Added Value, the global brand development and marketing insight consultancy, today 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 American culture, followed closely by tech brands Google, Amazon, Sony, and Microsoft.

The most culturally vibrant brands are:

  1. Apple
  2. Google
  3. Amazon
  4. Sony
  5. Microsoft
  6. Facebook
  7. Samsung
  8. Harley-Davidson
  9. Ikea
  10. Subway


To produce the latest results, Added Value studied 50 brands 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,” says Maggie Taylor, CEO of Added Value, North America. “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.

“Although the study is still in its infancy, and the data set limited to 50 brands, many of whom aren’t publicly 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?” Taylor says.

“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 (No. 6) showed a 14 percent increase over 2010; while Twitter’s score (No. 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 (No. 10) thrashing a stale Burger King (No. 46). Now the No. 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 (No. 45) and Ford (No. 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. Its VIBE reflects this vitality.

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

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