A report found that consumers around the world have become more cynical, as 70% of 395,000 respondents said that they have little faith in brands delivering on their promise. 

The Meaningful Brands report, recently released by global communications network Havas Group, recommends that brands veer away from “CSR (corporate social responsibility) washing” and understand what their consumers are going through to be meaningful to them.  

“Brands should also take note of the deeper, more meaningful question as to what their consumers hold to be important and true, that is, their values and their long-standing beliefs,” said Griffey D. De Guzman, creative director of Havas Ortega, a Manila-based media agency. 

While trends should be considered, values are more resonant when it comes to brand-building, he added. “To be a meaningful brand, therefore, is a careful balancing act of what is relevant to the consumers now and what is and will always be deeply important to them,” Mr. De Guzman said. 

According to the study, the most meaningful brands globally are Google, with a meaningfulness score of 75 (out of 100), PayPal (72.9), WhatsApp (72.1), YouTube (71.8), and Microsoft and Samsung (both at 71.7).  

Despite facing several lawsuits, Google found itself on top of the list because the search giant allows consumers to connect with others and access timely COVID-19 information.  

That most of the meaningful brands are from the technology is not surprising, said Phil V. Tiongson, Havas Ortega’s head of media experiences and head of data analytics, as these brands have made inroads into the minds of consumers due to the shock of the pandemic and lockdown orders.   

“What is interesting to note is that these tech brands, and other meaningful brands, are also making inroads into the hearts of consumers, which make them meaningful,” he added.  

The Meaningful Brands report found that 73% of consumers say brands must act now for the good of society and the planet. Sixty-four percent also say that they prefer to buy from companies with a reputation for purpose as well as profit — a jump of 10 percentage points since 2019.  

This past year has also brought an increase in consumer expectations in the areas of connection, care for the planet, and monetary savings and growth. 

Brands that are involved with social causes but are unable to communicate authenticity in their CSR campaigns create an expectation gap. And undelivered promises lead to a trust deficit, exacerbating cynicism among consumers.  

Consumers know when brands are inauthentic and call them out when they jump on social causes, such as Pride Month, solely for marketing purposes. “Commitments to social issues should not just be for the sake of press releases and looking good,” said Mr. Tiongson. “[They] should be done by brands because it is the right thing to do.”  

A February prosumer report by Red Havas, the public relations arm of Havas Ortega, also noted a trend towards brand authenticity and transparency among Filipino prosumers, or today’s leading influencers and market drivers. — Patricia B. Mirasol