy? 

Unilever, for example, was a pioneer in bringing the thinking behind the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals into the multi-national FMCG space. And the company helped build its ‘mental architecture’ to deliver ESG by internally framing the ambition through concepts of more growth, less risk, lower costs, and more trust.  

As part of its internal education program, ‘bringing sustainability to life’ is a key business skill on the curriculum that needs to be mastered. Additionally, brand managers are taught how to think about the best way to get behind the corporate ESG agenda while delivering the distinctive values of their brand – so Ben & Jerry’s can be playful and provocative, while Knorr goes to market with more of an activist eater tonality. 

3. Build Your BODY for ESG 

In addition to upskilling talent for ESG priorities, it is essential to ‘hardwire’ these priorities into the Body of the organization – in a way that creates transparency and accountability. This includes evolutions in the operating model, org structure, processes and tools that are required to actually direct culture change and get the full power of the organization behind a unified approach to achieving specific ESG initiatives: 

Determine the optimal model for ESG governance and goal-setting  

Some organizations deploy a ‘teams of teams’ in a more holacratic fashion to tackle ESG priorities, while others take a more top-down approach, designating a chief sustainability officer (or similar title) to drive the ambition. In either case, a comprehensive measurement system to share, track and report progress toward goals is key. Which model best fits your organization?  

Align incentives to drive cross-functional (and cross-stakeholder) work  

Often, ESG work requires not only cooperation but collaboration between business units, regions, suppliers and even competitors. How might you empower greater collaboration across stakeholders (both inside and outside the company) to ensure the success of ESG initiatives?  

Build inclusivity into your operating model and organization design  

Given that DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) is often a top priority in the “S” of ESG, it is critical that your company is hardwired to practice what it likely preaches. How might you intentionally design (or redesign) aspects of your operating model to elevate underrepresented voices and bring more diverse perspectives to the table? 

Johnson & Johnson is a healthy example of a strong ESG coordination model, with clear top-down direction, and a well-defined operating model for execution. It has clearly prioritized ESG topic areas, revisited annually, that provide a unifying framework for ESG initiatives and teams across the company.  

J&J breaks down its “health for humanity” strategy into key strategic pillars, with metrics and initiatives mapped to each (and executive compensation linked to goal achievement). As for governance, there are focus area leadership roles (e.g., chief sustainability officer, chief DEI officer, etc.), but also a dedicated PMO for coordination across the entire enterprise to ensure a high degree of collaboration. 

4. Inspire socially responsible SOULs 

Finally, winning over the Soul for ESG is all about motivating transformation through shifts in emotions, mindsets, beliefs and behaviors. When it comes to ESG especially, there is an opportunity to truly inspire current and potential employees around an organization’s focus areas, from the environment to inclusivity: 

Consider how you’re engaging your employees in ESG  

While many organizations focus heavily on ESG areas tied most directly to their business model, it is also critical to assess areas that current and prospective talent care deeply about—and would expect their employer to take action against. How might you identify causes that are most inspiring and intrinsically motivating for your talent base? 

Create rituals, symbols and awards that authentically showcase commitment to ESG 

How might you motivate employee behaviors that deliver on your ESG strategy? (e.g., ethics, DEI, sustainability) 

Rapidly share success stories and celebrate progress along the way (not just outcomes) 

Often, ESG commitments such as Net Zero may take multiple years to achieve. How can you inspire belief in your ESG journey along the way? 

Anglo American is creating kindred ESG souls within its organization through a collection of initiatives that inspire employees to feel passion for ‘re-imagining mining to improve people’s lives. Anglo American thoughtfully curates an ongoing feed of well-told verbal and visual success stories about what the organization is doing both within the company itself and within the communities where it operates. Additionally, the organization creates aspiration and symbology for ESG through an annual awards ceremony where employees are recognized for their specific ESG achievements in business and society.  


All elements of the Human-Centered Transformation Model™ play critical roles in catalyzing a winning ESG culture and sustaining the change. Prophet can help companies close the gap between ambition and action. And we are eager to work with clients who share our view that ESG is essential to unlock uncommon growth for businesses and create solutions that move society forward. 


