No matter what the path, the challenge, or the ambition, it all culminates in growth—for companies, for founders and stakeholders and, when done exceptionally well, for people and for humanity.
Among this year’s Interbrand Breakthrough Brands, we find some common hallmarks—characteristics that are helping grow brands and businesses.
While every brand’s path is unique, the standouts share some common characteristics that set them apart.
The AI natives
Yes, it’s very early on in the commercial Artificial Intelligence and machine realities journey, and we’ve yet to see how it will truly play out, especially as brands must rely on enormous amounts of data from the get-go to make it work. However, what was once the domain of a few is now threading through and available to technology across industries—a level of access that means more and more young companies will be able to push innovation and gain genuine traction.
While Singularity and the possibility of machines becoming smarter than humans is still playing out in real and philosophical discussions, what Breakthrough AI natives are demonstrating is how to utilize AI to solve real problems—and push ahead competitively. From collision prevention to better control of our health, and from better personal experiences to cyber security, the brands we are celebrating are shaping what our most immediate AI future looks like, and for right now, it’s humans utilizing technology to improve lives.
Brand activism and social enterprise
Brand activism is a real concern for brands of all persuasions, as companies are pushed to make a stand that’s in line with their values and those of their customers. The rising call for participation in real concerns—political or not—is as true for brands as it is for people, and our personal activism can be expressed in the endorsement of a brand with which we align. Brands that remain silent risk that silence eclipsing their authenticity and commitment as well as their customers’ endorsement.
When it comes to Breakthrough Brands, many already embody social enterprise—businesses that take on social challenges through profitable business models. The standout brands share one common trait: while their model is clearly mission driven, they play to win. They focus on being as good—if not better—than their competitors when it comes to their businesses. And the practical way they solve challenges over time—from poverty to diversity, and from mobility to skill gaps and education—simply enriches and deepens that advantage, as they use their entrepreneurial creativity to tackle the social change we need.
People first, digital agility, and the gig economy
Many Breakthrough Brands, not surprisingly, are steeped in technology, no matter what their business models. E-commerce continues to rise, as more platforms deepen connections and heighten experiences that go beyond selling a product. This sold-while-not-being-sold model is vital for new generations of consumers for whom connections are critical. And many models go beyond consumption—focused instead on providing platforms for entrepreneurs of all kinds to make an impact.
It’s the focus on people that defines many Breakthroughs. Digital and technological leaps are changing the way we learn, how we take control of our health and finances, and particularly how we choose to work. The demand for digital agility is pushing people to adapt their skills and push themselves to stay competitive. However, the rising gig economy, coupled with people’s rising demand to work for companies whose values match theirs, is fundamentally changing the definition of work. Breakthrough Brands are elevating skills and diversity previously ignored, challenging the way we recruit and train, and people are challenging how companies attract and retain their talent, which is now on their terms.