- NEW YORK
An overwhelming 77 percent of brands could disappear and no one would care. That’s among several sobering findings in Havas Group’s 10th annual Meaningful Brands study.
Furthermore, 58 percent of content created by the world’s leading 1,800 brands is poor, irrelevant and fails to deliver what consumers want. Nonetheless, people still crave meaningful content, underscoring that there’s considerable untapped potential for agencies and clients to mine if they do so more thoughtfully, embracing a sense of purpose that’s tangibly related to who they are.
The aforementioned 77 percent figure related to indifference over brands is the highest percentage since the Havas research began in 2008--and it’s a major three point hike over the prior year’s Meaningful Brands study results.
On the bright side, those select brands that are perceived as meaningful by making the world a better place are reaping considerable benefits--including outperforming the stock market by 134 percent, according to Havas.
The top 10 performing Meaningful Brands, as identified by Havas, are: Google, PayPal, Mercedes-Benz, WhatsApp, YouTube, Johnson & Johnson, Gillette, BMW, Microsoft and Danone.
SHOOT connected with Maria Garrido, chief insights officer, Havas Group, and SVP of brand marketing for entertainment conglomerate Vivendi, to get a better handle on the Havas research. Havas is part of the Vivendi family of companies.
The Meaningful Brands study entailed gaining input from 350,000 people in 31 countries, spanning some 1,800 brands from 22 different business sectors or industries.
Garrido noted that 55 percent of consumers believe brands actually have a more important role than our governments to create a better future. Buying today is a political act, and the power of consumers to impact change is greater than ever. “Our findings show that consumers will reward brands who want to make the world a better place and who reflect their values. A massive 77 percent of consumers prefer to buy from companies who share their values. Brand activism will become a crucial part of a brand’s strategy,” related Garrido.
At the same time, Garrido cautioned that a brand shouldn’t “hijack a social cause because it’s trendy and hope it will have a positive effect on their sales.” She affirmed that a brand has to critically determine if it properly aligns with a social cause or issue. She noted that Nike, Johnson & Johnson, Lowe’s home improvement stores and Nicorette are among the brands whose activism has fit their brands--and that fit applies to all forms of content, not just TV shows and varied films but loyalty programs, brand-published magazines and so on.
She cited Nicorette’s “One Breath” project as a good example of a brand connecting with consumers by inspiring them. The “One Breath” initiative included three short documentaries centered on real people sharing what they’ve been able to accomplish by quitting smoking. “In the healthcare category, people want content that helps them, that inspires them. Nicorette fulfilled that need,” assessed Garrido.
Local impact, content bandwagon
Local impact can also be a strong ally for a brand. Activism that positively affects a local economy, said Garrido, reflects activism at a grass-roots level that people see and feel in their communities. While Apple has not done a good job on that front, she related, brands like Samsung have.
Assorted brands are jumping aboard the content bandwagon. “Content is exploding but brands need to take a step back,” advised Garrido, “and take a strategic approach to what they’re developing in terms of content and how to best measure the ROI of that content.”
Garrido noted that the advertising and entertainment communities are starting to meaningfully come together to help realize that optimum ROI. The Vivendi/Havas family tie is an example, as is Vivendi’s Universal Music which has developed a track record of successfully working with brands. She also cited such other entertainment entities as WME (William Morris Endeavor), a mainstay talent agency that has reached out to and dovetailed with the ad industry.
Still, there are many ill-advised content pursuits. Garrido noted that turning to celebrities is not a panacea for a brand. There needs to be careful deliberation over what particular celebs represent or can potentially bring to a brand before recruiting them merely to generate buzz.
The nature of content creation and production reflects how in touch--or out of touch--a brand is with its audience, she continued. On the latter front, a European retail brand she declined to name attempted to reach young millennial moms but to no avail. Research showed that their content--which had a heavy sports orientation--registered with high income men in their 50s who no longer had kids at home. The content had no appeal to the target audience--but rather was right in line with the interests of the brand’s male-dominated board.
While the lion’s share of brands are falling short of consumer content expectations, that lack of performance in some respects can be attributed to marketplace dynamics. For one, said Garrido, there are so many brands vying for attention--particularly in North America and Europe--that messages can get lost. And of course even the best intentioned fare can be drowned out by content noise, including some 473,000 tweets sent and 4 million videos watched on YouTube, every minute.