PARIS, FRANCE — This week, Havas unveiled the latest edition of its annual global Meaningful Brands™ report, charting how rising cynicism among consumers (originally identified in 2021) was shifting to an expanded idea of purpose that was more inward-looking and personal.
The report’s findings demonstrate that while brands’ actions to drive societal progress, inclusion, and sustainable behaviors have become more important and expected, people are examining everything through the lens of “me” in the face of more challenging and uncertain times.
Meet the “Me-conomy.” In the “Me-conomy,” brands need to act decisively to drive social change and progress, but they’re also expected to provide everyday joy, support mental well-being, make life easier, offer affordable indulgences, and more. And brands’ good works, while expected, are no longer to be lauded as heroism. In today’s “Me-conomy,” consumers want brands to help them lead as participants and activists in driving social change.
For the last 15 years, Havas has been dedicated to understanding and building Meaningful Brands™. Its annual Meaningful Brands™ report is a landmark study of brand value that interrogates new behaviors, shifting cultural dynamics, and priorities for businesses and brands in a complex world. This year’s Meaningful Brands™ report surveyed 91,000 people (about the seating capacity of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum) across ten global markets (Australia, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Spain, Mexico, US, UK), along with 1,300 brands across 42 categories.
Key findings influencing the “Me-conomy” highlight new ways people are navigating and experiencing a world rife with change and challenge:
- 72% are tired of brands pretending they want to help society when they just want to make money.
- 68% think that the world is going in the wrong direction, at a global level.
- One in three people reports being personally affected by at least one crisis on an everyday level.
- One in three agree that companies/brands should satisfy their individual needs first before taking a wider role in society.
- 71% of people believe that companies and brands should be doing more to improve and support their health and well-being.
“The role of Meaningful Brands™ is to explore shifts in people’s lives, attitudes, and behaviors, and unpack what that means for brands — but more importantly, how they can be more meaningful in people’s lives. ‘Meaningful Brands™’ at their best win people’s loyalty; they occupy a bigger space in culture and they also set themselves up for long-term growth. They combine purpose with customer centricity to not just grow but ‘grow well,’ giving back to the people and the planet. In many ways, the expectations of brands have never been higher. This is what we’ve seen in the rise of the ‘Me-conomy.’ While doing good for people and the planet is important, in this challenging time with more people hyper-aware of global crises and uncertainty, increasingly a purpose of its own is providing joy, great service, hyper-functionality, and elevating day-to-day lives,” said Mark Sinnock, Global Chief Strategy, Data, & Innovation Officer at Havas Creative.
“As brand marketers endeavor to create meaningful media experiences for people, Meaningful Brands™ offers deep and actionable insights on this new era of hyper-personalization and people’s evolving brand expectations. Undoubtedly the “Me-conomy” presents opportunity for brands to thrive; but to do so, they must show up differently and reframe the personal, collective, and functional value they are creating for people,” said Seema Patel, Global Managing Director, Mx Intelligence, at Havas Media Group.
“Me-conomy” Rules for Brands
This year’s report offers a playbook for brand marketers to succeed and grow in the “Me-conomy.”
1. Make Mental and Physical Wellness Universal
Health and wellness have become central concerns for all. Brands need to create access and support and democratize aspirational lifestyle benefits that have felt out of reach and exclusive.
- Seven out of 10 people declare making a real effort to be physically and mentally healthy.
- The most Meaningful Brands™ perform +66% better in inspiring me to take a healthier approach to life.
- 71% feel that companies/brands should be doing more to improve and support people’s health and well-being.
2. Superpower “Me”: Enable People to Do and Feel More
In the “Me-conomy,” brands are increasingly expected to be “super” brands, outperforming in functional, social, and environmental change, while also delivering emotional benefits.
- The most Meaningful Brands™ perform significantly better than the average brand in providing that creative spark:
- +62% Inspires me with new ideas and possibilities
- +65% Makes me feel more confident
- In our personal attributes index: Makes me feel good (index 111) and connecting with others (index 109) are some of the top-performing attributes.
3. Hyper-Individualism: Respect and Celebrate Difference
The expectations and parameters of inclusion are becoming more hyper-individual by the second. What started with race and gender has expanded to include neurodiversity, class diversity, and more. This expansion has extended from visibility in marketing to creating opportunities for underrepresented groups.
- Three out of four respondents agree it’s important that we coexist harmoniously with people different from us.
- 74% feel it is important for them to express their true thoughts and options.
- The most Meaningful Brands™ perform +64% better on the “helps me express my identity and true self” attribute than the average brands.
4. Joy Brands: Let the Joy Shine Through
More brands, through product, messaging, or activation, are trying to inspire optimism, joy, simple indulgences, and escapism in consumers as they grapple with uncertain times. More than ever, there’s a focus on what makes us happy.
- 54% of people say they are optimistic about the future.
- “Helps me feel energized and alive” is the #2 attribute across all pillars to contribute to our quality of life.
- Top ranking attributes across most Meaningful Brands™ are “gives me a sense of happiness” and “helps me feel good about myself.”
5. Make It All Super Seamless for “ME”
As purpose turns more personal, sometimes a worthy cause is simply being great at removing barriers from consumers’ lives. In this hyper-tactical era, sometimes just being functional trumps all brand aspects. Working, understanding my needs, and being reliable are not just goals – but wins.
- “Help me simplify my life” is the #1 attribute across all pillars to contribute to people’s quality of life.
- Helping people save time or simply making life easy. Meaningful Brands perform +42% better on customer experience attributes like purchase experience, exclusive experience, and individualization, respect for data privacy.
- “If you look close up to this year’s Index of the most Meaningful Brands™, a common theme is one of hyper-functionality, utility, and consumer centricity,” says Mark Sinnock, Havas Creative Group’s Chief Strategy, Data & Innovation Officer.
- Amazon, WhatsApp, and Google were ranked highest for their functional benefits in the study.
6. Affordability Is the New Inclusion
In Havas’ Meaningful Brand’s™ study, good value and price consistency were ranked as key attributes among 2023 audiences. Oﬀering products and services at accessible levels are becoming a purpose of its own.
- “Brands and retailers are working harder than ever to create products that are high quality and bring joy, but are also accessible to everyone,” said Mark Sinnock, Global Chief Strategy, Innovation & Data Officer, Havas.
- The most Meaningful Brands™ perform better on “offering good value for my money” (+45%) and “offering a range of products that fits my needs” (+45%).
7. Platforming Purpose: Enable People to Make Purpose Personal
The role of a brand when it comes to purpose is increasingly not to be the celebrity or the savior but the facilitator. When it comes to activism, more people want to lead the change and have brands help them shine. And they are changing their behaviors already to affect social change.
- Six out of 10 people according, to Havas’ Meaningful Brands™, are “being the change they want to see in the world.”
- 62% are “starting to change their behavior to adapt to the environmental pressures we are facing.”
- Three out of five are prepared “to make personal sacrifices to save the planet” and “take a stand on political issues that are important to them.”
8. Do Good Without the Drama
Transparency continues to be a priority – especially regarding commitments. Amid this, brands are taking an innovative approach where purpose-driven activities are positioned with honesty, humility, and sometimes even humor.
- “Is transparent and honest in its activities and communications” is the #4 collective attribute to drive trust across all brands.
- The most Meaningful Brands™ perform +49% better in being transparent and honest in their activities and communications than the average brand.