Consumers Pick America’s Most Innovative Companies and not all are Tech 

Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business, along with the Norwegian School of Economics, and market research firm Rockbridge Associates, Inc., announced the top innovators from the American Innovation Index™ (Aii), the only survey in the US measuring company innovativeness based on customers’ experiences. The study also tracks customer perceptions of social innovativeness to give a complete picture of how companies impact customers and society. The Gabelli School will recognize the top companies with an innovation award to be presented at the 2nd annual American Innovation Conference to be held in October in New York.

Conducted in May 2019, the survey found Apple was rated the most innovative company in America by its customers for the second year in a row.  Innovation leadership is not confined to tech firms. Automakers Honda and Toyota claimed the #2 and #4 spots respectively, while Ford and GM make the top 20. Weber, the 126-year-old manufacturer of grilling equipment, ranked #3 on customer-perceived innovation. Retailers Amazon and Ikea made the list of top 10 for the second year, ranking #5 and #6 respectively. The nation’s largest credit union, Navy Federal, made the top 10 and was rated higher in innovation by its customers than all leading banks.   

The top 20 leaders on the American Innovation Index™ will receive awards, and include: Apple, Honda, Weber, Toyota, Amazon, Ikea, Google, Netflix, Navy Federal Credit Union, Samsung, Ford, GM, John Deere, Airbnb, Trader Joe’s, Chick-fil-A, Stanley Black and Decker, Aflac, Microsoft, and Southwest Airlines.

“In a competitive consumer market, innovation propels companies to the top of their industry and drives their growth and financial performance,” said Lerzan Aksoy, Ph.D., professor of marketing at Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business.  “The American Innovation Index recognizes the companies with the highest innovation index scores based on consumer ratings. These companies have been able to mobilize resources in a manner that makes customers notice they are creative, pioneering and shapers in their industry.” 

The Aii scores and ranks the innovativeness of U.S. companies based on their customers perceptions. The Aii covers 174 firms from 21 industries, such as airlines, hotels, car rental companies, banks, TV and Internet service providers, wireless phone providers, manufacturers, retailers and utilities. The study surveyed 8,863 consumers and covered over 38,000 customer-company relationships.

The American Innovation Index identifies certain innovation leaders that challenge traditional consumer manufacturing and services companies. Besides the obvious example of Amazon, which is rated higher on innovation than all other retailers, Netflix ranks #8 in customer innovation ratings, exceeding all the traditional cable companies, while Airbnb ranks #14 and exceeds all hotel chains.   

“Companies can provide the highest levels of satisfaction, but if they do not deliver an innovative customer experience, they face becoming obsolete,” said Gina Woodall, President of Rockbridge Associates, Inc.  “We have found that your industry does not determine how innovative customers think your company is. For example, in the airline industry, Southwest is an innovation leader ranking 20 out of 174 companies, while United is near the bottom with 169.”

The Social Innovation Index

The survey also measures social innovation through the Social Innovation Index™ (Sii), which is the degree to which customers of companies perceive them to innovate in ways that benefit society and the environment. Three of the top 10 most innovative companies on the American Innovation Index™ are also in the top 10 on social innovation according to customers, including Honda, Toyota and Navy Federal Credit Union.  

The top 20 companies on the Social Innovation Index™ will also receive awards from Fordham, including: Honda, Toyota, John Deere, Ford, Navy Federal, General Motors, Aflac, Chick-fil-a, Trader Joe’s, General Electric, USAA, Stanley Black and Decker, Weber, Ikea, Nissan, Google, Hyundai, Apple, Whirlpool and LG.  

Another key finding from the Aii is that tech-driven firms that are rated high in customer innovation are not always leaders in social innovation.  Example: Netflix ranks in the top 10 on the American Innovation Index for customer innovation, but its ranking on the Social Innovation Index is 76. 

Why Does Innovation Matter?

The American Innovation Index™ methodology is based on years of research by the Norwegian School of Economics that found that consumers are sensitive to company efforts to innovate, including in their products, value delivery, customer treatment and interaction space.  These innovation efforts, when moved “downstream” where they affect the customer experience, trigger positive emotional responses that translate into greater customer loyalty and attractiveness toward the brand. Many studies attempt to rank companies on innovation through external indicators such as patents, R&D spending, productivity, and experts, but only the American Innovation Index™ captures innovation through what customers actually experience. To date, no large scale, scientifically vetted measure of customer-perceived innovation exists in the United States. The Aii was created to address this gap in the body of knowledge.

Customers not only expect companies to innovate to meet their needs, but to innovate for a greater good.  The Social Innovation Index™ also correlates with customer loyalty and with perceptions of brand attractiveness.  The research to date reveals that the most successful companies achieve high customer scores on both customer experienced innovation and social innovation. 

For more information about the Aii, visit 

About Fordham University:

Founded in 1841, Fordham is the Jesuit University of New York, offering exceptional education distinguished by the Jesuit tradition across nine schools. Fordham awards baccalaureate, graduate, and professional degrees to approximately 15,000 students from Fordham College at Rose Hill, Fordham College at Lincoln Center, the Gabelli School of Business (undergraduate and graduate), the School of Professional and Continuing Studies, the Graduate Schools of Arts and Sciences, Education, Religion and Religious Education, and Social Service, and the School of Law. The University has residential campuses in the Bronx and Manhattan, a campus in West Harrison, N.Y., the Louis Calder Center Biological Field Station in Armonk, N.Y., and the London Centre in the United Kingdom.

About the Norwegian School of Economics:

NHH Norwegian School of Economics is one of the leading business schools in Europe.  They launched the Norwegian Innovation Index in 2016 and partnered with Fordham’s Gabelli School of Business and Rockbridge to replicate their methodology in the US.

About Rockbridge Associates, Inc.:

Rockbridge Associates, Inc. is an outcome-based market research firm that has been advising  Fortune 500s, mid-sized firms and non-profits on their innovation and marketing strategy for over two decades.

Gina Vergel
[email protected]
(646) 579-9957