The meaning of “meaning” in brand marketing

By diving into human truths - fears, concerns, worries of our future - brands can find a way to connect their vision with the challenges we are facing as humans.

The hot topic for all brand marketers this year is aligning your brand to a purpose. Our job as marketers is to do something more for society than persuade them to choose our product over the competitors. Corporate social responsibility is no longer a page on a website but should be deeply connected to the heartbeat of an organization. We can even be defined as living in an era of meaning – a time when our corporate responsibility is interwoven with the future of humankind.

We are at a point where we have bought into the idea that brand marketing serves as a role in our lives. In fact, the most impactful brands are those that are welcomed into homes around the world with open arms. They are searched for by people who know that the brand’s voice aligns with purpose in their lives. The work for us to do is to understand how to make our connection as meaningful as possible. Further to that, identify what meaning actually means.

Meaning doesn’t always correlate to cause – meaning can be how your brand provides value (Walmart) or joy (Disney). Meaning can be how you bring communities together (NFL) or how you inspire youth to think bigger (Crayola). It’s up to you to define the meaning for your brand and align your communications to it so that you’re always laddering to something bigger.

A lot of marketers get caught up in the HOW, and understandably so, as it’s not an easy exercise. If a brand is well-defined, there’s a pre-existing runway in the form of values and characteristics that help shape your meaning. The important part to this is to layer in consumer sentiment and values that are broader than your brand – how do consumers feel about the world? How do they feel about your category? What are things that worry them about their future? For example, if you’re a food and beverage brand, is it the health of their family? Or if you’re a bank, is it being able to financially support their future? It really comes down to the brands’ category and how consumers can relate and find meaning in it.

Starting from the mindset of a human being brings you closer to meaning that is actually meaningful. Wild right? By diving into human truths – fears, concerns, worries of our future – brands can find a way to connect their vision with the challenges we are all facing as humans. This can mean we are working towards global issues to do with the environment, economy and inclusivity. It can also mean we are working to bring joy, laughter, and togetherness to people. The depth of meaning is how much it connects with another human. Yes, some of us can aspire to change the world, but if all of us aspire to make another person feel heard and connected, we are bringing meaning to our jobs.