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Three steps to becoming a meaningful brand

As The Drum and Havas Media search to find the Most Meaningful Brand of the Year, the agency's Natasha Murray tells us what it takes to make a real impact on consumers' lives.

The relationship between consumers and brands has fundamentally shifted. We live in an 'organic' world where the path to purchase is getting a lot more complicated. Increasingly, it's no longer brands that control the ecosystem, it’s consumers driving it. Consumers today are empowered by technology, are building their own schedules, and know where to go for the information they need.

With more communications being crammed into the same number of 'media hours' consumers are getting more adept at filtering out brands which aren't relevant to their lives (no time/room for generic offers which don't fulfil their need). We only have to look at the rise of ad blocking as evidence to this reality. It’s not about ads vs no ads, but the right ads for that person with relevant content, within the right context at the right time. So how do you stay meaningful whilst everything else around you is changing?

The biggest question is actually not WHAT’S changed or even WHY but WHO is changing. How many brands are adapting their behaviour, values, internal structures and messaging to reflect the changing landscape and balance? According to Havas Media’s Meaningful Brands, UK consumers feel that only 3 per cent of brands actually make a meaningful contribution to our quality of life.

So if you are serious about being meaningful and not substitutable, these three recommendations should help:

Practice what you preach

The connected and empowered individual of today seeks to understand the values, behaviours and vision of the brands they allow into their lives. These people, as a collective, can make or break a 21st century brand if they perceive poor corporate values or a sense of disdain for consumers as they start to 'talk back' to brands. Quite simply, if you over promise on expectation and under deliver on experience you will be caught out.

Product delivery is no longer enough

We understand from our research that there are three core pillars behind a Meaningful Brand – all of which need to be considered and acted upon: Product & Service, Personal wellbeing and Collective wellbeing. Increasingly, savvy consumers means brands now have to work harder, as people expect more. People demand brands deliver on a holistic range of factors. Most businesses place a great deal of effort on their products and services, but little effort on communicating how their brands benefit people’s life priorities and the needs of society as a whole.

Ability to build meaningful joined up connections

For every brand, we must use data alongside human understanding to understand how consumers make purchase decisions for that brand, and the role communications play across all stages in this decision-making process. We know that the places where consumers come into contact with brands has an effect on how they perceive that brand, so connecting that experience for them across owned, earned, shared and paid media is key. What role does each channel play, and most importantly what is its influence?

Customers, if harnessed, can be extremely influential but they also have the power to take a brand down if they are not engaged with in a way that is meaningful to them. People don’t think about channels, they are connected by experiences and sit across channels, not in them - so communications must connect across all touchpoints.

If you can build those meaningful connections between brands and people, earn the right to be in their lives and don’t let them down, then you have a very good chance of being meaningful and not substitutable.

Natasha Murray is managing director of Havas Media. The Drum has partnered with Havas Media to conduct research for the Meaningful Brand of the Year category, part of The Drum Marketing Awards. Cast your vote now.