When I wrote Mean People Suck, I wanted to get across the point that empathy is more powerful than most of us realize. I wanted people to see it as more than a tool to use or a great asset to have. Empathy can change the way we relate to others, giving us more understanding. It can also invite others to want to engage with us.
This is critical in understanding how to operate in a customer-centric world. It’s a two-way street. What brands give is, in many ways, what gets reflected back from the consumer.
Nowhere is this more evident in marketing and business than with the phenomena of meaningful brands. When brands operate from a meaningful place and present a purpose-driven message, people react in a positive way.
In my book, I talk about the latest research on meaningful brands and what it means to be one. These meaningful brands outperform others by over 200 percent! By coming from a place of empathy and genuinely looking for ways to offer value and meaning to others, your brand can create something greater than profit but can hold a meaningful place in society. This is what makes brands like Nike, Patagonia, and Dove so magnetic, and so successful.
So, what does it take to be a meaningful brand? How much of a difference does being meaningful make?
- Meaningful brands weave empathy into everything they do.
- Consumers respond positively to this approach, which is part of why meaningful brands are consistently high-performers.
- To be meaningful, look at your values, messaging, and customer experiences.
What Are Meaningful Brands?
Meaningful brands work to connect with consumers on a more authentic level. This can be through offering value-driven content, through initiatives that benefit society, for standing up for a cause – or through all of the above. What matters is that the organization has an authentic purpose that’s meaningful in some way, and it makes this purpose clear to the consumer through messaging and actions.
I talk a lot about how important it is to put the customer at the center of everything. Customer-centric brands are better positioned to build trust, to innovate their products and services in a way that will offer people real value, and to forge stronger customer relationships.
Still, when we take the power empathy even further, from a tool to relate to employees, customers, and other stakeholders to a way of understanding how a brand relates to the society it’s a part of, we go from customer-focused brands to meaningful brands.
According to the Havas Group, which helped to coin the term ‘meaningful brands’ with the annual Meaningful Brands study, meaningful brands “inspire meaningful connections between people and brands to generate business results.
Does Being Meaningful Really Matter?
Brands that make meaningful relationships a priority do perform better. This is true year after year and across industries.
Overall, the most meaningful brands experience a 24-point advantage over the least meaningful brands on purchase intent, a 41-point advantage on repurchase intent, and a 39-point advantage when it comes to customer advocacy.
Not only are consumers more interested in advocating for and buying from these brands, but they are also able to charge a premium price. Forty percent of meaningful brands use premium pricing successfully while only 18 percent of the least meaningful brands do.
Not only does this purpose-driven approach drive sales, but it also determines how replaceable your brand is. Think about it – if a brand offers a fantastic product but there’s no story, no values behind the company, no reason to engage through content – what difference does it make if you buy a product from brand A or brand Z?
Then, look at a company like Nike that offers training apps and a digital community, supports sports at the community and national levels, and creates some of the most inspirational content on the planet. The world would be a different place without Nike.
If your company went out of business and its impact was wiped off the face of the planet, would anyone notice?
The same research on meaningful brands revealed that 77 percent of consumers wouldn’t care if the products we use regularly disappeared. That says a lot about the customer-brand relationship and how important it is to cultivate a genuine bond. If your brand doesn’t demonstrate empathy toward something – a cause, the customer, the world – then consumers don’t form those bonds and your company, essentially, is meaningless.
What Can Brands Do to Mean Something?
There are so many steps an organization can take to become a more meaningful brand. It all starts with asking the right questions. As I discuss in Mean People Suck, if you want to leave an impression beyond making a sale, figure out:
- How can our organization accomplish a deeper connection with consumers through branding?
- How can we reach new audiences more effectively by connecting to their values?
- What does it mean to create a meaningful brand experience for our customer?
The third question is perhaps the most important – it’s important to think about what matters to your customer. You could pick up a pet project or launch a social responsibility program to show your organization has values – but if it doesn’t resonate on a deep level with your target audience, it’s still not going to make that much of a difference.
Start with branding – look at your organization’s mission and make sure it’s coming through in your messaging. Look at your content – is it fulfilling one of the six purposes that all meaningful content delivers on?
Continually research your existing audience and new markets to look at what matters to your customers and potential customers – and talk to them. With social media and customer service channels, you can always stay on top of what matters to them.
And finally, be true to your brand values and create experiences based on those. This consistency will help to develop real customer loyalty.
So what do you think? Please consider picking up your copy of Mean People Suck today, and get the bonus visual companion guide as well. Or check out our services to help evolve your culture. And I would be thrilled to come present to your team on the power of empathy!