Brand Hacks: Tips for building brands by fulfilling our quest for meaning

Listen in as we reveal why most ad campaigns fail and how successful brands incorporate personal, social, and cultural meanings to our everyday lives.

The author(s)
  • Emmanuel Probst Global Lead, Brand Thought Leadership
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Every year, brands spend over $560 billion (and counting) to convince us to buy their products. Yet, as consumers we have become insensitive to most advertising. We easily forget brands and may switch to another product on a whim. There are ways for brands to break this cycle. Brands that succeed are the ones that help us find meaning. In this process, the brands become meaningful in and of themselves.

Revisit our on demand webinar to hear insights from Wall Street Journal bestseller Brand Hacks. We will take you on an exploratory journey, revealing why most advertising campaigns fail and examining the personal, social, and cultural meanings that successful brands bring to consumers’ everyday lives. Most importantly, we will share simple brand hacks you can implement to create and grow brands that deliver meaning even with a limited budget.

This presentation is supported by in-depth research in consumer psychology, interviews with industry-leading marketers, and case studies of meaningful brands, both big and small. During the presentation, we play two sample ads which were not recorded - you can access those directly here:

AI-generated audio transcript is offered below. Apologies in advance for inconsistencies that have been included.


Thank you for joining us for today's Ipsos webinar, Exploring Ways Brands can create Meaningful Connections with consumers.


Throughout today's session, you will remain in Listen only mode. However, throughout the webinar, you may submit questions online using the Q&A feature.


Time permitting, we'll answer questions at the end of today's session.


However, if time runs short, then your question will be answered by e-mail.


I also encourage you to check out the handouts uploaded in the webinar console.


Today's webinar is being recorded and will be directly e-mailed to you.


Now, without further ado, it's my pleasure to introduce today's speaker Emmanuel Probst's, SVP of 

brand health tracking team, where he supports numerous Fortune 500 companies by providing them a full understanding of their customers.


Emmanuel's background combines over 16 years of market research and marketing experience with strong academic achievement and recently his book, Brand X, has made several bestsellers lists, including The Wall Street Journal and USA Today.


Emmanuel, over to you please.


Thank you so much Elen for a nice introduction and thank you everyone for for joining us today.


I'm excited about this webinar and we'll get started straight away of a starting point.


Bob Grandma exist to serve the world we live in. As consumer sole practitioners is chaos. And here's why we're just overwhelmed with media, were overwhelmed with information with advertising.


We consume about 11 hours of media per day. We check our phones about 83 times a day. We post 49,000 pictures on Instagram collectively.


And that's to say that as marketing, Market Research, branding, and Advertising Professionals will bubble. And what I mean by this is, in our industry, we re even more than everyone else. We consume specific media channels, campaigns. You name it. We go to conferences. We tend to live in big cities.


That has slightly changed risk covered, but a phone, many of us live in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco. You name it. But it was big metros.


And I'd just to say, candidly, that it's even harder for us to be connected to the real world, if you will, to real consumers.


Now, the bad news, if you will, is most consumers don't care about most brands.


That is really it live, because people are, once again, overwhelmed in any grocery stores, you'd find 150 different kinds of pub called on Amazon, you'd find dozens of thousands of swim tongues.


So, based on this assumption, what we want to discover today is what are people really after, and what people, our consumers, our audience is really trying to achieve is to find meaning in life as branding, advertising, marketing, and market research professionals.


If we understand these meanings, once we understand these meanings, we can build brands that will help fulfill consumers, will have consumers fulfill these meanings and as searchable as words are going to become more meaningful in and of themselves and people will be more loyal to these buttons.


So before we discovered was meanings, I just want to bring to attention the importance of psychographics.


And what I mean here is, for the longest time, we have looked at demographics, like age, gender, region, household income, educational background.


There is nothing wrong with demographics, but the truth is they're a little bit shallow because unless we look at someone purchasing a home or car income, for example, is not a key driver, I just want to show us the important stuff, Psychographics versus the lifestyle attributes, if you will, and illustrate the limitation of the demographic based segmentation approach.


