Each year the Super Bowl is a reminder that any company can buy brand awareness, especially with a seven- or even eight-figure ad budget. But brand relevance has to be earned.
These are the products and services so highly valued that they make a genuine difference in people’s lives. These brands aren’t just familiar names; they’re fundamentally integrated into people’s daily lives, becoming almost indispensable. And the brands that make maintaining that connection with customers a top priority, never taking that relationship or loyalty for granted, are what we like to call relentlessly relevant brands.
To learn more about how some brands achieve relentless relevance, Prophet recently created our first-ever Brand Relevance Index, an in-depth survey that explores and quantifies the four principles of relevance. We asked 10,000 consumers questions about 400 brands in 27 different categories to assess how well they perform against our four relevance principles: customer obsession, ruthless pragmatism, pervasive innovation, and distinctive inspiration.
While it was not surprising that Apple, Samsung, and Microsoft topped our list—no need to look further than your smartphone to understand how essential these brands are to people’s everyday lives—a few of the findings were unexpected. Some brands fared better than many might think, offering important lessons about how brands can become (and stay) truly intertwined with a customer’s life. Equally instructive, though, are the number of household names that did not score very high. Despite massive ad budgets, iconic status, and sometimes even market dominance, they performed poorly.
Here are some of the most relevant brands to consumers today:
• Chick-fil-A: Ranking #6 on the Brand Relevance Index, Chick-fil-A wins plenty of fans with its delicious chicken sandwiches, but its real power comes from a legendary commitment to making people feel valued. Whether walking customers back to their cars with an umbrella or offering a free meal when a favorite sports team loses, the company carefully trains operators to nurture people and remember that the customer always comes first. Those values breed passion and loyalty from consumers and can explain why this regional restaurant chain outscored its fast food big brothers.
• Spotify: While there’s no shortage of music-streaming services, this brand’s fans can’t get enough of its special blend of musical discovery. Ranked #8 on our index, Spotify’s 60 million users love its personalization. Discover Weekly offers a mix tape of personally curated music based on users’ listening patterns, and Spotify Running customizes playlists to match a runner’s pace. Spotify also creates an unexpectedly social experience, syncing with Facebook so users can see friends’ playlists.
• Traditional brands like Betty Crocker and Band-Aid: None of us was surprised that digital darlings Apple, Netflix, and Amazon made the top 10, but what’s remarkable is the strong performance of a few of your grandmother’s favorite brands: Betty Crocker came in at #16, Band-Aid at #18, Clorox at #20, and Folgers’s at #24. (Starbucks doesn’t show up until #41). All of these brands score high on dependability; people count on them to deliver a consistently exceptional experience. But despite their older-than-Betty-White names, they continue to differentiate themselves: Betty Crocker is the top digital food brand, with a recipe site users adore. "Frozen" and "Star Wars" Band-Aids have driven revenue gains for Johnson & Johnson. And Clorox has escaped the laundry room to clean every surface in the house.
On the other hand, the following brands, perhaps surprisingly, did not rank among today’s top 50 most relevant brands, providing an up-close view of how easily customers can slip away:
• Coca-Cola: Coca-Cola may be one of the most iconic brands in history, with one of the biggest marketing budgets, but to consumers who are scrubbing soda from their lives faster than you can say “less sugar, please,” the brand just isn’t part of the conversation. Sales of carbonated sodas have been sliding for over a decade, as consumers look for healthier alternatives. No one is saying Coca-Cola is going away, and in fact, it came in at #71 in our ranking, putting it in the top quartile. But it is not a good sign that consumers find brands like Etsy, Snapchat, and In-N-Out Burger more relevant to their lives today.
• Progressive Insurance: Among the many engaging ad campaigns in the insurance industry—think jovial geckos and time-traveling agents—Progressive’s Flo stands alone in warmth and understanding. She’s the good-natured sister we all wish we had. But even the best ads can’t create relevance; Progressive ranked lower than GEICO, State Farm, USAA, Allstate, and even Northwestern Mutual in our study. We would have anticipated a better showing from Progressive because in addition to its engaging ads, the company has taken steps to be more innovative and customer-obsessed by introducing new offerings like the Name Your Price tool. However, it’s clear that Progressive’s value proposition is still unclear to consumers, so while consumers may be entertained, Progressive still has a long way to go to win over their hearts and minds.
• Twitter: It may have made hashtags ubiquitous, but Twitter has a personality problem. With 320 million users, it’s become a driving force in many important conversations, from presidential politics and social change to celebrity feuds. But just because everyone knows what Twitter is doesn't mean people love it. (It ranked in the bottom half of all the brands we surveyed.) An upstart-turned-let-down, investors are vexed it still hasn’t found a way to make money, and consumers are finding greater happiness in socializing with their friends on Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube. Twitter, #whysodisappointing?
See what the Twitterverse is saying about customer loyalty: