To stand out, brands need to be meaningful. Maybe in 2018 that doesn’t come as a surprise to advertising and marketing professionals, however, what may be surprising is the number of brands that remain irrelevant.
Recent data from the 2018 Meaningful Brands study shows that people wouldn’t care if 87 percent of brands disappeared. Despite the constant effort from brands to create engaging experiences, there’s simply too little value for people in their current exchanges with brands.
That’s not encouraging.
What is encouraging is that people expect more from brands. Research shows that an overwhelming majority of consumers believe that companies and brands should play a role in improving quality of life and well-being. That’s a major opportunity for advertisers.
People too often feel that brands aren’t meeting their expectations. It turns out that one of the most effective ways to create connections and provide value is content—culturally relevant content. Culturally relevant content engages and excites. People find value in brand messaging when it aligns with their personal beliefs, needs and motives. And through content that’s relevant, brands can build trust.
There is a caveat: Before advertisers can create meaningful content, they must understand what matters to people. Companies should first define their own values. Advertisers create authentic content when they find the alignment between people’s personal values and the ideals of the company. Finding that value match means going beyond products and services and exploring how brands tangibly improve people’s lives. It means examining a company’s role in society.
Content can certainly improve people’s quality of life and well-being. Products and services provide functional benefits that deliver utility. Those products meet the evident needs of customers. Engaging, entertaining, educational content enables brands to double down on the personal benefits provided not only from products but from the value system of an organization and the subsequent content that it creates. Content becomes more effective when it addresses personal benefits, which includes emotional, social, intellectual, physical, financial and organizational benefits.
Brands should work to perform better on content that delivers personal and collective benefits to consumers. Remember, many consumers say that they feel brands should play a role in improving our quality of life and well-being, and consumers expect brands to provide content—on social, at events, shared through stories, provided through entertainment and even in solutions. When a company thinks outside of its functional product offerings and leans more into personal and collective benefits for consumers, that brand will stand out from the competition.
It’s important to note that consumers aren’t the only ones who benefit from meaningful content. When brands differentiate themselves with meaningful content that connects, they get a return on meaning. Essentially, meaningfulness drives higher KPIs for brands. Those KPIs include awareness, share of voice, share of wallet, trust and sales.
It’s obvious that consumers are inundated with content. People live in a world of content overload. And more doesn’t mean better as an estimated 60 percent of content produced by brands is not meaningful to consumers. Consumers feel that brand content is largely failing to deliver these benefits. The majority of baby boomers, Gen X and millennials say they expect more from brands; they want purpose beyond product. Meaningful content that provides a prospect of purpose, meaning and value will cut through the noise.
One of the best ways to share content is through an integrated marketing campaign that features content on several different platforms and focuses on individuals who will find the content relevant. That content should be rooted in the needs, wants and interest of the target audience. It should be customer-centric. It should be interactive. Meet the consumers where they are at, whether that’s on social, online, on their mobile devices or in stores. Create content around the things that matter to them.
Meaningful content isn’t produced in a vacuum. Companies must embrace purpose beyond product, fostering a culture of meaning that’s curious, inquisitive, challenging and that taps into (and sometimes creates) culture.
Remember: Content creators need room to experiment and grow. Content creation doesn’t have to be erratic and unpredictable, but it does need to be strategic. It should respond to consumers’ needs whether it’s providing a solution, inspiring action or simply engaging customers in a meaningful way. Only meaningful content will matter in the long run and help brands thrive in this challenging environment.