What is Business Design?

Learn about the modern approach to business building.

Business strategy and design thinking are converging into a new approach for solving business challenges known as business design. This makes sense given that design-driven companies continue to outperform their peers and also explains why so many management consultancies are rapidly acquiring design agencies. A decade ago, business design was an emerging role in design agencies. Today, however, it’s an established role in consulting and moving in-house as well.  

How do We Define Business Design?  

Business design brings a design mindset and methodology to solve business challenges and deliver viable business models. At Prophet, business design is a method for developing products, services and ventures for our clients that are differentiated in the market and able to capture value for their businesses.  

Why is Business Design the Modern Approach to Business Building? 

There is some magic that happens when you bring the design process of divergence and convergence to bear on business challenges. It gets business leaders out of the mindset of competing over existing market share and reorients them to think about what new value could be created based on the emerging needs, motivations and behaviors of all humans involved in the value creation equation – customers, users, employees and communities. 

At Prophet, when we embark on a business design project, there are some key things we set out to do:  

  • Achieve a deep understanding of business challenges faced 
  • Bring a design mindset and use design methods to solve them, including creating new methods 
  • Develop iterative plans and models based on real-world scenarios to understand what will be most viable in the market 

The goal of business design is to ensure that neither of these scenarios happens: 

  • The business minds determine all the requirements for a new offering and bring designers in to beautify the interface 
  • The design team creates the end-to-end user experience of a new offering and brings the business people in to give it a price tag 

The defining characteristic of the business design function is to constantly balance the needs of users with the needs of the business, in the near and long term. A business designer will always ensure that business logic informs any design-build or seek out to better understand the logic that supports their design – whether that be loyalty leading to higher customer lifetime value, efficiency leading to higher transaction volume or something else entirely. On the other hand, a business designer will see through a short-term value capture scheme if it has the potential to hurt the long-term viability of the business. So, it is about balance on two fronts: managing desirability and viability and managing the time horizons. 

Three Examples of Business Design Frameworks 

Here are some business design frameworks that show what it looks like to solve business challenges with design methodology: 

Human-Centered Opportunity Sizing = Total Addressable Problem 

The Total Addressable Market (TAM) approach to opportunity sizing assumes that companies are constrained by the industry in which they operate today and that to outgrow the market, they must take share from incumbents. In contrast, the business design approach to opportunity sizing is based on the Total Addressable Problem (TAP), which a business is trying to solve for users. Rather than starting with an existing industry, such as the hotel industry, it starts with a user need, like the ability to feel at home anywhere in the world. Framing the opportunity based on what you are helping users achieve creates new possibilities and use cases.  

Take Airbnb for instance. Airbnb’s growth far exceeded the budget travel market that it originally entered. Now, Airbnb competes with luxury hotels, short-term rentals and travel services outside of lodging. Uber is another great example. It started from the other end of the spectrum as a high-end car service but through a TAP framework, it far outgrew the taxi industry and instead became a micro-mobility platform with food delivery, bike rentals and healthcare transportation. Lastly, Amazon started in e-commerce, but through a TAP framework, grew to provide convenience in all aspects of household management, including building a smart home ecosystem.  

Human-Centered Commercialization = Incentive Design 

Business design creates outsized value by aligning emerging behavioral and business models and then makes value exchanges that are sustainable and durable in the long run. Before folding in 2013, late fees accounted for 16% of Blockbuster’s revenue. If the way a business captures value is in direct opposition to its users’ best interest, that is not a sustainable business model.  

Netflix’s subscription model, however, aligns user and business interests. The more you watch, the more data Netflix gets on what you like to watch, the better they can recommend additional content. Subscriptions lock in recurring revenue, enabling Netflix to make bigger bets in developing new content. And it is not just about value for customers. Netflix invests heavily in creators with new stories to tell and targets those stories to the right audiences. One of the most important activities in business design is creating growth feedback loops in which new demand drives new supply while increasing value for all stakeholders. 

