Buying is a political act, claims Havas Meaningful Brands

Havas started its Meaningful Brands report in 2008, and every two years, it tells us that the consumers of the world care even less about brands than they did the last time they were asked.

The 2019 survey finds that 77 per cent of the world’s brands could disappear without so much as a second thought from their customers. This is three per cent more than in 2017.

Meanwhile, 58 per cent of the content created by the world’s leading 1,800 brands is poor, irrelevant and fails to deliver. This is in a world of content overload, where every minute of the day sees 470,000 Tweets, four million YouTube videos watched and 49,000 photos posted on Instagram.

It’s a pretty sorry reflection of marketing today, and it’s even sadder when you take on board that 55 per cent of consumers believe companies – the same ones who can’t even do content right – have a more important role than governments in creating a better future.

This chimes with Edelman’s recent Trust Barometer, which tells us that 75 per cent of people trust their employer to effect societal change, compared to 48 per cent for government, and 47 for per cent media.

Amazingly, the top ten brands consumers are putting their faith in are Google, PayPal, Mercedes-Benz, WhatsApp, YouTube, Johnson & Johnson, Gillette, BMW, Microsoft and Danone. No wonder they are disappointed, although these brands apparently outperform the stock market by 134 per cent.

A meaningful brand is one that has a positive impact on our personal and collective wellbeing, along with functional benefits. Meaningfulness is more for younger generations: it matters to 63 per cent of boomers, 76 per cent of Gen X, 84 per cent of millennials and 87 per cent of Gen Z.

The research was done before Gillette’s latest toxic masculinity #thebestmencanbe ad, so it’s not clear whether that would have pushed it up or down from its (surprisingly high) number six spot. Nike, thanks to Colin Kaepernick, has gained more meaning this time, with personal benefits up 8 per cent and collective benefits up 7 per cent since 2017, making it the number 19 brand.

Havas contends that, as populism and political crises are on the rise, buying has become a political act, with 84 per cent of consumers saying that companies and brands should communicate honestly about their commitments and promises – although only 38 per cent think they actually do.

Maria Garrido, chief insights officer, Havas Group and SVP brand marketing at Vivendi, said: “There is no doubt about it. Being meaningful is good for business. 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% of consumers prefer to buy from companies who share their values. Brand activism will become a crucial part of a brand’s strategy.”

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About Emma Hall

Emma Hall
Emma Hall is the former London Editor of Ad Age, where she covered European marketing advertising, digital and media stories. She has written for newspapers including the Financial Times, The Guardian, The Times and the Telegraph, and was previously a section editor at Campaign. Emma started her career in New York as a researcher for a biography of Keith Richards.