Interbrand Breakthrough Brands are changing the way we see and interact with the world. This report highlights the next generation of world-changing brands—the startups, upstarts, challengers, problem solvers, innovators, and category creators.
Every successful new startup or brand provides a solution to a modern problem. Breakthrough Brands provide more than an interesting solution, they’ve also crafted a brand experience that amplifies their value to customers and makes them increasingly integral to people’s everyday lives.
To identify a global list of Breakthrough Brands across industries, we assembled an international collective of influencers who are passionate about finding, spotlighting, and fueling emerging brands. The brands featured in this report have been nominated by this network of chosen influencers. These individuals are leaders in their fields who have demonstrated a discerning, forward-thinking perspective on the brand space. As thought leaders and change makers, they have been naturally drawn to the new and truly innovative brands that, even in their infancy, show tremendous promise. With direct insights into international markets, these influencers bring a truly global perspective to our Breakthrough Brands Report—and the future of growth for the world.
When choosing the brands featured in this report, three criteria have been kept firmly in mind:
Is the brand answering a unique need in the marketplace in an ingenious way? Or is it generating an entirely new experience that customers didn’t even know they wanted? Breakthrough Brands are industry disruptors that change the way we think about doing business in a particular vertical—they’re faster, cleaner, or more efficient in their groundbreaking use of technology. They use or create entirely new business models—ones that are, in some cases, widely adopted by big and small brands alike. They create new technologies and set the pace of innovation for the rest of us.
Is the brand driving business growth and evolving the marketplace? Breakthrough Brands aren’t just brands with good ideas; they’re successful businesses. They’re growing at an enviable rate, stretching into new product categories, spinning off new solutions, expanding globally, and attracting top talent. Breakthrough Brands are shaping the market, wherever they are.
Is the brand driving engagement or capturing attention? These are brands that are starting conversations and are at the center of others. Customers are excited by what they’re doing: they read about them in the press, share news on social, and want be a part of the brands’ growth stories. They’re also gaining attention from investors in the form of capital and hype among those in the know. The media covers them because their innovation, success, creativity, and influence are interesting and relevant to the world at large.
After our influencers made their nominations, our team of in-house analysts researched each brand in detail, aggregating all available information about their histories, business models, media mentions, and growth. Taking this information as a whole, they synthesized key themes and categories and placed the brands that best reflect each therein. This report is designed to be both a cross-section of future growth in the brand space and a curated collection of the most exciting new brands from around the globe.
What the Interbrand Breakthrough Brands Report is NOT
This report is not a definitive list of every brand that could and should be considered “breakthrough.” Our analysts have considered hundreds of brands and have found no shortage of interesting solutions, stories, and products. But their edict is clear: Breakthrough Brands need to be new, innovative, inimitable, and successful—and push past many others. They are standouts and are, or are about to be, a benchmark or a true original.
It is not an exhaustive list, but it does include the brands we believe are best positioned to make an impact. They are the ones that someday—perhaps soon—could be considered Best Global Brands.
THE FIVE FACTORS FOR GROWTH Measures of a Breakthrough Brand
There are ten key factors to building and growing great brands over the long term, all of which are equally important and represent defining characteristics of the world’s most successful brands—and the Best Global Brands. However, the brands featured in this report are breaking through the growth barrier—they are the ones that will impact future generations, define progress, and change their markets and categories. To do so, these up-and-comers necessarily need to focus on five key factors—the ones that are essential to building a brand and growing a business in the Age of You: clarity, relevance, differentiation, presence, and engagement.
Breakthrough Brands are top performers in each of these five focus areas. It’s what’s enabled them to introduce a solid business platform, build a brand on top of it, and deliver an experience that’s closely connected to the core concept and widely resonant. By developing a forensic understanding of themselves, their audiences, and their markets, and generating the creative fuel that will lead to long-term growth, these brands have broken into the spotlight, staked claim in audiences’ ecosystems, and secured a spot in our inaugural report.
Great brands start from within. Organizations need to develop internal clarity, not only about what the brand stands for—its values, positioning, and proposition—but also about its target audiences and what drives them. This is particularly important for growing companies, which can and should use their brand’s values, mission, and proposition to inform business decisions.
Understanding what drives target audiences allows brands to more efficiently focus their efforts on appealing to them. It’s about more than just analyzing traditional demographic stats and psychographic data; in order to be clear about who their customers are and how they plan to engage them, brands need to develop a deeper, more intimate understanding of their audiences. Furthermore, in an age in which employees—particularly younger ones—want to work for organizations that are building toward the future with a clear purpose, clarity becomes vital for talent acquisition and retention.
Growth starts with a smart business model. Whether disrupting an existing market, creating a new category, or entering a new market, a brand cannot sell a product or service if it does not align with consumer needs and desires. These brands are convincing customers that something new or different is relevant: that it will make their lives easier, more enjoyable, more comfortable, more secure—in a word, better.
While successful emerging brands can satisfy an existing need or desire, the most impressive ones create new needs or desires to which their products and services cater. By generating demand instead of displacing it, these brands are creating the categories of the future. Instead of scrambling to stay ahead, they will shape the landscape and create relevance.
Brands need to drive choice in order to grow. Even if a company’s products or services are relevant, it’s a unique proposition and distinct brand experience that convinces audiences to choose one brand over others.
This is particularly important for the growth of emerging brands, which are competing first to be noticed, then to be chosen over the competition. Without a unique selling point, consumers have no reason to switch from an existing brand that they are loyal to or to experiment with something new that they didn’t know existed—or didn’t know they wanted or needed. It is often this unique proposition, and experience a brand delivers on top of that, that builds consumer perception and, if done right, will drive demand. The brands that clearly communicate their distinct stories are the ones that stand out—and break through.
In the customer-centric Age of You, brands need to be everywhere its audiences are. If a brand is not omnipresent in the mind of consumers—and talked about and perceived positively—then it is going to be difficult to break through and become a successful business. A brand’s clarity of values, proposition, and purpose; its relevance to consumers; and its differentiated offerings—all of this needs to be communicated to audiences and reinforced across multiple channels and touchpoints.
It used to be that being present in traditional media would be enough. But by investing in traditional media alone, emerging brands may miss out on crucial audiences. Nontraditional, digital media is essential for emerging brands: it often has a lower barrier to entry and offers access to younger, broader audiences. By maintaining a digital presence, brands and their marketers can react in real time to events and engage in direct conversations with their desired audiences.
Which leads us to our final growth factor for these emerging brands:
A brand can have clarity and be relevant, differentiated, and ultra-present, but if consumers don’t show a deep understanding of, active participation in, and a strong sense of identification with the brand, the rest doesn’t matter.
Engaging audiences is not about one-way conversations—today’s consumers don’t want to be talked at, they want brands to see them eye to eye and to be able to communicate their needs back to the brands. Often, they want to feel as if they have a say in the direction of the business or, at least, feel like their thoughts, feedback, and concerns are being heard. Holding two-way conversations is how the emerging and successful brands of the future will build a loyal customer base and drive up their margins. Mutual engagement creates a feedback loop, providing even greater clarity about audiences’ needs and desires—and about customers’ perception of the brand—allowing growing brands to continuously refine their products, messages, and experiences.
There is more to building a successful business than the above, and there will be additional considerations as emerging brands begin to mature. Still, these five factors are crucial for building a successful brand that will not just break through, but will stand the test of time and do what all of the best global brands do: drive choice, engender loyalty, and command a premium.