For more than seven years, Havas has been asking what is perhaps the most existential question that could be asked of any brand: What does it mean to a consumer? This year, it is flipping the model
and asking what the relative meaning of a brand for a consumer means for the marketer -- in the most bottom-line ways -- developing what it describes as a “return-on-meaning.”
“One of the things we really focused on this year is what does return-on-meaning mean,” Maria Garrido, global head of data & consumer insights, Havas Media Group,
told MediaDailyNews during a recent briefing on the 2015 results. “What does meaningfulness mean to the client -- not just to the consumer, but to the client who has sales and marketing
objectives that they have to meet.”
Garrido said Havas is still trying to formalize those results into a standard index, but the initial findings suggest it’s
pretty material, boosting a brand’s “share of wallet” seven times, doubling so-called marketing KPIs (key performance indicators), and even impacting the stock market values of the
most meaningful brands.
That’s the good news. The bad news, she said, is that it’s getting harder than ever before for brands to become meaningful to
Based on its 2015 research -- a global study that surveyed more than 300,000 consumers about the meaningfulness of more than 1,000 brands -- consumers by and large
are more apathetic to brands than ever before. In fact, on average, consumers wouldn’t care if three-quarters (74%) of brands disappeared tomorrow. That’s up from 71% in 2011.
Worst of all, the apathy is strongest in the most developed markets, where the greatest amount of competition and advertising, media and marketing spending take place: North America
and Europe, with Latin America also showing signs of moving in that direction.
Garrido says it’s a mixed blessing -- noting that the shift in Latin America, in
particular, reflects the rise of the middle class, and greater opportunities for brand choices among consumers. As a rule, she said, the more options available to consumers, the less meaningful brands
are on average in those markets. It’s an embarrassment of riches in which the noise of marketing communications and product attributes available to consumers in developed markets makes it harder
for them to feel meaning -- particularly trust and attachment -- for any particular brand.
To do that, a brand must really stand out and deliver across the whole spectrum of
consumer experiences, including their overall marketplace performance, as well as a consumer’s perception of personal and collective “well-being.”
the 2015 results, the top 10 most meaningful brands worldwide, include: Samsung, Google, Nestlé, Bimbo, Sony, Microsoft, Nivea, Visa, IKEA and Intel, followed by HP, Dove (Unilever), WalMart,
Gillette (P&G), Knorr (Unilever), Kellogg’s, Amazon, PayPal, Honda and Carrefour.
Brands with the largest percentage increase since Havas last fielded the
research in 2013 include Honda, LG, ING and AXA.
Garrido said it’s not just the number of brands available in a market that is shaping consumer perceptions about
meaningfulness. The way brands communicate and the attributes and benefits they emphasize when communicating to consumers shapes them too. As a rule, she said, consumers are becoming more sensitive to
brands that are able to communicate a sense of personal well-being, noting that trust simply winning a consumer’s is not enough for many brands.
“So what, I trust
your brand, now what,” she said, adding: “Just because you met my functional benefits that you said you were going to deliver, now what are you going to do for me.”
To do that, Garrido said brands have to form a genuine attachment with a consumer -- and to do that requires connecting with them on a personal level that means something to them
Garrido said Havas will continue to track the overall meaningfulness of brands to consumers, and plans to develop more science behind the
“return-on-meaning” in hopes of creating an actual index that can be used to benchmark and track what it means to the bottom line performance of brand marketers.