3 facts that will shape the future of branding, marketing and social media

Havas Media just came out with an insightful new report entitled, “Meaningful Brands For A Sustainable Future.” One of the most telling aspects of the report was how it revealed the often-overlooked punitive side of the social business marketplace.  Specifically, that means the growing awareness and capacity of consumers to punish brands for their duplicitous behavior or outright lack of social responsibility.

The report contains three key facts that contain profound warnings to marketers.

1. Only 28 percent of consumers worldwide think that companies today are working hard to solve the big social and environmental challenges people care about.

Two things stand out about this fact. Firstly, that less than 30% of consumers think that companies are either working hard or sincerely toward addressing social crises. But secondly, the final phrase “challenges people care about.” If there is one hallmark of the social business marketplace, it’s that there is now a real-time dialogue between brands and consumers, and if companies hope to inspire loyalty and goodwill from their customers, they have to act in a way that is meaningful to their customers’ lives. By ignoring the social and environmental challenges that their customers care about, brands are running the risk of a) being irrelevant and b) inviting consumer backlash (in the form of social media messaging or product purchases) in retribution for a lack of social responsibility.

2.  Sixty-four percent of consumers believe most companies are only being responsible to improve their image.

One of the most persistent demands of consumers from brands that now use social media channels to promote their products and services is authenticity in their communications.  If over half of consumers believe that brands are only being responsible to improve their image, rather than to genuinely address the issues that their customers care about, the majority of companies are setting themselves up for disaster.

Consumer demand for transparency and accountability follow quickly behind authenticity. We now live in a marketplace in which consumers not only have the information available to them through the internet, but the ability to share it in real-time thanks to social media. So as more companies seek to leverage their purpose in order to connect to their customers, we’re going to see the purpose-space become just as crowded as the green-space with many players feigning social responsibility as a cynical marketing tactic, rather than as an authentic commitment. Brands that do this may benefit over the short-term, but will suffer far more over the long term. These concurrent demands of authenticity, transparency, and accountability will be the traits that distinguish those brands that succeed moving forward based on their ability to inspire their customer community to amplify their messaging.

3. Most people would not care if 70% of brands disappeared in the future.

Deep consumer distrust is now translating to little regard or attachment for 70% of brands in the marketplace. So leadership cannot allow itself to be lulled into a false sense of security simply because they currently dominate the marketplace or their industry.  Technology is already radically transforming the way business is done across all industries, and now consumers are more predisposed than ever to embrace new brands that are not only tech-savvy, but socially-responsible as well.

These three facts are just some of the invaluable insights available within the Havas Media “Meaningful Brands for Sustainable Future” report.  This report concluded that the brands that systemically improve our personal and collective world being are rewarded with stronger brand equity and consumer attachment.

So mindful that this survey was based on research that included 50,000 people in 14 countries and 300 brands across 12 sectors, here is a list of the top 20 meaningful global brands.


2. Google

3. Nestlé

4. Danone

5. Leroy Merlin

6. Samsung

7. Microsoft

8. Sony

9. Unilever

10. Bimbo

11. LG

12. Philips

13. Apple

14. P&G

15. Mars

16. Volkswagen

17. L’Oréal

18. Walmart

19. Carrefour

20. Coca-Cola

For more on the report, click here. For the Meaningful Brands infographic, click here. For the Meaningful Brands Global Quickfact Sheet, click here.

What do you think it will take for the majority of brands to embrace the fact that they must be meaningful to their customers’ lives? What do you think is the greatest obstacle in their way?