Arif Durrani, head of media at Campaign, editor of Media Week
Arif Durrani, head of media at Campaign, editor of Media Week
A view from Arif Durrani

Meaningful brands enjoy major competitive edge

In a continuation of a trend that has been gaining momentum for the past three years, Havas' robust update to its Meaningful Brands study this...

This year’s survey not only compares meaningful brands against the stock market, which they outperform by 133 per cent, but also against a brand’s "share of wallet" – a metric devised to measure the percentage spent with a brand compared with the total annual expenditure within its category. Meaningful brands were found to be on average 46 per cent (and can be up to seven times) higher than the category.

The study commands attention due to its scale – 1,000 brands, 300,000 people, 34 countries – and scope (12 sectors). As usual, most people would not care if brands disappeared (74 per cent).Trust is weak, especially in Europe, but reliable brands that deliver beyond functionality resonate. The tech companies do notably well – think Samsung, Google, Sony and Microsoft.

'Trust is weak, especially in Europe, but reliable brands that deliver beyond functionality resonate'

The results also suggest size is not a barrier to meaningfulness, with smaller brands often outperforming bigger rivals: Honda beats Toyota and Ford, PayPal is valued above MasterCard, and Uniqlo is ahead of Zara and H&M.

Now, I’m as sceptical as the next guy, and I remember Bob Geldof going off-message at a Havas event two years ago, dismissing the language used in the Meaningful Brands research as "advertising bollocks" – but he did think it tapped into today’s times. After years of companies paying lip service to corporate social responsibility, it’s starting to feel like its time has finally come. It clearly dovetails with Tom Knox' new IPA agenda centred around the "here for good" proposition revealed this week. 

The underlying driver has been, quite simply, social media. The rise of Facebook, Twitter et al in the past ten years has served to connect and empower consumers like never before – and it’s forcing change. As Havas Media’s Dominique Delport notes: "Great marketing has a cumulative effect as it’s shared – it naturally flows and gains momentum. This generation will only share if brands do stuff that matters to them. They look to brands for meaningful connections, big or small."

I believe the most significant addition to the debate this year is the introduction of a "return on meaning" metric – an attempt to measure the value brands bring to people’s lives by tracking returns in both marketing and business terms. As media agencies become increasingly focused on the overarching strategic objectives for brands, in addition to the act of media buying, understanding a brand’s wider positioning should be a valuable addition.