Human-Centered Planning = Test and Learn 

Business design preferences emergent and iterative models over linear and deterministic planning. You can learn more about the viability of a new business in one meeting with users than in a week of modeling future cash flows based on historic assumptions. A business designer is comfortable with the knowledge that an assumption being off could mean a 10x change in revenue projections. They will not boil the ocean perfecting those assumptions, instead, they will put something into the market and see what happens. Of course, businesses need cash flow today to explore new problems to solve for their users tomorrow. A business designer will think about what can be EBIT-accretive today, while also investing in experiments to rapidly test and learn what new business models might be most relevant in the future. 

Check out our most recent research – Building Business Resilience Through Innovation


Despite its gaining popularity, business design remains a widely misunderstood discipline, yet it is the most important future skill. At its core, it requires a human-centered approach that is simultaneously focused on the needs of customers, stakeholders and key business imperatives.  

At Prophet, our business design team comes from the design world and the business world. We self-selected into business design because we saw that there was no longer a product-solution fit between traditional business strategy tools and the types of challenges we are tasked with solving for clients today. A business design approach is fit-for-purpose to future-proofing businesses as the needs, behaviors and expectations of humans and what is enabled by technology changes at an unprecedented rate. 

Start employing business design to solve key business challenges. Get in touch today.  


Is Ineffective Collaboration Hindering Your Organization’s Transformation?

Remote work makes cross-organizational change harder. But our Collaboration Flywheel model shows that the right interventions can create a virtuous cycle of cooperation.

As businesses work toward transformation, many find themselves trapped in a structural paradox. The Collaborative Advantage, the latest global research report from Prophet’s Organization & Culture practice, finds 80% of business leaders recognize that collaboration throughout the enterprise is essential. Yet, 50% are struggling to achieve it. And hybrid working compounds this challenge further with only 28% saying they believe their organization effectively supports collaboration in this environment.  

The most successful transformers? They have worked to break down silos and build collaborative muscles by progressing through three essential phases, which we have encapsulated in a new model: Collaboration Flywheel. It’s a virtuous cycle of interdepartmental breakthroughs that reveals a path for leaders to more impactful outcomes and faster growth.  

Prophet’s Collaboration Flywheel

The Flywheel provides a perfect metaphor for organizational culture. Taking a holistic, human-centered approach, it works by reinforcing positive behaviors and outcomes and minimizing negative feedback loops. It builds momentum over time. Each time the wheel turns, it generates more power and benefits for both the business and individuals.  

Phase One: Coordination

This is where many organizations begin and end their development journey. Different groups, traditionally siloed, recognize the need to align horizontally rather than vertically. When leaders promote a broader strategic goal, teams understand that working together is beneficial. And they also understand when it makes more sense to continue with traditional, business-as-usual approaches. To create clarity, organizations need to define the goal and role model the desired collaborative work.  

An example of this in practice might be helping employees to invest time in understanding how different parts of the organization work and identify connection points (e.g., shadow a colleague in another function) or creating a shared vocabulary – even just a few key terms – to use consistently in cross-organizational efforts.  

Phase Two: Cooperation

As each group gains experience in coordination, they get a clearer understanding of how their work fits into the bigger picture. Trust, shared ways of working and incentives become more explicit, making it easier for groups to proactively call on collective capabilities. They move into the who and how of the collaborative effort. They start to define roles and decision-making responsibilities. 

They see the value of shared effort more quickly. They’re informed by a common ambition, a central fact base and well-articulated ways of working. They will also have the right tools to navigate the complexity of their growing interdependence. All of this means cooperation is far more likely to have a greater collective impact than straightforward coordination might produce and depend less on the day-to-day involvement of leadership.  

Phase Three: Collaboration

As this proactive cooperation builds a shared context across independent groups, interdependence and synergy increase. At this point, the organization can celebrate the visible progress of piloting and embedding new ways of working. Cross-organizational teams see an increase in quality, with a healthy mix of synchronous and asynchronous work. Synchronously working teammates often generate new ideas together. Asynchronously working colleagues bring objectivity and clarity.  

