Beating the Ad Blockers: Iris study shows how 'Participation Brands' are thriving through people power

London, February 2017: Iris has created the world’s biggest global study on consumer involvement – The Participation Brands Index – to showcase why the world’s most successful brands are choosing Participation, and identify their common traits of success.

Iris conducted the research in 2016 as a result of two emerging trends, the first being the number of people ignoring or actively blocking out brands. 

One in five Britons is using ad-blocking software, and this figure is rising rapidly. 89% of advertising is considered ‘wallpaper’. Google purged itself of 1.7 billion bad ads last year - more than double the number it axed in 2015. The PBI study itself found that 3 in 4 brands are failing to make an emotional engagement with its consumers. The advertising industry is clearly facing its toughest test yet. 

But despite the bleak figures, there is a more uplifting trend – consumers are deciding to bring certain brands closer into their lives like never before. The brands that they felt understood them and played a meaningful part of their lives, they opened up to and advocated on a whole new level. 

The gap between the brands that are thriving in this new economy – the Participation Brands – and those being blocked out is growing rapidly.

In short – there are only two types of brands: Participation Brands, and dying ones. 

The brands that are going to survive are those that are creating content and conversations that people want to actively participate in. 

And there is proof in the pudding: a 3-year investment in the top 20 global brands in the Participation Brand Index would have earned a return 4 times that of the bottom 20 brands, and double that of the S&P 500. The Participation Brand Index also demonstrates that consumer involvement is the secret to driving Net Promoter Score: every 8 points achieved on the PBI is equivalent to 1 point on NPS.

Ben Essen, Executive Planning Director: “Brands no longer influence people. People do. With the Participation Brand Index we wanted to understand more deeply why people are choosing to get involved with certain brands, and what the secret is for those brands who manage to get their market doing their marketing.  It’s an approach Iris have embraced with brands like Domino’s and adidas for nearly a decade – but now, there really is no doubt that Participation Branding is the future of successful mainstream marketing.”


About the Index

The Participation Brand Index analyses qualitative data from 14,000 consumers, across 5 regions (U.K, U.S, Brazil, Thailand and Australia) and 177 brands across 6 sectors (automotive, consumer tech, FMCG, retail and travel). 

For each brand, respondents answered questions about their perception of the products and services, and their own personal activity relating to the brand (beyond direct consumption or use). 

As part of The Participation Brand Index, Iris established the 5 ‘pillars’ of a successful Participation Brand. The study explored specific brand behaviours and consumer responses related to the following pillars:

Passionate Purpose: More than just a position in the sector or a point of view on the world, a driving force behind all brand behaviour that gives everything you do an authentic passion, purpose and potency.

Culture Shaping: Not simply surfing culture, but bringing something genuinely fresh to people’s lives, passions and conversations to help the brand feel hot right now.

Category Innovating: Actively enhancing consumer participation in the sector by offering something more interesting, exciting and relevant to the experience of browsing and buying.

People Powered: Building brands with people, not for them. Leveraging one audience’s participation to drive interest and affinity amongst others.

Distinctive Character: A truly distinctive character allows people to quickly, instinctively recognise and feel affinity for a brand at every interaction. The most powerful are multi-faceted, provocative and reinforced simply through body language and iconography.

The number one brand globally was Apple, who excelled against all pillars. The number one brand amongst a Millennial audience was Netflix. There is a stronger sense of anticipation in ‘what the brand is going to do next’ than any other brand in the study. In other sectors, ‘participation native’ challenger brands outperformed their established competitors including Tesla in automotive, AirBnB in travel and snack brand Vita Coca.


Top Ranking U.K by Category

Travel- Virgin Atlantic, AirBnB

Retail - Amazon, IKEA

Auto - Tesla, BMW

Consumer Tech - Apple, FitBit

FMCG - Vita Coco, ProperCorn


Travel – AirBnB, Tripit, Hilton, Expedia

Retail – Amazon, Trader Joe’s, Etsy, Walmart

Auto – BMW, Jeep, Ford, Uber

Consumer Tech – Apple, Google, Netflix, GoPro

FMCG – Coke, Red Bull, Snickers, Doritos


Top Ranking APAC by Category

Consumer Tech – LINE, Samsung

Auto – Uber, Honda

Alcohol – Hibiki, Johnnie Walker

Retail – Aldi, Muji

FMCG – Brand’s, 100 Plus


For the full study, visit


For more information, a personal demo of the Participation Brands Index or to book a Participation Workshop for your brand contact  / 0297 654 7900