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Meaningful brands: What are the key ingredients of your brand value?

Bian Salins from LinkedIn talks about brand reputation in Seminar 5 at DMEXCO 2019.
© Koelnmesse GmbH / Uwe Schinkel

What is the Meaningful Brands study and what does it tell us about brand value?

“Meaningful Brands” is the title of a study that has been published by the Havas Media Group since 2008, currently every two years. The study examines the impact of 1,500 different brands on the well-being of over 350,000 consumers (20,000 of which are German) in 31 nations, and conducts a detailed analysis of the following:

  • What consumers expect of companies
  • Where there is room for improvement in the brands
  • Where the future opportunities are in terms of the alignment and communication of companies
  • What are the areas in which brands should demonstrate a clear attitude and take responsibility

In the Havas study, brand value is largely measured based on the quality of the brand’s connection with people, society, and the environment.

True brand value: the Meaningful Brand Index

But what makes a brand “meaningful” exactly, as the term can also imply “useful”? Both connotations apply here – since a brand obviously has to be viewed as useful in order to have any relevance on the market. A brand will only be meaningful if

  • it is widely known by consumers,
  • it and its products or services are perceived positively by consumers, and
  • it is able to offer added value on a personal, social, or environmental level.

The study combines brand equity, traditionally interpreted as the value of a brand, in other words its commercial strength, with its social engagement, known as brand performance. Brand performance in turn results from the combination of three different requirements:

  • Functional requirements: The brand and product must deliver what is expected of them.
  • Personal/individual requirements: The brand and product must improve the lives of customers.
  • Collective/social requirements: The brand and product must fulfill their role in society.

Brand equity together with the three components of brand performance results in the adjusted, more significant brand value, the Meaningful Brand Index (MBI).

Where does a brand’s value lie in the eyes of consumers? Attitude matters!

Among other things, the 2019 Meaningful Brands study showed that the vast majority of German consumers expect brands and companies to show a clear attitude and commitment:

75 %
of German consumers expect brands to take a strong stance against social and environmental problems and actively contribute to solving them.
77 %
of German consumers prefer brands which they feel represent their own values.
55 %
of German consumers believe that companies play a greater role in building a better future than politics.

According to the study, younger consumers, millennials, and Gen Z are particularly more inclined to buy a product and opt for a brand based on its social and personal benefits, rather than merely based on its price and product utility. They believe they can influence future sociopolitical developments through their purchasing decisions and choice of brand. The purchasing behavior of younger generations is therefore becoming more of a conscious, political act.

However, the vast majority of brands are clearly not meeting these criteria. They are either too vague, do not take a clear enough stance, lack an environmental or social commitment, or simply do not offer relevant content that gives the target audience some sort of added value. The study found that consumers think a massive 77 percent of brands are unnecessary and would not miss them if they disappeared overnight.

Sustainability as an attitude and element of the corporate philosophy

Obviously not every company can be included in the Meaningful Brands study. Nevertheless, the study provides valuable, data-based analysis results that allow conclusions to be drawn about what is important to consumers when they choose a product and opt for a brand. Every SME and startup can also immediately benefit from these insights.

The most important findings on what makes a brand valuable according to the MBI are as follows:

  • The company demonstrates a clear and transparent attitude toward social and/or environmental issues and acts accordingly.
  • Production and logistics meet sustainability criteria from an environmental, social and economic perspective along the entire value chain and can be traced in a transparent manner.
  • The product does what the communication promises.
  • The brand is viewed as unique and distinctive.
  • In addition to the product itself, the company provides content that gives consumers added value and extra benefits. Good content contributes to a positive brand experience, which creates trust.

7 commandments: how to make your brand valuable

If you want to increase your brand value, the criteria of the Meaningful Brands study can serve as handy pointers. These 7 “commandments” will help you make your brand more meaningful:

#1 Shift your focus: be human-centric instead of consumer-centric!

#2 Demonstrate a clear attitude: align your actions in a way that benefits people, the community, and the environment.

#3 Your messaging, products, and activities should reflect your mission to optimize human capabilities, relationships, and living conditions.

#4 Act sustainably in an environmental, economic, and social sense.

#5 Establish partnerships with people and organizations that can help you develop and adapt to more sustainable practices, habits, and lifestyles.

#6 Form relationships with people who meaningfully represent both sides. Monolinear communication that reduces people to the role of customer and recipient is not meaningful in this respect.

#7 Your content should aim to have a lasting impact on people, regardless of the channel.

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