Working together becomes the norm, not the exception. And so, the Flywheel spins. When combined with our human-centered approach to transformation, this new organizational muscle of collaboration taps into the enterprise’s DNA, Body, Mind and Soul.  

With collaboration now a default behavior, it becomes sustainable. Innovation and disruption replace old and ineffective ways of working, which in turn leads to accelerated transformation and results for the enterprise.  

Better Outcomes – For the Business and Individuals

The research shows that higher levels of teamwork enrich individuals, building new skills that increase engagement and job satisfaction – a critical lever in today’s dynamic talent landscape. Of the 1,000+ people we spoke to across the U.S., Europe and Asia, 77% say the organizational emphasis on collaboration enables higher productivity. 

As evidence of its ROI increases, it’s clear that collaboration has moved from a buzzword to a core business strategy. Organizations no longer need to be sold on the benefits and importance of collaboration. Leaders and managers worldwide understand that practical cross-organizational efforts lead to greater success.  

This is especially true as companies step up their efforts in diversity, equity and inclusion, and environmental, social and governance issues. By definition, this work needs to permeate every part of the company and be understood by each employee. Often, it even requires reaching out beyond the organization’s borders and interacting with external stakeholders that may include government, NGOs and communities.  


Collaboration is the future of work. Securing the next competitive advantage depends on agility, finding the most effective and innovative ways to bring the best out of every part of the enterprise. And it calls for incorporating that fluidity into the organizational DNA. Working together, companies are learning, is what sets them apart.  

Want to learn more about how to unleash the transformative power of collaboration? Download The Collaborative Advantage report now.


Reimagine Retail in the Face of Social and Technological Disruption  

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

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

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

Right Place: Continuously Optimized Channels 

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

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

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

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

Right Products and Services: Innovation Inspired by Real Occasions 

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

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

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

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

Right Time: Seamless Customer Journey 

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

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

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

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


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


Modernize the Marketing Planning Cycle

Clear your calendar. It’s time to make room for a brand-new approach to annual marketing plans.

The annual marketing planning cycle desperately needs a makeover. Every marketer who has ever groaned, “There has to be a better way to do this!” is right, and the most effective companies are already finding new ways to inject efficiency and effectiveness into a cumbersome process.  

While much of this change has been coming on gradually, changing customer behaviors, increasing demands of marketing within the enterprise and growing opportunities with technology have intensified it. And amid growing business uncertainties–inflation, supply-chain and recession concerns–modern marketers feel an urgency to help drive strategy, not just follow it.  

More and more, marketers are being asked to deliver value that is tied to the overall business outcomes.  

That’s because the customer journey is more complex and less linear every day, highlighting the tension between brand and demand marketing. Our recent research takes an in-depth look at the intersection of these marketing disciplines, tapping the insights of more than 500 marketers. Our findings underscore that an updated approach to planning separates the most successful companies from competitors.  

“Today’s marketers are coxing other execs out of their respective silos, moving to “a more agile, `brains in room’ format,” says Tyrrell Schmidt, CMO, U.S., TD Bank, one of our respondents. “We want to build a structure that puts the customer at the center.” 

And business leaders are learning that while the annual planning process is still way too full of retro drudgery, it’s also full of possibility and potential. Many see it as the most creative endeavor of the year, allowing them to show off the value modern marketing can bring to the enterprise.  

Here are five ways the most effective marketers are reshaping the annual planning process.

Take an Integrated View  

Historically, disparate marketing teams have driven different objectives. Because they’re working separately, they’re not optimized for holistic growth. They’re often not even pointing in the same direction. 

Marketing needs a more integrated process. That requires cooperation among brand, demand and corporate marketing teams so that they find agreement on all-important basics (We’ve covered other planning checklists in The Eight Essentials of a Successful Marketing Plan). 

For starters, these working groups can nail down a common language (“Do we say `initiatives’ or `programs’? `Campaigns’ or `tactics’?”). They can also agree on standard measurements, balancing short and long-term approaches, as well as lagging and leading indicators. And they can establish a set of unified tools, such as an integrated calendar and a single marketing brief. 

