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In search of meaning

Data, creativity, diversity and consumer uncertainty topped the agenda at this year’s Media 360 which is no surprise considering that this year’s theme was ‘Transform & Unite’.

This theme was pertinent given the current post-Brexit climate of the UK with a general election looming. So what place, if any, do brands have in this landscape, and what can we as marketing and agency professionals, do? Can we really transform businesses and unite the nation?

Kantar’s latest research Dimension showed that overall attitudes to advertising is positive, yet ad blocking increases. Whilst consumers like advertising in theory, this is not on an individual level. 62% of brits believe that brands should improve their lives and this was a key topic across the two days. From McDonalds to Malteasers, brands are embracing purpose with varying results. The overarching sentiment was one about authenticity, is your purpose in your brand DNA and are you being meaningful?

In my opinion brands with purpose should be welcomed, but as long as that purpose is not just a positioning designed solely for commercial gains. If brands can use their advertising budgets to build awareness, change perceptions or promote a better world, and deliver commercial gains alongside, it doesn’t seem such bad thing. Perhaps if McDonalds had partnered with Child Bereavement UK and actively done something for children who had lost parents, their ‘Dead Dad’ ad would not have fallen so flat. They would have had the authority to talk about it.

Despite so much focus on purpose, it seems that it is not the only way another way to make a brand meaningful today. Looking back to the old adage of ‘brands are entertaining or useful’, this doesn’t seem wrong. Red Bull continues to top the list of most loved brands with its content led approach and our own client Amazon continues to make life easier for consumers with Echo or same day delivery.

Therefore, perhaps it’s not about picking a stance, be it purpose, entertainment or usefulness. Perhaps it is about understanding the role of your brand in the fabric of today’s world or for today’s consumer, and reflecting, amplifying and extending that. Finding the space that only your brand can fill will surely provide real meaning.