Monday, August 01, 2016

The Half-Life of Innovation


The annual Brand Keys survey of consumer perceptions of 2016’s Most Innovative Consumer Tech Brands, found consumers’ expectations for innovation skyrocketed by 33%. The result of that increase? Six brands (30%) of the top-20 brands on are new to this year’s list, showing up as consumers’ tech innovation leaders for the first time.

Sure, it’s hard to conceive that there was a time when consumers feared technological innovation when they equated innovation and technology with a greater likelihood of something to go wrong. You know, breakdowns. Disappearing data. Screen freezes. The 21st century may not have delivered flying cars yet – although we have seen prototypes this year – but it is clearly meeting its potential in terms of providing products and services that better meet consumers’ tech innovation expectations.

Top-20 Most Innovative Tech Brands
This year 4,000 consumers were asked – on an unaided basis ­– to name companies and brands that they felt were leaders when it came to technological innovation, with the following top-20 results. Numbers in parentheses indicate movement up or down the list from last year. Bolded names indicate new consumer mentions for 2016.
  1. Google (+1) 
  2. Amazon (+2)
  3. Facebook (+4)
  4. Apple (-3)
  5. Samsung (-2)
  6. Netflix (--)
  7. HBO (-2)
  8. YouTube (+1)
  9. Airbnb (new)
  10. IBM (+2)
  11. Snapchat (new)
  12. Line (+8)
  13. Shutterfly (new)
  14. BuzzFeed (new)
  15. ClassPass (new)
  16. Intel (+3)
  17. theSkimm (new)
  18. Microsoft (-7)
  19. SoundCloud (-11)
  20. Tesla (-3)
The consumer’s expectation for constant innovation, and the expansion of technological innovation accounts for the addition of those six new brands on this year’s list. Each new brand stands for something that advances the category in which they compete, and adds real value for the consumers. Those six new brands include:

Airbnb (#9): The online marketplace allowing consumers to list and rent homes.
SnapChat (#11): A mobile messaging app used to share photos, videos, and drawings, with their newest addition of the “face swap.”
Shutterfly (#13): Internet-based image publishing company. Its flagship product is their photo book line.
BuzzFeed (#14): A social news and entertainment company with sharable videos, news, and entertainment.
ClassPass (#15): A no-contract, plan-customizable fitness company.
theSkimm (#17): An email-based news delivery service.

The biggest movement up the list was seen for Line, the app for instant communication on electronic devices, up from #20 to #12 this year, and Facebook, up from #7 to #4 in 2016. Companies that moved down the innovation list included SoundCloud, the online audio distribution platform, down 11 spots to #19, and Microsoft, down 7 places to #18.

There were also brands and tech companies that weren’t mentioned by enough consumers to make this year’s top-20 list. With such high consumer expectations noted companies like Uber, that were considered “innovative” spawned enough me-to competitors to make them seem less innovative, or companies that have been around for a while, like LinkedIn, have come to feel “conventional,” and that erodes the perception of innovation. The six brands that did not show up on this year’s list were Hulu, Kickstarter, LinkedIn, Slack, Square, and Uber.

What’s clear is that consumers have come to see innovation and change as an opportunity – not a threat, and clearly something they expect in the brands they’re going to engage with. What’s also clear is what consumers consider “innovation” takes a variety of forms these days. “Creativity” like HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’ is seen to be innovation. Certainly new forms of social outreach and connectivity are being seen as innovation. And new marketing paradigms for traditional products – like ClassPass or theSkimm – resonate with the innovation consumers crave.

From a marketing perspective innovation is change that increases emotional engagement and unlocks consumer value, so it’s something brands must constantly focus on. If nothing else, the changes on this year’s list are proving that brand-innovation half-life is getting shorter and shorter.


Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: brandkeys.com. Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies.

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