Focus on Customers-Not the Funnel

If companies want to be customer-centric in how they market, then they need to be customer-centric in how they plan. Yet too many firms lose sight of the people that matter most. 

Part of that stems from the limits of funnel vision. Yes, marketing funnels are the conventional backdrop for planning and helping identify specific marketing strategies. And we’re not suggesting companies shift from that approach outright.  

But on its own, the funnel does a poor job of coordinating multiple efforts. And by definition, it takes a company or product view. That’s the opposite of customer-centricity. 

A journey view helps assess how to best allocate resources to acquire customers and build loyalty. It also has the added vital benefit of revealing missed opportunities in customer experience. 

We understand the shift from the funnel to a customer-centric journey can be challenging, and many will ask if there’s room for both. Of course, marketers can–and maybe even should–keep the funnel in mind even as they develop the journey view. But ultimately, it’s the customer who makes the purchase, so anticipating their needs and providing the right solutions matter more than anything else. 

Align Under Shared Initiatives

Companies often struggle with overly complicated messaging strategies scattered across multiple product offerings and customer segments. They frequently say they’d like programming with “fewer, bigger, better” ideas but don’t know how to get there. 

It’s complex. Because demand marketing has an expanded role in driving revenue, there’s more pressure to crank out more messages and promotions. That means many competing, overlapping, and siloed marketing initiatives reach customers simultaneously.  

That can be managed better with unified views of calendars, a hierarchy for messages and promotions, and commonly integrated plans. Those all build more alignment and clarify optimal resource allocation during the planning process. This view then carries forward into activation and more frequent re-prioritization that may be needed throughout the year. 

It can also be an important venue to talk about experimentation. Test-and-learn thinking that too often gets left behind in the planning process. Will those NFTs pay off? The storefront in Horizon Worlds? Anamorphic billboards? No one yet knows what kind of return on investment these might have, and they indeed fail the “Bigger, better” test. But fledgling ideas need budgetary support if the organization wants to gain agility and build a marketing edge.  

In our research, we found that Marketers who work for businesses that successfully meet goals cite strategic experimentation as the predominant force behind their investment decision-making – perhaps shifting the mix based on objectives. Compare this to marketers who work for businesses that do not successfully meet goals. They, instead, rely mostly on industry best practices and historical effectiveness to inform their decisions – a more static and unchanging approach. 

Importantly, planning under a unified umbrella provides satisfaction. Teams can walk away knowing how their plans and responsibilities support the greater business objectives. 

Bring the Village

Those shared initiatives require inviting a bigger cast of characters into the planning process. Integrated marketing means inviting more people into the planning meeting. When setting up planning sessions, marketers should reach beyond product and sales to include research and insights, partners and operations. 

However, there’s no one size fits all approach. B2B companies may have to think this through differently, often including sales teams and product leaders even earlier, as part of the bottom-up planning process.  

Regardless, all companies should include as many perspectives as possible while also keeping their customers in mind.  

We recognize that this may bring up concerns about “too many cooks in the kitchen”? You’re not alone. While it can seem clumsy initially, it’s an important first step to being collaborative. The more companies strive to achieve cross-functional consensus, the less “re-work” and pivoting they need later.  

Map to Business Outcomes

Our research finds that marketers who describe their companies as top performers actively align marketing activities and tactics to shared business objectives. While many marketing objectives remain essential to the success of the plan’s performance, this calls for bigger thinking. It connects marketing to the goals of other stakeholders in the firm and functions far beyond their own. 

The first step is to decide on those “no-regrets” business opportunities and align the most supportive marketing strategies. Many start with a worksheet that looks like this: 

Download the Mapping Marketing Tactics to Shared Business Objectives Worksheet.


The shift toward integrated, customer-centric planning requires weeks if not months of new kinds of preparation. That can include new journey maps and competitive intelligence.

But the pay-off is well worth it. Integrated marketing allows a company to develop a modern approach that connects brand to demand. And ultimately, it serves customer needs better, improves execution and leads to uncommon growth. 

Ready to reimagine your 2023 marketing planning process? Get in touch with our marketing and sales team today.