- Eleven out of 27 brands are newcomers to Brand Keys' annual "Most Innovative Tech Brands" survey, with Patagonia leading the list of first-timers, according to a press release. Other brands debuting on the list are, in order how innovative consumers see them: Shopify, Truepic, Square, Sephora, Unmade, Peloton, Intuit, Duolingo, Oatly and Salesforce.
- Eight brands fell off the ranking this year because they were seen as "inactive" on the innovation front. They are YouTube, HBO, Uber, Lyft, Tesla, GM, Airbnb, and LinkedIn.
- Overall, consumers named Amazon as the most predictable innovator, CVS Health as the top lifestyle innovator and Slack as the leading mercantile innovator.
Digital technology has enabled brands to transform the customer experience, making it more personalized and interactive. However, as the Brand Keys survey suggests, consumers quickly get used to these standards and what may have seemed innovative one year ago becomes expected the next, leading some brands previously considered leading tech innovators to fall off the list. At the same time, evolving consumer expectations are opening up new opportunities for brands on the lifestyle and commerce-support fronts.
Forty percent of the brands on this year's report are newcomers to the list, although a few, including Patagonia, Sephora and Salesforce, are not young brands while the others mostly fall into the category of newcomers shaking up product categories through tech innovation, providing new ways for consumers to learn and stay healthy.
Patagonia is interesting because its appearance on a list of innovative tech brands underscores the importance that consumers are placing on brands that authentically tie a meaningful cause to their business and help people connect to their desires to be better humans. Patagonia has consistently embraced environmental-related marketing campaigns — even when it could potentially be controversial — like "The President Stole Your Land" and its endorsement of political candidates in its brand marketing. As a result, the brand received the most consistent unaided association with a cause, in this case the environment, according to a recent report from DoSomething Strategic.
"Patagonia has figured out new ways for consumers to save money and save the planet," Brand Keys Founder and President Robert Passikoff, said in the press release.
Additional companies to join the list this year include Duolingo, Sephora,and Oatly. Duolingo, a personal language coach, uses encouraging messaging to help consumers meet personal learning goals. Sephora uses artificial intelligence to help make the digital shopping experience more like that in stores, a key strategy for cosmetics companies. Oatly made an obscure Swedish oat milk a must-have product by cleverly targeting baristas and turning them into evangelists.
The absences on this year's list also underscore how innovation is an ever-changing scale in the eyes of consumers. While leading brands YouTube, HBO, Uber, Lyft, Tesla, GM, Airbnb and LinkedIn dropped from this year's list, that doesn't mean that these companies don't provide engaging experiences. However, these brands have normalized expectations, Passikoff suggested.
"As good as these eight brands are within their categories, expectations move at the speed of the consumer and what's currently on offer is viewed as conventional," he said. "We think it's fair to say that 'Game of Thrones' was more than just a TV show insofar as HBO's innovation-perception was concerned."