Dana Tahir examines the findings on Havas’s latest survey; Meaningful Brand Study

Dana Tahir is the general manager at Havas PR

No one would care if 77 per cent of brands disappeared tomorrow. That’s what more than 350,000 people across 31 countries had to say when asked about the importance of a brand in their lives. Alarming, isn’t it?

This statistic comes from Havas Group’s 2019 annual Meaningful Brands Study, which takes us beyond a product to explore how brands tangibly improve people’s lives and the roles they play in society. Launched 10 years ago, the ongoing study covers more than 1,800 brands across 22 industries worldwide.

In order to effectively gauge how meaningful a brand is, communicators or marketers need to take into consideration three characteristics. First, we look at the product’s functional benefits – how well it works, and whether it delivers on its promise to consumers. Second is the customer impact – whether it be from an emotional, social, financial, or even intellectual standpoint. Third is the contribution to society – what causes does the brand support, directly or even indirectly? When these three pillars are combined, across different levels of importance based on country and industry, they define a meaningful brand.

So why should brands care about being meaningful? The bottom line is that being meaningful continues to be good for business. A brand’s stock market performance and marketing KPIs outperform competitors when it is considered a meaningful brand. If you’re a meaningful brand, 70  per cent of customers are more likely to repurchase from you, another 76 per cent will be your advocates, and 40 per cent of clients are willing to pay premium prices. However, if your brand stands in the lower end of the spectrum, only 29 per cent are likely to repurchase, 37 per cent will advocate for you, and 18 per cent will pay premium prices.

Now more than ever, a brand’s contribution to society through “brand activism” is becoming an essential part of how people determine whether a brand is meaningful. At a time when, globally, trust is at an all-time low, more than half of those surveyed expect brands to take the responsibility to play a more important role than governments in improving society. Luckily, the UAE government has launched a number of policies and initiatives to encourage the public and private sectors to act responsibly when it comes to the environment, including, UAE Vision 2021, the UAE National Climate Change Plan 2050 and the UAE Energy Plan 2050.

What does that mean for us here in the MENA region? Brands and corporates will need to rev up their efforts to effectively communicate how they are contributing to society and making a positive impact in the environment, in order to resonate as a more meaningful brand to their stakeholders. The great news is, we have seen a steady flow of PR campaigns and breaking news stories across industries such as beauty, fashion, FMCG and technology, among many others, which have strong ties to sustainable best practices. Brands such as L’Occitane, Tumi, and Agthia are leading the change when it comes to taking action to make a positive impact on the environment.

On the sidelines of Gulfood 2020 Dubai, Agthia launched the region’s first 100 per cent plant-based water bottle. It also signed an agreement with Veolia, a global leader in waste management, in order to establish the collection and disposal of plastics in the UAE. The partnership also leverages an app where users can schedule plastic pick-ups from designated locations. In addition to this, L’Occitane is making major strides in supporting a circular economy through their commitment to make 100 per cent of their bottles from 100 per cent recycled plastics and offering recycling services at all of their stores by 2025. They are working with influencers in the region to spread this message through beach clean-ups and raising funds to support charities involved in environmental causes. When it comes to sustainable apparel in the region, Tumi has launched a new sustainable collection, in which their bags are made from recycled material, and have committed to their mission to create durable products in an effort to increase the lifespan of their bags, ultimately reducing the load on landfills.

Looking ahead, brands that continue to do their part to deliver functional products and services to stakeholders who provide personal benefits and contributions to society will become more relevant and eventually meaningful to people, helping the brands outperform their competitors and succeed. More importantly, how can we turn this statistic around, work with brands to create a lasting impact on society and provide more meaning to people?