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Marketing is not about brands; it’s about people!

The Zeitgeist development from the I-era to the We-era has implications for brands and marketers. In the upcoming years, brands should not focus on the “me, myself and I” (brand image,) but on the We-side (brand meaning.) The successful marketer will put his or her efforts into improving the well-being of people and society.

In this article, I will explain how marketers can work on the well-being of people and society, by expanding the benefit ladder of their brand. By expanding from functional and emotional benefit (step 1 and 2) to transformational and societal benefit level (step 3 and 4).

Functional and emotional benefit

Marketers are trained to develop and communicate the functional and emotional benefits of their brand. One example is Nike, who offers super- light running shoes with Lunar technology, which makes you feel athletic and in shape.

In most cases, however, brands are based on emotion, because it is hard to have a distinctive functional claim. That’s why Coca Cola is investing in the feeling of happiness. However, this kind of marketing is not enough these days.

From brand image to brand meaning

In the past few decades, there has been too much focus on brand image and on building emotional associations. However, in a society where government has a decreasing role and consumers get more power, people expect more positive contributions from companies. People want to know what brands do to improve the well-being of their daily life (transformational benefit) and the well-being of society (societal benefit.)

Societal benefit

At the moment, many companies already offer a contribution to society. This can be done in two ways: by reducing your negative impact and by increasing your positive impact. The first has gotten the most attention with sustainable business. Unilever, for example, aims to halve its environmental footprint by 2020. Yet that is not enough; that’s just a pre- requisite for a decent business practice. Investment in your positive contribution as a brand is more important. Unilever’s brand Dove accomplishes this by helping to increase the self esteem of young girls through the Self-Esteem Project. While the Dutch coffee brand Douwe Egberts contributes by organizing the Neighbor Day, which is a day that

encourages people to meet their neighbors by drinking coffee. Providing a societal benefit is important, but is not the most important key to success.

Transformational benefit

As a brand, you are most relevant if you can be of significance in a consumer’s daily life, on a truly human level. Because the consumer still thinks, “what’s in it for me?” first and, “what’s in it for the others?” later. So your focus should be on helping your consumer to improve the daily well-being, helping to develop, and helping to transform himself or herself. That is much more valuable than just the social contribution of your brand!

Cases: Nike, Flora, Exact

Nike understands this concept well. They want to help you as an individual to become a better athlete more and more each day with Nike+. Flora and Becel spreads have been helping people around the world to successfully lower their cholesterol level, through its three-week Flora pro-activ challenge. Also in B2B, there are front runners, like Software solutions company Exact, who is helping entrepreneurs to become better in online business by sharing all their knowledge.

The marketer who focuses on improving the well-being of people’s lives will be most successful in the coming decade. The transformational benefit that they offer will have more impact in people’s lives than the last feature (functional), another funny viral on Facebook (emotional) or a CO2 neutral Office (societal.)