New Delhi: Maria Garrido, global chief insights and analytics officer at advertising agency Havas Group, was in India to conduct a session on what makes a brand meaningful to consumers. Garrido, who has over two decades of experience, heads Havas Group’s market research, including the proprietary Havas Meaningful Brands Study worldwide.

In an interview with Mint, Garrido talks about the definition of meaningful brands, shrinking brand loyalties and why content is going to change the way brands connect with their target consumers. Edited excerpts.

What are meaningful brands?

We define meaningful brands based on a score calculated from three different attributes that consumers look for from a brand, including functional benefits (whether a toothpaste is whitening the teeth or not), personal benefits (how is a brand adding meaning to my life) and collective benefit (what is the brand doing for society, economy or environment).

How do brands become meaningful to consumers?

For any brand to work globally, the product being offered has to deliver. If the product does not work, you have already lost the battle so we have seen most brands score well on delivering functional benefits. However, there is a big gap and opportunity for brands to deliver personal benefits and adding meaning to the consumer’s life. For example, Google is one brand that provides immense personal benefit, helping people to learn new skills and improve their life. Facebook-owned chatting platform WhatsApp also connects people, so it has high personal benefit.

How did this concept come about? What does the study that you do on “meaningful brands" entail?

We have been conducting the meaningful brand study for nine years globally. This year, we have included 1,500 global brands, more than 300,000 people in 33 countries and 15 different industries. We have interviewed 60,000 people in India. We had fine-tuned the study to include a parameter which is essential for millennials who want brands which help them show off. For instance, Apple is not the number one consumer electronic brand but they do a good job of helping young users show off.

As consumers become less loyal to brands, what should brands do?

I think brands should look to create meaningful content instead of using just the traditional way of connecting with consumers through television ad or print. Meaningful content is way more personal and highly targeted.

What are the advertising challenges in building relationships with brands? What kind of messaging do consumers expect?

Brands should not hijack the latest trends in the social cause because everyone else is doing the same. Most of the branded content is not proving to be meaningful for consumers. Content has to be entertaining and add some value to consumers’ life. In the healthcare category, people are expecting brands to educate and inspire them.

In India, I think dairy giant Amul does a great job of creating entertaining content. Cipla Health-owned Nicotex is also doing a stellar job of creating informative content, including documentaries which not just entertain but also inform the consumers about the negative effects of smoking.

GSK Consumer Healthcare-owned nasal spray brand Otrivin has also done activation where it used mist canons to clean the air throughout the Amity Half Marathon, Gurgaon route, last year. Later, they created a video of this activation and pushed it out on social media. Such content pieces tend to work well for brands.

How do you view discounts in the life of a brand? Are they important to retain or acquire customers?

Discounting works for certain industries because value for money is an important aspect people ask for. I wouldn’t say discounting but finance and insurance is one sector where people are looking for good packages and deals. Consumers also look for value for money in consumer electronics category that is why Samsung scores higher than Apple in our Meaningful Brand Study.

How do brands remain meaningful to consumers when the whole shopping behaviour has changed from offline to online? Online is more impersonal since there is no touch and feel.

Last month, we conducted a global report on retail which revealed that although the number of brick-and-mortar stores have not drastically decreased but their role has significantly changed. Some of them are just brand shops, but others are showrooms which are leveraging this global phenomenon where consumers look online for what they want to buy, go to these showrooms to experience the product and then eventually go online to buy it at a better price. So brands have to be offline and provide the brand experience at their retail touch points.

How has the Indian consumer evolved?

Unlike many other markets where consumers have become brand agnostic and their trust in brands are way too low, in India, I would say there’s still hope. Indian consumers are grateful for the value that brands bring in their lives with 69% of them trusting the brands they use. They are more emotional towards the brands they use, however, we are witnessing a shift towards being rational in brand’s choice but it is quite slow.

Do you think brands in India are putting enough efforts to please their customers?

I think brands are doing a good job with traditional advertising like television, print and outdoor in India. However, like in many other markets, brands are bombarding consumers with content which is not well tailored or targeted. According to our findings, Indian consumers are demanding and more than 90% of them are looking for meaningful content from brands. Therefore, I feel the brand marketing efforts are not matching the expectations in India.