Opinium’s Most Connected Brands (MCB) study is unique in that, unlike other brand ranking studies, the results aren’t determined by industry experts, algorithms or committees but by consumers.
Brands included in the study were derived directly from consumers, based on the brands they think about, talk about and buy.
The MCB Index - which can be viewed in full here - is the combination of five key metrics, weighted together to produce a one number summary of a brand’s ability to connect with consumers:
Prominence: Presence and scale
Distinction: Unique identity and ability to set trends
Emotional connection: Ability to form emotional relationships
Popularity: Dynamism and momentum
Buzz: Social traction
The brands that perform best are all ubiquitous in our daily lives and have gone beyond a traditional transactional relationship:
- They connect us with content and each other.
- They represent something larger than themselves, be it a lifestyle or cause.
- They are brands we have grown up with and are found in every cupboard in the country.
The top two performing brands typify how the parameters of ‘brand’ have been reset. Amazon redefines what consumers expect from a retailer and Google is more an eco-system than a brand. Some clear trends surface in the way we forge relationships with brands and our heightened expectations from them.
Do well, by doing good
With trust in governments, media and ‘experts’ at an all-time low, consumers expect brands to be agents for social change and many are rising to the challenge:
- Supermarkets are combatting the environmental threat presented by plastics.
- Dyson is addressing the increasing engineering skills gap, with the Dyson Institute of Technology.
- Dove is challenging narrow definitions of feminine beauty.
Mind the generational gap
There are stark differences by generation, with younger consumers holding brands to account in ways the older generation (and brands themselves) never anticipated:
- Younger consumers expect brands to reflect and embody something about them as an individual. This isn’t as straightforward as Pepsi marketing itself as a brand for the young and beautiful but a real connection on shared values. Nike is a recent example, stepping into the social and racial injustice argument with their Colin Kaepernick-fronted campaign.
- Global commercialism and exposure to other cultures is also reflected in the differences, such as a fall in relevance of the English cuppa, with Starbucks overtaking brands like Tetley among the young.
- All generations like a bargain but for the older generation this is functional, saving money on their weekly shop, whereas for the younger generation it’s aspirational, with low cost apparel mimicking the catwalk.
Pervasive influence of technology
However, the greatest influencer on the list is technology:
- It has led to a revolution in content choice, with Auntie (BBC) still holding a special place in the nation’s heart but the greater personalisation, choice and immediacy of Netflix and YouTube appealing to the young.
- It has changed how we shop, with bricks and mortar retailers like Next and Debenhams losing out to online retailers.
- It has even changed how we communicate, with brands like WhatsApp and Facebook serving to literally connect us.
The study shows that only brands that adapt, embrace technology and become agents for social change will remain relevant and connected to consumers.
Wez Eathorne is research director at Opinium