“Meaningul brands”—brands that really connect to human well-being—outperform the stock markets by 120 percent, but only 20 percent of brands worldwide are seen as having a meaningfully positively impact people's lives, according to new research from Havas Media Group, which also found that majority of people would not care if 73 percent of all brands disappeared tomorrow.

The Meaningful Brands survey demonstrates in hard financial terms how the relationship between people and brands can benefit from measuring, communicating and delivering increased well-being.
But it also suggests that a disconnect between brands and people continues with the majority of people still not caring if most brands ceased to exist.

The survey, which covered 700 brands, and more than 134,000 consumers in 23 countries, measures the impact of the brand’s benefits alongside its impact on 12 different areas of well-being (such as health, happiness, financial, relationships and community among others) for a full view of its effect on quality of life.

The resulting rankings place Google in first place followed by Samsung, Microsoft, Nestle and Sony as the top five meaningful brands of 2013—more than half of the top 10 are technology brands—followed by IKEA, Dove, Nike, Wal-Mart, Danone, Philips and P&G. 

Says Sara de Dios, global director of Meaningful Brands. “Technology brands are becoming new personal icons, empowering us to expand our potential. Not only do they make our lives easier, help us become smarter, fitter or enhance our capabilities, they more importantly, have become aspirational icons. They help people express themselves and connect with others making people feel better, happier and more satisfied with their lives.”

Brands gaining momentum include Nike (ranked globally at number seven), Mercedes Benz and Adidas (both ranked globally as number 11) and Dove (which comes in globally at number six).

But continuing the trend from 2011 only 20 percent of brands make a significant, positive difference to people’s well-being with a strong and growing gap between developed and emerging markets (Europe: 5 percent; USA: 9 percent: Latin America: 27 percent; and Asia: 39 percent). In Europe and the US people would not care if 92 percent of brands disappeared; in Latin America, the number is 58 percent and in Asia it’s 49 percent.

Expectations in the West are largely unmet, fuelling a growing lack of trust and indifference towards brands. Only 29 percent of people in Western Europe and 36 percent in the US think brands work hard at improving our quality of life and only 21 percent and 26 percent in each market feel that brands communicate honestly in comparison to 32 percent globally, 36 percent in Latin America and 52 percent in Asia.

Since 2011, enhancing individual quality of live and personal well-being has become increasingly important in western economies. In emerging markets, people place relatively more importance on a brand’s impact on their community and environment.

According to Amy du Pon, global head of data insights at Havas: “In order to fix largely broken relationships, and survive in 21st century terms, we need to evolve from our increasingly commoditised world. Relying on incremental marketing dollars alone is not sustainable. The opportunity today is for us to reinvigorate our brands, the role they play and the human value they realize. Learning from the leading brands coming from emerging markets and moving on from the prior practices in developed markets, will help achieve tomorrow's success.”