What Are the Most Relevant Brands to American Consumers?

When a brand loses relevance, it generally loses sales and in many cases slowly goes out of business.

Research company Prophet surveyed nearly 15,000 customers about more than 300 brands across 27 industries to develop its second annual consumer-based Brand Relevance Index (BRI) [opens in PDF]. The researchers defined relevance in a very simple way: "Brands consumers can't live without equals relevance."

The research firm picked the 300 companies it surveyed consumers on by looking at companies from all industries that contribute materially to United States household spending. Tobacco and firearms companies were excluded. "Within each industry, the companies that were included achieved outsize business performance ... within their respective industries. In some instances, smaller companies that have been driving change in these industries were also included given their significant traction with consumers," wrote the company.

"We believe that the strongest brands are the ones that are relentlessly relevant and are making a difference in consumers' lives," the company wrote.

The top 10 is full of well-known brands, but a few of the names that make the top of the list may be a bit surprising. You may also be surprised that iconic companies including Walt Disney (13), YouTube (20), and Hershey (42) don't make the top 10. These are the companies that did:

10. Sephora

This may be the most surprising name in the top 10, but Prophet explained that "Sephora has won women over by making beauty shopping an interactive experience, and it [has] outdone itself this year." The researchers cited its new small-store format as well as its "Tinder-esque" "swipe it, shop it" approach on its app, as leading to dramatically increased sales as well as its place on this list.

9. Pixar

Beating out its parent company, Disney, Pixar overcame its first relative flop The Good Dinosaur to rebound with the mega success of Finding Dory. "In an era of content overload, Pixar doesn't need gimmicks to keep audiences engaged," wrote the research firm. "It sticks to its strength: Animated films featuring charming characters and entertaining storylines that are beloved by all."

8. Pinterest

This one is surprising only because many would have expected Facebook to be the top-ranked social media brand, but the company did not even make the top 50. Instead Pinterest came in at No,. 8 because it "shines as an easy-to-navigate online playground," according to Prophet.

Nike has made its brand relevant by serving everyday athletes. Image source: Nike.

7. Nike

The sneaker and sport apparel brand was aided by an Olympic year and having Lebron James on its endorsement roster in the year he finally brought a title to the Cleveland Cavaliers. That helped, but Prophet said the company's "ongoing mission continues to be about making meaningful connections with everyday athletes, and wowing them with breakthrough apparel" and this is why Nike scored so high.

6. Samsung

Despite the problems it had with its Galaxy Note 7, where exploding phones led to a recall, Samsung (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF) remains a relevant brand. "Tech snobs love its superior quality, with better pixel density and camera size," wrote Prophet. "And the masses love the freedom of choice, with 50 phones available at a variety of price points." The researcher did note that the recalls might slow its growth going forward.

5. Google

It's hard to use the internet without using Google. Consumers did not rank the company this high because of its experiments like self-driving cars. Instead the research found that "people love Google for its fierce pragmatism." Prophet found that Google's "tools have become essential to our everyday lives: Chrome, Gmail, Google Maps, Google Docs and, of course, search."

4. Netflix

It's fair to say that the streaming leader has changed how people watch television. Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) created the concept of binge watching by releasing full seasons of new shows all at once and it made cutting the cord with cable viable for millions of people. "Whether Narcos, Chelsea, or Stranger Things, its content appeals to nearly every customer segment. And viewers all agree: Netflix is off the charts in dependability and delivering a consistent brand experience," the research company wrote.

3. Android

Even though Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) gets more attention, Android has over 85% of the global smartphone market. Prophet said the brand ranked this high because "people love Android's ease of use and warm, welcoming advertising."

2. Amazon

If Netflix has changed how Americans watch TV, Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) has done the same for shopping. "Members not only love the ease of shopping with Prime. But Amazon also charms them with devices (Fire and Kindle), original programming (award-winning Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle) and help around the house (Thanks, Alexa!)," wrote Prophet.

1. Apple

While Apple coming out on top may not be a surprise, Prophet explained that the brand was truly dominant. "What's astonishing is that Apple comes up No. 1 in three out of four dimensions that drive relevance -- even in a down year," the research firm wrote. The company's four dimensions are "customer obsessed," "ruthlessly pragmatic," "distinctively inspired," and "pervasively innovative." "It is still the gold standard for practical innovation," Prophet wrote.

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