Meaning Powers A New Era Of Brand Strategy

Dr. Martina OlbertovaApril 16, 20184 min

We live in a world where the symbol has become the new product. This is why meaning needs to become the new strategy. Staying symbolically relevant to people and culture is the new number one task brands need to master today to create future relevance.

The world has changed.

But unless we adapt, it’ll be a change for the worse.

Due to the sheer scope of complexity in our lives, we are becoming paralyzed.

So are brands, which are increasingly out of sync with reality.

Despite the last 50 years of progress in technology, the actual way we manage brands has advanced very little. Brands are still managed in silos. This results in a range of issues: brands today are innately fragmented, symbolically irrelevant, unable to mirror society and people’s needs, are often insensitive to cultural nuances and incapable of adapting to change in a real profound sense.

We have plenty of data.

We have plenty of technology.

What we don’t have is meaning.

We need to find a way to make brands meaningful again and bring them closer to people. Not driven by technology but rather enabled by it. Brands need to be driven by something fundamentally more human.

And this is where the new vision comes in.

The Vision For The Future Of Our Industry Is Clear And Simple: Meaning-Driven Brand Direction.

This means managing brands based on their meaning rather than anything else.

Not communication channels.

Not technology.

Not advertising campaigns.

Not consumer data.

Not the stock value.


Why meaning?

Because without it, all of the above has absolutely no value at all. Consider these six truths:

1. Most Brands Today Are Absolutely Meaningless.

All of these key brand indicators that we like to measure so much only externalize brand value to what lies outside of the brand itself. Meaning, on the other hand, is a central element to brands, it’s what internalizes brand value. By focusing on measuring the wrong things, we are losing the magic. No wonder we are buried in meaninglessness! We need to bring meaning back to where it belongs: at the core of brands to transform their value and raise equity.

2. Brands Are In The Business Of Meaning Exchange.

Brands aren’t just vehicles of branding products, services and experiences. Their primary business is meaning exchange. The primary goal of a brand should be to help people maximize their inner potential and become more of themselves. Brands only have value when we value them. And we generally value what has a personal relevance to us. If people aren’t gaining value from brands, brands can’t retain value. The symbolic relationship of value exchange only works when it’s symbiotic.

3. Brand Equity Isn’t Monetary, It’s Symbolic.

Brand equity is based on meaning – the inner symbolic value of brands, which is what people actually consume when they consume brands. Brands are the collective of meanings that people have ascribed to brands via their personal network of mental associations. Brand strategy should, therefore, be a systematic process of crafting & measuring these mental imprints. This is crucial. And organizations need to reframe their views and thinking to reflect this in how they manage brands if they want them to remain valuable and grow more value over time.

4. Meaning Future-Proofs Brand Value.

When facing change, brand value can become volatile. Meaning is what can make brands future-proof. Unlike numbers, meaning has a constant value in time. It’s because numbers can’t deal with uncertainty, only meaning can. It anchors brands in time and gives them a sense of stability. Meaning is the only true certainty for brands, especially in times of crisis, and a core aspect organizations should tend to when thinking of and crafting their future brand and business value.

5. Embracing Meaning = Embracing Humanity.

Meaning is the driving force of all human creation, including creativity, and therefore fundamental to how brands and businesses create, capture and project value. People will always crave meaning, it’s how our human cognition works. The meaning of life lies in the pursuit of meaning itself. Putting meaning at the core of brands means respecting humans and how they relate to the world they live in.

6. Benefits Of Meaning-Driven Brands.

Brands that are managed based on their innate meaning are more consistent, less fragmented, make more sense, are easier to manage, more cost efficient, perform better and create a real lasting value in people’s lives.

The future of brand must be based on meaning (instead of data and technology) for relevance in an age of disruption.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Dr. Martina Olbertova, founder and chief executive at Meaning.Global. This piece was originally published as The Meaning Manifesto.

The Blake Project Can Help: Please email us for more about how we can help your brand connect and lead with meaning.

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Growth and Brand Education

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Dr. Martina Olbertova

One comment

  • Bill Haig, Ph.D.

    April 17, 2018 at 4:51 pm

    The meaning of a company brand is credibility-based. The higher the meaning of a company’s unique Brand Credibility, the higher the company’s messages will be accepted by its customers. Note the familiar communication persuasion model: credible source (company)>message>channel of communication>receiver(customer). In other words a customer will accept the company’s message if the company is considered credible. Credible means “expert” and “trust”. The meaning of a company brand is therefore its unique “expertise” and “trustworthiness”. Each company is different.

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