What do Nike, Gucci, Pizza Hut, and Geico have in common? They are all genius brands, according to L2, the research firm founded by the iconoclastic "clinical professor" Scott Galloway, of New York University's Stern School of Business.

L2 ranked 2,302 brands.

But only 4% of them rank as genius brands.

Just over 600 were "gifted," and 666 were average, but 543 were "challenged," and 399 were "feeble," L2 says, making it difficult or impossible for those brands effectively reach consumers. Only 94 made the cut.

What makes genius brands geniuses? Five factors, according to L2.

Making it personal

Top brands have high-tech sites that personalize content and enable product customization. They might use guide tools to help people find the perfect item, L2 says. And half of the genius brands use live chat to help customers immediately.


Nike recently introduced NikeID for product customization. Customers can select a base model show, ad their preferred colors, logos, text, and graphics, and order a unique personalized product.

Keeping checkout close

Seeing is one step from buying for genius brands, who are "transforming blogs, lookbooks, and other content into shoppable catalogs," L2 says. Even brands that don't do direct-to-consumer sales are enabling add-to-cart for top retailers in their space, right on their own sites.

On social, genius brands are making their Instagram accounts shoppable via shopping tags, or Like2Buy links in their Instagram bios. 


Dove doesn't sell direct to consumers. But it uses Shoppable to plug into multiple retailers on its site. Add a product to the shopping cart of your choice, and you can check out wherever you like ... after comparing deals at different stores.

Building visibility with e-tailers

Keeping checkout close is great, but most are still going to Amazon or other online retailers for their purchases. Genius brands build strong relationships with these consumer giants -- 79% of them outside the luxury category sell via Amazon, and adding rich content to their product pages.

Extra bonus: this results in higher Google search visibility.


L'Oreal is a beauty brand, but unlike many of its competitors, it distributes officially on Amazon. The result is plenty of sales ... but also the fact that 13% of the Amazon links in Google searches for hair products are links to L'Oreal SKUs.

Modernizing digital marketing

Desktop has had its day. While there's still more sales on desktop than mobile, genius brands have decreased desktop display ads by 10%. Mobile, on the other hand, is up 36%. 

And, in an effort to win prime Google real estate, top brands are increasing Google Shopping ads spending.


Gucci is one just a few luxury brands that offers direct-to-consumer e-commerce. Therefore, it's able to invest in Google Shopping ads ... and it now owns 60% of all ads that show when consumers search for its branded terms, compared to the fashion category's average of 46%.

Revitalizing store networks

Amazon is investing in bricks-and-mortar retail for a reason. Although digital commerce is essential for the future, consumers still like to touch, feel, and see in real life. Genius brands are integrating online and offline via their apps, allowing customers to use their phones as in-store shopping aids.


Pizza Hut allows hungry customers to order via its app and website -- of course -- but also via Facebook Messenger bots or by voice, thanks to its Amazon Alexa skill.

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The full report is available from L2's website.