Communications Officer
This month, Havas unveiled the latest edition of its global Meaningful Brands™ report, charting how rising cynicism among consumers (originally identified in 2021) was shifting to an expanded idea of purpose that was more inward-looking and personal. To learn more, we spoke to Mark Sinnock, Global Chief Strategy, Data and Innovation Officer, Havas Creative Network, and Seema Patel, Managing Director, Global Intelligence at Havas Media Group.

Can you give us a little bit of background on the history of Meaningful Brands?  

Havas has measured Meaningful Brands™ annually since 2009. Now, nearly 15 years into this landmark proprietary study, our Meaningful Brands™ study continues to be a vital sense check about people’s aspirations, guardrails and expectations of brands. 

Our bespoke methodology examines the impact and equity of a brand based on consumers’ perceptions and expectations across three key pillars – its personal, functional, and collective benefits (listed across 40+ dimensions and attributes). The most Meaningful Brands™ are the ones which perform well on all three metrics.  

How did you architect this study?  

What this methodology provides is a connected data set across YouGov’s syndicated products – Profiles and Brand Index – as well as Havas’ bespoke surveys – Meaningful Brands, Connect (consumer decision survey) and Content (understand the needs and roles of branded content). This makes all our proprietary studies much more useful because we can combine our data with YouGov’s data to actually build and activate audiences based on all the attributes from all the studies. 

Can you share some key themes from this report?  

The data and findings in our latest Meaningful Brands™ study revealed several key themes. We see the rise of the “Me-conomy” and how purpose ‘got personal’. Consumers still prioritize important issues such as the environment and social justice but also expect brands to directly contribute to their day-to-day lives. People are looking for brands that provide everyday joy, support mental wellbeing and make their lives easier. There’s also demand for ‘Personalized Experiences’: in today’s challenging and expensive context, consumers are expecting brands to align with their personal needs and goals. 

We identified a further theme of ‘Empowerment over Heroism’. Consumers are looking for brands to help them lead the charge rather than acting as heroes themselves, supporting consumers to make a positive impact and driving change collectively. As identified in previous Meaningful Brands™ studies, people really do prefer Meaningful Brands™. Finally, we were fascinated to see the following theme coming through too – ‘Opportunities for Collaboration’. There’s a real opportunity for brands to leverage opportunities to collaborate with consumers to strengthen their impact and forge deeper connections. 

Were there any results that were particularly surprising?  

We were particularly interested in the findings that suggest people are looking to brands to provide emotional support and simplicity in their lives – with less of an emphasis on brands taking a wider role in society. 71% of respondents indicated that brands should be doing more to improve and support their personal health and well-being, and 41% thought that brands should focus on satisfying their individual needs before taking a wider role in society. This desire for support from brands is set against a background where life is increasingly challenging, uncertain, and expensive for people, with 68% of respondents indicating they feel the world is going in the wrong direction at a global level, and 1 in 2 feeling personally affected by a crisis in their day-to-day life. 

However, these findings are not to suggest that people are growing more self-interested, with 3 in 5 respondents prepared to make personal sacrifices to save the planet. Rather, people are cynical of brands supporting causes with aggrandization and self-interest, with 70% of respondents indicating they are tired of brands pretending to help society when they just want to make money. The findings suggest that people want to drive change in the world themselves and are looking to brands to make sure they are happy and healthy to empower their ability to drive progress.  

How can brands use these insights to thrive in today’s world?  

The most meaningful brands are driving a lot of differentiation by delivering across the spectrum of functional, personal and collective benefits, but the ones that are over delivering on the ‘personal’ aspects are cutting through the most. Those Brands that resonate in people’s lives set themselves up for long-term growth – with the top rated Meaningful BrandsTM outperforming the stock market by 222%.  

As part of this year’s study, we created a “Me-conomy” playbook, with 8 ways for Meaningful BrandsTM  to grow in 2023: 

  1. Making mental and physical wellness universal with the most Meaningful Brands™ performing +66% better in inspiring me to take a healthier approach to life. 
  1. Enabling people to do and feel more with the most Meaningful Brands™. performing +62% better in inspiring new ideas and possibilities and +65% better in making people feel more confident.  
  1. Respecting and celebrating differences with 3 out of 4 respondents feeling it is important that we coexist harmoniously with people different from us, and 74% indicating it is important to be able to express their true thoughts and opinions. 
  1. Letting joy shine through with product, messaging or activation inspiring optimism, joy and escapism with 54% of people saying they are optimistic about the future. 
  1. Making it all super seamless for ME with the most Meaningful Brands™ performing +42% better on Customer Experience attributes like: good purchase experience, exclusive experience & individualization and respect of data privacy. 
  1. Unlocking affordability with the Meaningful Brands™ performing better on “offering good value for my money” (+45%) and “offering a range of products that fits my needs” (+45%). 
  1. Enabling people to make purpose personal with 3 out of 5 respondents prepared to make personal sacrifices to save the planet and take a stand on political issues that are important to them. 
  1. Doing good without the drama with the most Meaningful Brands™ performing +49% better in being transparent and honest in their activities and communications than the average brand. 


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