Spin-polarized two-dimensional electronic states have been observed in metallic surface alloys with giant Rashba splitting and at the surface of topological insulators. We study the surface band structure of these systems, in a unified manner, by exploiting recent results of k . p theory. The model suggests a different way to address the effect of anisotropy in Rashba systems. Changes in the surface band structure of various Rashba compounds can be captured by a single effective parameter which quantifies the competition between the Rashba effect and the hexagonal warping of the constant-energy contours. The same model provides a unified phenomenological description of the surface states belonging to materials with topologically trivial and nontrivial band structures.