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2024’s leading brand innovators: Research finds CPG brands are far outpacing tech brands in innovation

by | Apr 15, 2024 | Public Relations

In the digital age, when we think of innovation, we tend to think of technology as this is the arena in which the most meaningful innovations seem to happen—and by that association, it seems logical to think of tech itself as the most innovative industry. But new research reveals that this is not so—a new study from brand loyalty and engagement research firm Brand Keys finds that consumer product goods (CPG) brands are outpacing tech brands by nearly two-to-one in innovation. 

The firm’s new 2024 Most Innovative Brands survey of 7,806 consumers, split evenly between males and females 16 to 65 years of age, identified the top 50 innovator brands in eight industry sectors: CPG, entertainment, healthcare, restaurants, retail, social networking, technology, and transportation. “For the first time consumers acknowledged more CPG than tech brands,” said Robert Passikoff, Brand Keys founder and president, in a news release. “And, for the first time, consumers named entertainment entities as ‘innovators.’”

Top 50 Most Innovative Brands: Wall Street vs. Main Street

“Earnings calls, patents and profits are important to Wall Street but not so much to Main Street,” said Passikoff. “While consumers can’t necessarily articulate what form innovation should take, they know what it feels like. Brands that address those feelings via invention and re-invention, always have a significant advantage over the competition.”

brand innovators

In the eight innovation sectors that consumers identified, brands were ranked by consumers’ assessments of their ability to meet category innovation expectations (brands appearing for the first time on the list are bolded).

Consumer Packaged Goods (13 brands in the Top 50)

  • Sephora
  • Dove (Unilever)
  • e.l.f.
  • Charmin
  • The Farmer’s Dog
  • Swiffer
  • Doritos
  • Beyond Meat
  • Smucker’s
  • Kraft Heinz
  • Pepsico
  • Red Bull
  • Truff

Entertainment (6 brands)

  • Mattel
  • Netflix
  • PlayStation (SONY)
  • Taylor Swift
  • YouTube
  • Disney

Healthcare (5 brands)

  • Ozempic
  • CVS
  • Warby Parker
  • Pfizer
  • Truvani

Restaurants (4 brands)

  • McDonald’s
  • Taco Bell
  • Chipotle
  • Jersey Mike’s Subs

Retail (7 brands)

  • Amazon
  • Allbirds
  • Hoka
  • Louis Vuitton
  • Tiffany’s
  • Trader Joe’s
  • Walmart

Social Networking (4 brands)

  • WeChat
  • TikTok
  • WhatsApp
  • Instagram

Technology (8 brands)

  • OpenAI
  • Apple
  • Google
  • Microsoft
  • LG
  • Salesforce.com
  • Samsung
  • Oracle

Transportation (3 brands)

  • Uber
  • Toyota
  • Tesla

New brand innovators

“The Brand Keys Most Innovative Brands list is the only annual survey based on a 100 percent consumer perspective, identifying which brands users feel best address their expectations via innovation. This year, 30 percent of the list are first-time mentions by consumers,” said Passikoff. “That’s indicative of real shifts in the innovation-expectation paradigm. Brands also need to keep in mind that consumers continually inflate their expectations from brands!”

This year “more” took the form of seven new CPG brands (e.l.f, The Farmer’s Dog, Red Bull, Sephora, Smucker’s, Swiffer, and Truff), three in the retail sector (Hoka, Louis Vuitton, and Tiffany’s), and two each in entertainment (Mattel and Taylor Swift), healthcare (Ozempic and Truvani), and restaurants (Taco Bell and Jersey Mike’s Subs).

When “delight” turns into the “conventional”

“When innovation ‘delight’ turns into everyday ‘conventional,’ as good as brands might be it’s no guarantee that consumers will see them as innovators,” said Passikoff. “Many brands become yesterday’s news—Dyson, Nike, Peloton, Wayfair, Airbnb, GM, Adobe, Hulu, and Zip Car, which were once seen as innovators, didn’t make it on this year’s list.”

Brands need a better feel for innovation

“In order to acknowledge brand innovation, consumers need to feel it first. Brands need a better barometer for how to manage consumers’ mostly emotional category expectations. If they can do that, consumers will always respond positively,” concluded Passikoff, “Expectations are the ultimate roadmap to enhancing brand innovation.”

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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