New Study Reveals Significance Of Cultural Relevance As Predictor Of Brand Success

17 May 2012|Added Value

WPP’s Added Value Conducts Groundbreaking Cultural Traction™ Study That Ranks Brands According to the Depth of Their Vibrancy in Culture

LOS ANGELES, Calif., May 17, 2012 – Added Value this week revealed the results of its second-annual Cultural Traction™ survey, which measures cultural relevance as an early indicator of brand success.

In the study, Apple led the way as the brand most vibrant in culture, followed closely by tech brands Google, Amazon, Samsung, Sony and Microsoft.

The most culturally vibrant brands include:

1. Apple

2. Google

3. Amazon

4. Sony

5. Microsoft

6. Facebook

7. Samsung

8. Harley-Davidson

9. Ikea

10. Subway

click the image to see the full results
click the image to see the full results

To produce the latest results, Added Value studied 50 brands in the USA across nine broad sectors, including apparel, automotive, beer and technology to provide a quantitative understanding of a brand’s relevance in a market’s cultural zeitgeist.

The “vibrancy” of each brand is measured across four dimensions, each of which represents a statistical clustering of culturally-significant attributes that describe how Visionary, Inspiring, Bold and Exciting (VIBE) a brand is perceived to be by consumers.  The degree to which this “VIBE” score changes year-on-year, provides a quantitative view of a brand’s Cultural Traction™ in a market.

“Cultural Traction™ provides an indicator of a brand’s future growth potential by measuring whether a brand is gaining or losing traction in a market,” said Maggie Taylor, CEO of Added Value NA.  “In an increasingly competitive marketplace, brands that are continually executed in a culturally-relevant and vibrant way have the best chance of carving out a dominant position in the minds of today’s consumers.”

Taylor added, “Although the study is still in its infancy, and the data set limited to 50 brands, many of whom aren’t publically traded, we have begun to see a correlation between a brand’s VIBE and its year on year growth in revenue. This supports our belief that a positive shift of a brand’s VIBE score year-on-year is an early indicator of future success for that brand.”

According to Added Value’s Cultural Insights analysts, the results of this year’s study have been driven by three key shifts in culture: a shift in a brand’s ability to enable people to share and connect around the topics that excite them; a shift in the way brands invite people to participate in the creation and delivery of the brand experience and a shift in the total value brands create and the purpose they serve for people and the planet.

“What makes the top brands in this study more vibrant and the bottom brands not?” asked Taylor. “The answer lies in how they anticipate or drive changes in the cultural landscape, and use or create emergent cultural content to stay fresh and relevant. Being able to measure whether a brand is gaining or losing Cultural Traction™ gives brands a tool to diagnose issues and make their activation, positioning, communication and innovation strategies more culturally vibrant.”

Additional key findings from the 2011 Cultural Traction™ study include:

Technology brands dominate, but lifestyle brands also share the top spots: Technology is constantly changing the way consumers think and act, so it is not surprising Apple, Google, Amazon, Samsung, Sony and Microsoft scored the highest VIBE. However, several non-tech brands like Harley-Davidson, IKEA, Subway, Victoria’s Secret and Coke are also tapping into the cultural shifts that most strongly resonate with consumers.

Twitter Flying (Not So) High?: Facebook’s score (#6) showed a 14 percent increase over 2010; while Twitter’s score (#41) experienced a 12 percent decrease from 2010. These results show how Facebook has truly embedded into America’s cultural consciousness while Twitter’s influence may be fading. Both brands are perceived as Visionary; but Twitter was ranked as far less Exciting than its social media competitor.

Subway’s freshness whops Burger King: Subway continues to gain Cultural Traction™, its score (#10) thrashing a stale Burger King (#46). Now the #2 brand in category sales, it stands out most as Inspiring and Exciting, leveraging key trends like “Easy Nutrition” and “Small Change, Big Difference” to give consumers flexible paths to self-improvement.

Two American icons, but while Ford’s VIBE is hot, Bud’s is still on ice: Why? Both Bud (#45) and Ford (#17) wear their legacies proudly. Consumers expect authenticity, and count on consistency.  But from Ford they also expect, and get, evolution. It’s part of the brand’s DNA. It’s what they now flaunt. Its VIBE reflects this vitality.

For complete case study details or more information on Added Value’s 2011 Cultural Traction™ survey, please visit:

Maggie Taylor, CEO NA,
Zoë Dowling, VP R&D and Offer Innovation, Added Value,
Kate Wolters, Group Communications Manager, Added Value
Kiki Nichols, Ogilvy Public Relations,


Editors Notes:
About the Cultural Traction™ Study:
In 2010 and 2011, the study was conducted online across the United States, among an equal split of men and women, aged 16+.  Approximately 7,500 individuals were queried as to their perceptions on one of 50 randomly-assigned brands. The online study was executed by Lightspeed Research. The rankings of the 50 companies in the 2011 VIBE are:

1. Apple; 2. Google; 3. Amazon; 4. Sony; 5. Microsoft; 6. Facebook; 7. Samsung; 8. Harley-Davidson; 9. IKEA; 10. Subway; 11. Victoria’s Secret; 12. Coca-Cola; 13. Nike; 14. Yahoo; 15. Pepsi; 16. eBay; 17. Ford; 18. Target; 19. Starbucks; 20. Levi’s; 21. Toyota; 22. Gatorade; 23. TOMS shoes; 24. Chevrolet; 25. Groupon; 26. Verizon; 27. Walmart; 28. AT&T; 29. Hyundai; 30. McDonald’s ; 31. Honda; 32. Crate & Barrel; 33. Chipotle; 34. H&M; 35. Nissan; 36. KFC; 37. Adidas; 38. Corona; 39. Dos Equis; 40. Gap; 41. Twitter; 42. T-Mobile; 43. Bank of America; 44. Chase; 45. Budweiser; 46. Burger King; 47. Sprint; 48. Heineken; 49. Guinness; 50. Wells Fargo

Added Value
Added Value,, provides consultancy on brand development and marketing insight for iconic brands, both big and small, around the world. They help solve clients’ central marketing questions about market, brand, innovation and communications. Added Value is part of Kantar, WPP’s consumer insight and consultancy group.

WPP is the world’s largest communications services group. Through its operating companies, the Group provides a comprehensive range of advertising and marketing services including advertising; media investment management; consumer insight; public relations and public affairs; branding and identity; healthcare communications; direct, digital, promotion and relationship marketing and specialist communications. The company employs over 158,000 people (including associates) in 2,500 offices in 107 countries.

Lightspeed Research
Lightspeed Research is part of Kantar, the information insight and consultancy division of WPP. Lightspeed Research delivers valuable data to help clients make informed business decisions. With proprietary online panels throughout the world, our verified, engaged, and deeply profiled survey respondents can support research studies that vary in scope and complexity. The company has offices throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia Pacific.  For more information, please visit

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