For the 7th year running, Brand Keys has conducted the Brand Keys Most Innovative Tech Brands of 2019 survey. 5,127 business-to-consumer (B2C), direct-to-consumer (DTC) and business-to-business (B2B) consumers were interviewed to determine which brands are striking a chord with the shoppers, users and customers who populate the digital world every day.
In total, 27 different brands were identified as innovative. Each winning brand struck consumers as uniquely effective at implementing marketing approaches that are successful for the brand and offered a benefit to consumers through agile use of innovations like cause and influencer marketing. Notably, there are several brands that fell off the list, not necessarily because they aren’t innovative, but because of changing consumer expectations.
Brands Can Embrace Cause Marketing When It Fits Their Marketing Strategy
Patagonia was ranked the most innovative among new brands on the list, likely because they manage to stay true to themselves — offering the products that consumers know and trust and taking a stand on environmental issues in line with the brand’s voice. "Patagonia has figured out new ways for consumers to save money and save the planet," said Robert Passikoff, Brand Keys Founder and President. Patagonia calls themselves the The Activist Company, asserting their mission as a business with a cause. The launch of Patagonia Action Works, which matches volunteers with environmental organizations, corporate partnerships that promote sustainable business practices and Patagonia Provisions, which is focused on nutrition wellness, all support the activism at the heart of Patagonia’s brand.
It’s no secret that Millennials and younger shoppers are motivated to shop brands that don’t shy away from cause marketing, and one-third of Patagonia’s customers are Millennials. Patagonia’s innovation is driven by customers that support their missions, products that match their causes and a consistent willingness by Patagonia to adopt new approaches and strategies that support their brand.
Evangelists And Influencers Can Propel Small Brands Into The Mainstream
Influencer-culture doesn’t appear to be slowing down – it is projected to grow to a $6.5 billion dollar industry, with Google searches for “influencer marketing” growing 1500% over the last three years – and for small brands like Oatly, it can be the difference between known and not. Oat milk is the latest plant-based milk to gain popularity with alternamilk drinkers and their innovative influencer campaign helped them land on the Brand Keys Most Innovative Tech Brands survey for the first time.
By featuring small shop baristas, coffee roasters and café owners in their Hey Barista! Instagram campaign, the small, unknown Swedish brand was able to impart trust on a product many latte-drinkers may not be familiar with, while maintaining a small business, artsy vibe, no doubt popular with Oatly customers. Hey Barista! was followed by “Je ne sais quoi,” which features artists, environmentalists and other game changers enjoying their Oatly drinks. By highlighting people aligned with likely Oatly customers, Oatly was able to quickly connect with a new audience and assert its brand identity.
Even Innovative Brands Need To Evolve To Resonate With Audiences
There were certainly some big name brands on the Brand Keys Most Innovative Tech Brands 2019 survey, including Amazon, Apple and Google, however, several notable names dropped off like YouTube, HBO and Airbnb. Consumers are increasingly savvy with high expectations of brands, meaning even innovative brands need to continue to evolve and reiterate in order to resonate with audiences. And that doesn’t just mean more technology, as Patagonia and Oatly illustrated. By using existing marketing optimizations and implementing them effectively in a way that reached consumers, these brands were able to make a lasting impression. “There’s homogeneity to categories consumers rated as relatively inactive, which provides confirmation of their normalized expectations for what they view as innovative,” said Passikoff. “Besides always wanting more, consumers see brands’ abilities to deliver something that emotionally engages them as the gateway to innovation.”