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Showing up and contributing might be the best brand strategy for today, and that’s more than OK

Being useful, being honest and being ethical remain the principles that drive a meaningful marketing practice as Maria Garrido, Chief Insights & Analytics Officer at Havas Group explores.

Maria Garrido, Havas Group

Chief Insights & Analytics Officer

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I’ve read a few marketing gurus lately saying that this global crisis is a great time to rip up the rules of brand communication and reinvent your whole strategy.

It’s an interesting approach, and I suppose there are a few brands that might benefit. But a less headline grabbing philosophy could also be a smarter one, which is that this is not the time to reinvent marketing. This is because, in spite of the feeling that life will never be the same, the basic principles still apply.

We’ve been studying how to drive meaning for brands for more than 10 years and everything we’re seeing suggests that the insights continue to be just as relevant, perhaps even more so.

77%
of people prefer to buy from companies that share their values
55%
of consumers believe companies have a more important role than governments in creating a better future
84%
of consumers expect honesty about brand commitments and promises

Defining Meaningful today

Here’s one thing that hasn’t changed: the best way to build brands is to drive business growth for the long term while continuing to deliver the functional, personal and collective benefits customers really value.

In any era, brands are expected to deliver high quality products (functional benefit) and make people’s lives easier (personal benefit). In fact, Havas’ Meaningful Brands study has found that the entry point has always been functional benefits. In other words, brands must deliver on their rational promises.

It’s true that in recent years, we’ve seen growing expectations on both the personal benefits (what the brand does for me) and the collective benefits (what the brand does for society), but smarter brands are incorporating these changes into their business and marketing strategies. They should keep it up; it’s a trend that is not going anywhere.

Being useful, being honest and being ethical remain the principles that drive a meaningful marketing practice.

Maria Garrido

So, what does that mean for marketing right now, in the eye of the COVID-19 storm?

Simply put: show up and contribute.

Buying has become a political act. In fact, 77% of people prefer to buy from companies that share their values. We are now in an era of Brand Activism, where 55% of consumers believe companies have a more important role than governments in creating a better future. This means that instead of shutting down advertising or continuing to shout “Now, new and improved!”, brands need to use the power of their communications channels to show people how they are helping serve them and their communities.

Two of the most important collective benefits we see in Meaningful Brands are ‘benefits my local economy’ and ‘good workplace’. Consumers today expect brands to protect the wellbeing and financial security of their employees and nearly 90% of people want to hear about it.

In this moment in history, brands that demonstrate operational agility will be the winners. Reacting quickly to supply chain challenges and making sure customers are kept informed on how to gain access to products/services during this complex time will ensure a brand remains meaningful.

Other important personal benefits that drive meaning are ‘keeps me connected’ and ‘teaches me new skills’. Brands have an opportunity during this crisis to create tools that offer solutions and support. Digital channels are especially relevant, notably social media, to maintain an open dialogue with customers and foster a sense of community when appropriate.

Perhaps most importantly right now, we see that 84% of consumers expect honesty about brand commitments and promises. Those brands that have responded transparently and compassionately in this time of crisis, are being rewarded with higher purchase scores.

Now more than ever, we need to refresh our knowledge of what makes a brand meaningful. In today’s COVID-19 crisis, that doesn’t mean chucking out all the rules. Being useful, being honest and being ethical remain the principles that drive a meaningful marketing practice. Just being there and delivering functional, personal and collective benefits are extremely relevant for business survival during the crisis and growth thereafter.

Guest Author

Maria Garrido, Havas Group

Chief Insights & Analytics Officer,

About

Maria is the Chief Insights & Analytics Officer for Havas Group, leading a team of over 200 people in 40+ countries. She manages consumer, brand and market studies, including proprietary Meaningful Brands and leads the Global Analytics practice, responsible for Decision Support Solutions that provide concrete performance measurement on client business objectives. Most recently, Maria has been named the Chief Executive Officer of Havas X, the new Innovation practice that brings together the talents of 18 Labs, Cognitive and Station F. Under Maria’s leadership, Havas X focuses on the exploration of Data Science, Artificial Intelligence and Future Ecosystems, allowing for a more effective use of innovation expertise internally as well as providing value-added services that drive more meaningful impact on clients’ businesses. Maria joined Havas in 2014 after 18 years of experience in North America, Latin America and Europe. She has held both operational and strategic marketing roles at various FMCG blue chips, most notably Colgate Palmolive Co & Mondelez.

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