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GRIT Business & Innovation Sneak Peek: Top 25 Most Innovative Client Companies

An exclusive preview of the upcoming Business & Innovation edition of the GRIT Report, (previously the Q1-Q2 edition). Ray Poynter details which client companies stood out as the most innovative.

Editor’s Note: Many people in the industry eagerly look forward to the release of a new GRIT Report. The brand-new Business & Innovation edition (previously the Q1-Q2 edition) is scheduled to be released later this month. Today, we are publishing a sneak peek by Ray Poynter, on the ‘Top 25 Most Innovative Clients’ list. As Ray notes, there is a lot of consistency with past results. As he also points out, however, there is some interesting blurring taking place among big tech companies like Google, who sometimes act as Clients, and sometimes as Suppliers. Ray’s summary, as well as more detailed analyses of a host of other topics, will be printed in the full report. Can’t get enough? Catch up on the last GRIT Report before the next edition arrives later this month.

To accompany our review of the most innovative suppliers, we asked participants who the most innovative clients are (and why). The data was collected in the same way as when we asked about the most innovative suppliers. The client data focuses on the top 25 mentions as the numbers tend to focus more on a few companies and then dissipate faster than is the case with suppliers.

The table below shows the rankings for 2019, along with the rankings from 2015 to 2018. The table also shows the change in rankings, between 2018 and 2019, the number of mentions in 2019, and the location of the brands HQ and its broad category. Where cells are grey it means they were not in the Top 25 Most Innovative Client Companies list that year. 

Stability at the Top of the Table

Unilever, Google, and Coca-Cola have been in the top four for all of the last five years. P&G is currently ranked 2nd and has been in the top six every year. Beyond the top four, all of this year’s top ten have been within the top eleven for the last four years. This stability indicates that being innovative required long-term commitment.

There are some key similarities within the top ten. Eight of them are USA brands, they all come from one of two mega-categories (CPG/beverages and Online/IT). But there are plenty of brands that are American, that play in the same space, but which do not score so highly.

The Categories Less Mentioned

As well as looking at which brands comprise the Top 25 Most Innovative Client Companies and which categories they are from, it is interesting to note the categories that do not appear in the top 25, or which are barely reported. The missing categories include:

  • Auto
  • Transport (there are no airlines, boat or train companies – just Uber)
  • Telco (there are two handset manufacturers, Apple and Samsung, and two mobile operating system manufacturers, Apple and Google), but no Telco’s
  • Retail (Amazon is listed as Online and Macdonald’s as Fast Food, but there are no conventional retailers)
  • Finance, with just one entry, Royal Bank of Canada at 20

The Global Picture

The table below shows the top ten in different regions. We restrict the list to the top ten as the base for some regions means the mentions below the top ten can be too small to feel confident about.

The main message is one of consistency, the brands that top the total list mostly top the list in each of the regions, with a few changes in order and few changes in the brands mentioned.

The top ten in North America comprise the same ten as the global list, with minor changes in ranking. The two European brands Unilever and Nestle rank lower in North America and the more American brands rate a little higher.

In Europe, the top of the table is the same as the global list. Danone, Diageo, and Heineken join the top ten, with Nestle, Microsoft, and Apple dropping out of the top ten.

In Asia, the top two from the global list, Unilever and P&G, top the Asian list. The only addition to the list is L’Oreal, with Microsoft dropping out of the list to make space for it.

We should be careful with the rest of the world for two reasons, 1) it has the fewest responses and 2) it includes Africa, South and Central America, the Middle-East, Australia and New Zealand, i.e. a wide range of locations. However, even with these caveats, the main message is one of consistency. Only two brands are added to the top ten, Korea’s Samsung, and Belgium’s AB InBev. To consumers, AB InBev is better known for its beer brands such as Budweiser, Corona, Stella Artois, and it has a very big presence in Latin America and Africa.

Buyers vs Suppliers

The table below shows the top ten for both Clients and Vendors.

Once again, the main message is one of consistency. The top ten for clients are in the top ten list for suppliers. One difference is that clients are much more inclined to list Unilever than P&G. Among suppliers, P&G is ahead of Unilever by 196 mentions to 192 mentions. Among clients, Unilever is ahead of P&G by 188 mentions to 96.

What is a Client?

In the increasingly complex world of insights, the boundary between the definition of supplier and client is becoming less clear. The client of a panel company may be a market research agency, companies such as Google, Facebook and Alibaba both buy and sell research. However, to maintain consistency with previous waves the client-side was defined in the survey as “A client-side organization is defined as an organization that commissions research or data analysis projects using external suppliers.”, i.e. this definition excludes market research agencies (who are eligible for the Innovative Suppliers list), but it does include a few clients, such as Google who also appear on the Suppliers list.

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3 responses to “GRIT Business & Innovation Sneak Peek: Top 25 Most Innovative Client Companies

  1. Hi guys

    With regards to the methodology – a client can only be classified as Innovative based on the number of nominations. We are seeing a trend where clients are consolidating the number of companies they work with – seeking out specific partners to conduct innovative work. Doesn’t this mean there are less companies to nominate them? So companies with more suppliers can get more nominations. That doesn’t mean they are the most innovative.

    1. Hi Lyndall, good point, but not relevant to our methodology. I think there is some confusion on how this works. Each year we measure how market research suppliers and clients are leveraging the brand attribute of innovation through a simple question series:
      1. Using an unaided awareness verbatim question, we ask respondents to list the research companies and client-side organizations they consider to be most innovative. They can list up to five companies.
      2. We then ask them to tell us of the companies they listed, which do they consider to be the most innovative.
      3. Finally, we ask another verbatim as to why they consider their most innovative firm to be most innovative.
      These are broken into 2 question sets: one for Suppliers and one for Clients. We then simply count the mentions of each company after data cleaning and adhering to a series of rules we establish based on industry dynamics. It is a pure “top of mind” question type, with no pre-defined lists determined by us; GRIT respondents develop the list based on their responses. For the Client list we had 1,592 individual responses that comprised 339 unique company mentions. Those came from both Buyers (515 respondents) & Suppliers (1,077) who answered the question. So, as you can see it’s as close to a pure brand perception question as we can get. Is it influenced by personal experience? Of course, but it is certainly not limited to any companies stable of suppliers. Hope that helps!

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