Several Thinktanks have recently released studies documenting the changing nature of what it means to be a brand now. With the definition and relationship between ‘Brand’ and ‘End Consumer’ going through a phase of significant transformation, the way in which brands and consumers interact and respond to each other has changed for good. In this report and Infographic we illustrate some of these findings, and explore what it means to be a brand now and increasingly what brands mean to consumers.
We Don’t trust you anymore
There is currently a level of skepticism and indifference towards brands which did not exist before, with the levels of consumer trust in brands in a tailspin. Traditional demographic groupings have also changed. They are now more diverse, complex and unpredictable and brands are now required to address more universal needs and wants, rather than the traditional constructed identities and fashion demographics of the past. In order for brands to regain that trust and loyalty and ultimately become a meaningful brand, genuine authenticity, transparency, country of origin, having a meaningful, brand-customer relationship and making a tangible, positive impact on peoples lives have become the key drivers to achieve it. This is not only to gain and maintain their loyalty but increasingly to generate capital and growth.
The long-standing relationship between people and brands is broken. Much of the trust, respect and loyalty people had for many brands has disintegrated.
So Does anyone really Care?
According to the Havasmedia Meaningful Brands® survey of 2013, “most people worldwide would not care if more than 73% of brands disappeared tomorrow.” Havas Media studied 700 brands, over 134,000 consumers, 23 countries – and measured the impact of a brand’s benefits alongside its impact on 12 different areas of well-being such as; health, happiness, finance, relationships and community, among others. The analysis included a measurement called The Meaningful Brand Index (MBi) that used consumer perception to compare and track the impact brands have on our lives.
The worlds most Meaningful Brands
They go on to say that currently only 20% of brands worldwide make a significant, positive impact on people’s well-being and only one in five brands overall are perceived as making a meaningful difference to people’s lives. This difference is amplified when looked at regionally with a strong and growing gap between developed and emerging markets, where there is a wide difference in attachment to brands between the different regions, with a strong polarization between developed and developing markets. In Europe and the US, people would not care if 92% of brands disappeared. Whereas in Latin America that figure is 58% and in Asia 49% meaning that in Latin America and Asia people are six times more attached to brands than they are in Western markets. Umair Haque, Director at Havas Media Lab indicates that there is a new pattern emerging, where brand meaning is no longer just about incomes, but increasingly about outcomes and that for a brand to be sincerely meaningful, there needs to real brand integrity, real brand engagement, a focus on human well being and an emphasis and transparency over where and how a product is made.
“It is no longer about bigger, faster, more or cheaper and increasingly about, smarter, fitter, closer, wiser.
World Top 25 most meaningful brands
1 Google – United States
2 Samsung – South Korea
3 Microsoft – United States
4 Nestle – Switzerland
5 Sony – Japan
6 Ikea – Sweden
6 Dove – Anglo/Dutch
7 Nike – United States
7 Walmart – United States
8 Danone – French
9 Philips – Netherlands
10 P&G – United States
11 Adidas – Germany
11 Mercedes – German
12 Sprite – United States
13 Volkswagen – Germany
13 Honda – Japan
14 Leroy Merlin – France
15 Unilever – Anglo/Dutch
16 L’Oreal – France
17 Starbucks – United States
17 Activia – United States
18 Coca-Cola – United States
19 Toyota -Japan
20 H&M – Sweden
21 Audi – Germany
22 Apple – United States
22 Evian – France
23 Zara – Spain
24 Heineken – Netherlands
25 Lg – South Korea
Changing the Game
What is interesting from an apparel standpoint, is that the two top brands on the Most Meaningful Brand® list are both sports brands, with Nike at N0 7 and Adidas at N0 11. Both brands also come from 2 of the top three nations for Best Country of Origin, the US at No.1 and Germany at No.3 and furthermore, even though their products are clearly used and often presented as part of the fashion market they are both brands whose ethos and brand philosophy places a strong emphasis on the purposeful and functional, with products that add clear benefits, functional and health, that go beyond the pure aesthetic offer of non performance fashion and luxury brands. These more functional benefits are more tangible and easier to maintain than those less tangible aspirations of just looking more stylish. This also translates to a clear return and delivery on their initial promise. With Tech companies also ranking high on both Havas Medias Most Meaningful Brand list and Interbrands most Valuable Brand list it is no surprise that both companies are also technologically advanced by comparison to many of their rivals. Nike and Adidas are at the forefront of innovation and connectivity and wearables, while also maintaining strong brand loyalty and interaction through online connectivity and also in real terms.
Amy Du Pon Global Head of Data Insight – Havas Media Group
The worlds top 25 Most Valuable Brands
The Most Valuable Brand list for 2013 was dominated by tech brands with 70% of the top 25 coming from the tech sector, Tech companies are also those that saw the biggest jump in value from the preceding year, 2012. In No.1 position for the first time was Apple, valued at 98.3Billion US$ in 2013 it knocked Coca-Cola of the No1 position, a brand which has spent the last 13 years at the top. Apple’s ascension was indicative of technology’s dominance in the most valuable brand sector. The tech industry accounted for seven out of the 10 most valuable brands and four of the five brands that saw the biggest jump in value from 2012
Made in ‘Country of Heaven’
Not surprsingly where a product is made is increasingly a major factor in purchase decisions as well as a key link to trust and belief in both the product and in the brand itself. Globalization has changed the perception and reality of Country of Origin, whereby the reality and the definition for a brand of ‘Made In’ has become critical in creating and maintaining trust at the consumer level.
In their recent survey ‘MadeIn’, FutureBrand consumers were asked to rank the importance of origin when it comes to their purchase decisions. Surprisingly, Country of Origin, design and manufacture were all ranked higher than traditional drivers of choice like price, availability and style. In fact, Country of Origin, Country of Design and Country of Manufacture were ranked 2nd, 3rd and 4th respectively after ‘Safety’, which was positioned at number 1.
Consumers have always made strong associations with brands products and specific countries. This is increasingly important but it is no longer enough for a brand to be associated with a country but to also have a physical presence there, with consumer less willing to accept Country of Origin as a choice driver unless it is authentic. Today ‘Made In’ is enjoying a renaissance of importance and is increasingly being championed across multiple categories of goods and services as being a key differentiator and ingredient in brand strategy and marketing communications.
And what of heritage? In my time in the industry I have constantly been aware of the conflict or challenge between pushing forward to gain new markets or customers, and holding back in order to retain ‘older ones’ and financial market share. The danger, particularly in menswear, is that your customer grows older and brands looking to maintain and repay that loyalty run the risk of growing old with them. The larger the organization, the more complex the problem and the more difficult to change direction, as well as still being perceived as fresh, innovative and relevant. Customers grow into brands and eventually grow out of them. Brands trying to be both are in danger of becoming dangerously stretched in the middle and neither being one thing or the other. In order for brands to succeed they need to be flexible enough to adapt to their environment while still remaining true to their core values.
The reality for many brands is that the needs and wants of the new consumer often don’t align with the narrative that they’ve labored to build.
Consumers are now flocking to brands without heritage or history. Trendwatching.com recently released a report called Heritage Heresy which suggested that for rising numbers of consumers, brand heritage has become irrelevant and at worst an active barrier to engaging with them or offering a product they actually require. Consumers are embracing brands which are willing to drop their brand baggage and ethos of “our brand is” or “our brand must never” and replace it with doing the unthinkable.