Building A Meaningful Brand

Can you name your top five favorite brands? Can you describe what is it about those brands that grabs you, inspires you, keeps you? If so, than those brands are quite impressive. Because according to Havas’ Meaningful Brands study, 74% of the brands that make up our world are completely expendable to the general public.

The bottom line is this: our relationship with “brand” is broken.

And re-establishing trust—or building it in the first place—is no easy task.

Traditionally speaking, we trust and are drawn to brands that make our lives easier. This of course means that the brand must offer up a smart product or service—but equally as important, when we read between the lines, it means that the brand must align with and reinforce our sense of self.

Consumers today have taken this a step further. We want brands that improve lives and communities, that offer positive work environments and healthy conditions for their employees, and that are honest, ethical and transparent.

We salute you, consumer, and we rise to the challenge.

Our solution goes something like this: when we treat brand-to-person relationships the same way we treat person-to-person relationships, that is when we build meaningful brands. In other words, the people that are the most meaningful in our lives are the ones that understand us, inspire us and consistently show up and share unforgettable experiences with us. The brands that can do these three things are the ones that will win our loyalty, and perhaps even our love.

Let’s dig deeper. Can you apply the tenets below to one of the favorite brands that you named earlier?

1.  “He just GETS me.”

It’s a powerful feeling when you find a friend or a partner that really understands you—and this is precisely what a brand should aim to do. We hardly need to remind you of the merits of audience research, but the brands that win go beyond demographic and behavioral data. They try to understand people—emotion and human nature—and this kind of deeper understanding allows for the more authentic personalization of a brand. Whether expressed through messaging that captures a consumer’s human truth, through service personalization that better meets a human need (i.e., the Ubers of the world), or through inviting your customers to partake in shaping your brand, this kind of understanding is what drives the feeling of “he just GETS me.” In Martin Lindstrom’s book, BRANDchild, he describes this brand personalization prevalence as the evolution from the Unique Selling Proposition to the Me Selling Proposition.

Our take away: meaningful brands think like people and act like people—and this allows them to better demonstrate honest and consistent understanding of their customers.

2. “I just want to feel a part of something bigger than myself.”

It is human nature to search for purpose. We want to know that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, and we live and work toward the idea of leaving a mark on the world. So, too, should a brand stand for something intentional and true. This goes beyond brand mission—the what you are working toward—and instead gets at the core of the why you exist. What is your brand’s purpose, and do the qualities of your brand (i.e., your brand essence, your visual identity, your organizational culture) honestly reflect this purpose? It’s not just mission-driven organizations that are taking note. It’s also the TOMS, the Warby Parkers and the Patagonias of the world that come to mind. An old Huffington Post article cites a Cone LLC study that supports the notion of customer-to-brand purpose alignment: 94 out of 100 people would choose to buy the product that supported a good cause.

Our take away: meaningful brands stay true to their purpose and find natural, non-artificial) points of alignment with an individual’s sense of purpose—this is when the brand inspires us and wins deeper loyalty.

3. “I don’t remember exactly what was said, but I remember how it made me feel.”

And by this we mean: it is all about the experience. Brands understand that messaging and visual identity need to captivate—to create an emotional experience for their consumers. But the brands that truly embed themselves are the ones that bring the consumer into the fold of their worlds through actual participatory experiences—those moments that bridge the gap between messaging and real life. Here we are reminded of user-generated content competitions like the National Geographic #WanderlustContest to the AT&T It Can Wait Initiative which asked audiences to create and share photo pledges to resist texting while driving. The point is that a consumer might not remember what they read or heard, but they are very likely to remember what they did or how it made them feel.

Our take away: meaningful brands understand that consumers don’t just want to be on the receiving end—they want to be a part of an experience, and they want to hold an active role in the life of a brand.

As communicators, we all know messaging is more powerful when it comes in a package of three. And so, the meaningful brand trifecta goes something like this:

  • Understand people
  • Identify and stay true to your brand’s purpose
  • Create experiences that allow participation

Did your favorite brand pass the test? If so, it’s a keeper. Tweet us @agencyCHIEF and tell us why this brand is meaningful to you.

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