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:
- 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.