How do brands bring value to the lives of consumers in 2021?

Havas UK
6 min readApr 20, 2021

We’ve made it to Q2, and now the roadmap for easing lockdown is underway we’ve got a better idea of where we’ll be in six months. As author Neil Gaiman says about writing a novel, it’s been like driving through a fog, with just enough road in front to see where we’re going. Now, at last, we have better visibility.

But when it comes to keeping consumers engaged with a brand, the way forward can be a constant challenge. That’s why at Havas CX helia, we talk about Meaningful Brands — our measuring stick for understanding how brands bring value to consumers and how they provide meaning and relevancy to their lives.

What do we mean by ‘Meaningful Brands’?

77% of brands could disappear tomorrow and nobody would care; that’s the eye-opening finding from our global Meaningful Brands study. The recent demise of Debenhams and Arcadia illustrates this, in that it’s hard to see consumers really caring that these former retail giants are no longer around. As we come out of lockdown into an uncertain economic future, this has never been more pertinent.

How do you become more meaningful?

Brands become meaningful by delivering value to consumers’ lives across three dimensions: functional, personal and collective benefits.

Some brands within the Arcadia stable do still carry meaning. It’s why Topshop was snapped up by ASOS, while Debenhams’ own brands were snapped up by Boohoo. Both ASOS and Boohoo are examples of modern, Meaningful Brands that deliver, in this case, exceptional functional and personal benefits. For these brands, the contactless conditions of the pandemic were a perfect match, not a perfect storm.

ASOS has consistently invested in world-class remote customer experience. That means delivering a digital customer journey good enough for people to forego the physical browsing of rails, touching of clothes, and changing rooms. As with other elements of traditional retail, people are realising that some of these things were ritualised as opposed to optimised. Now those have gone, only some of the old way is truly missed.

To become a Meaningful Brand, the general rule of thumb is to start by understanding the functional and personal benefits — since they’re the foundation that enable any collective benefits.

#1 Functional benefits (and the return of ‘phygital’)

Greater blending of the physical and digital customer experience

In a blended world, consumers need a new kind of control over their experiences. The pandemic has forced us into being a little more planned, with ‘spontaneity’ taking on a longer lead time.

These forced customer behaviours and interactions will influence future service and relationship expectations — and with this comes serendipity.

What does blended serendipity look like?

The idea of serendipity is important here — it’s what makes the middle aisle at Aldi so dangerous.

In this blended world, enabling some unexpected good through the concept of better functionality — where a seamless online and offline customer experience is achieved — could be a real opportunity. Accor Hotels demonstrated this recently by launching ALL CONNECT, a hybrid meeting concept for a blended environment created in partnership with Microsoft Teams.

Emails and direct communication using data intelligently can support the serendipitous, with good old-fashioned propensity models and data-driven targeting also valuable. As we move through the ‘blended’ transition — the interaction between safe and convenient digital touchpoints and important physical experiences like browsing and test drives — there is a huge opportunity for brands who get the balance right.

Action: Assess the purpose of your CRM and loyalty schemes — capturing and leveraging data to facilitate this. The seamless flow of data between off and online experiences could result in the sort of blended CX that consumers demand.

#2 Personal benefits (and the value of time)

Greater wellbeing and ‘me time’

As we move toward a blended living approach, it seems reasonable that finding ‘me time’ will get harder, or at least more complicated.

This has two possible implications:

1. Personal benefits look set to evolve to reward brands who enable consumers to make time — or where consumption of the brand is deemed as ‘me time’.

2. There will be more scrutiny of brands and services that rely on people’s time.

The idea being that if you can’t give time, whatever you do, don’t take it.

Zoom, the poster child of a pandemic Meaningful Brand, is a great example. Zoom calls with friends have been a huge feature of lockdown ‘me time’, which is now part of our everyday lives.

Compare that to shopping. With the joy gone, it has become something that needs to be done quickly and efficiently to make time elsewhere.

Post-lockdown, brands that can identify and deliver personal benefit and enhance customers’ lives will be the ones that achieve greater success.

Action: When mapping your customer journeys, add new dimensions around time efficiency. Think about how interactions with your brand relate to a consumer’s need for ‘me time’ — and how your journey can help create it.

#3 Collective benefits (and our increased awareness of the impact of our choices as customers)

Greater good coming to the fore

In ‘normal’ circumstances, collective benefits are important. In the current climate, collective benefits are more crucial than ever.

The conditions of the pandemic have created a clear direction of travel. And we may well see a real change to the collective part of the equation, particularly around sustainability — it’s no longer an advantage, but a necessity.

This already looks the case in the automotive industry. At the back end of 2020, the Tesla Model 3 was the best-selling new car in the UK. Not the best-selling electric car, the best-selling car. Automotive consumers in the UK are increasingly aware that they’ll have little choice but to go electric in the near future, with major car manufacturers committing to climate neutrality.

Emerging brands are putting sustainability at their heart too

Newer brands such as craft brewers BrewDog and footwear brand Vivobarefoot are baking sustainability into their core value proposition.

Vivobarefoot’s resale site ‘ReVivo’ is an example of brilliant customer experience. It’s one that exists on a collective benefits platform — with functional benefits added to align it with the rising service expectations of modern online consumers. The customer relationship starts with collective benefits at the very core.

BrewDog, meanwhile, has been loudly promoting that it is carbon negative. That’s alongside its work providing alcohol gel throughout the pandemic and, more recently, canned water to support the vaccination effort.

This is not about brand activism. It is about clearly demonstrating to consumers how interacting with your business allows them to be a part of the solution.

Action: How can you communicate your environmental impact? Provide alternatives and inspiration, and consider personalisation that demonstrates the impact of consumer behaviour and purchases.

At Havas CX helia, our mission is to help brands build meaningful relationships with their consumers. We explore functional, personal and collective benefits to create wholly meaningful moments that span the customer experience to build lasting and profitable relationships.

Looking for help making this a reality for your brand, or just keen to learn more? Get in touch with us here.



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