On the left of my screen, we'll have Prince Charles, who was born in 48. He grew up in England.


He was married twice.


It has two children.


He's successful in business. We can say so, and he's pretty wealthy.


Now, we pose and think of another gentleman who has the exact same demographics attributes and his name is useful.


And that really illustrates that contrast and the limitation of those call demographics that we've been using in the industry.


Another example on my screen on the big picture on the left is a full blown quote.


Before Bunko, for those of you who may remember by the way that was the car OJ. Simpson used to escape the police in the murder trial. And that was back in 98, top. Right, is an Italian, Kaiser ...


700 inmates. Again, I'm better than right. Is a Tesla. It's an electric car.


What those free cars have in common is they're all about, about $80,000.


And the point I'm making here is, if, as a consumer, as a driver, you're willing and able to spend $80,000 on a car. You may choose to make three very different statements. I'm kind of a bad boy. Languages seems, certainly, if you will, maybe a vintage nostalgia type of field as a full blown quote.


I have that Fasts, European, romantic, flair, and that's ....


I'm on board with saving the planet, and I'm mindful about the environment, and I also love technology.


And that's what Tesla, So pre expensive calls on my screen that make three different statements about who you are.


I also want to tell you about the difference between fads trends and meanings for book is a lot about meanings, building burns in my opinions, a lot about meanings, and I want to illustrate to you, what do we mean? The fact is something that fades superfast and a good example here, our diets.




Because it's unlikely that any of us will be willing to eat steam book QALY every day for the rest of our lives. Diets are always impactful in the short run.


However, it's very hard to stick with was that it's because of what restrictions. The trend in contrast to something that lasts longer than a fad. And here's a good example, ACLS, Pilates class fits. Those trends in fitness. It last longer amount of fat, and you see brick and mortar businesses being grilled around those trends. And if you think of ..., for example, or James Studios, it's sort of bots.


They're going to create a community. Are they going to create a connection with that audience? Because we don't need a local gym studio just to provide us with free weights. We can all of these on Amazon.


And last but not least, meaning, something that's meaningful is something that has a deeper impact on us.


And meanings are pretty much the greens whereby people will chase for same meanings today as stated a few years ago and as they will over the next few years. And, of course, we'll see many examples in this presentation.


So, we're on a quest, as people, as consumers were on a quest to find. three different types of meanings.


Personal meaning social meaning and cultural, meaning personal meaning is what we do for ourself.


Simply put is who are you and who do you want to be?


Who do you want to become?


That's what personal meaning is about and some powerful examples in advertising business an ad for the venetian in Las Vegas and think about it. Will not advertising functional benefits here. Well, guess what? ... Men some very well appointed Williams. That's fine.


So do hundreds of other hotels let alone in Las Vegas.


What the Venetian is bringing your attention to is calm as you are, and pitching a transformative experience, if you will, whereby you can decide to be whoever you want to be, as you can see from the illustrations as you can see from the ads.


When you come to live in ..., that is the real personal meaning that the vision brand intends to carry over to you.


Another example is from Equinox.


That's A, a bucket, popular chain of health clubs in the US.


And here again, Equinox is not selling you a treadmill. If you will know is it selling you three ways, we can get worse from Costco, that's fine.


But an equinox is doing for you is providing you facilitating a transformative experience, make yourself a gift to the world.


So, this really illustrates what I described before, personal meaning, is, who are you, and who do you want to become?


Social meaning, Oh, about our social interactions with the world, around us, it's the language, is the words, is the music, and, of course, is for brands we use to make sense of the world around us.


And here, I want to show you an example of an ad that is particularly powerful at conveying social meaning.


And here, folks, why do we see? And I'm switching back to our presentation, is such a great example of a brand that connects people, and that's Google in this case.


So remember, we spoke about personal, meaning, who am I, and who do I want to become? Who do you want to be? That's a transformative experience. We spoke about social meaning.


That is how do brands connect people and help them make sense of the world around them?


Refilled type of meaning is cultural meaning That includes your knowledge, your beliefs, arts, and here again, I'll show you some examples straightaway, about first two brands that failed to convey cultural meaning.


The red pictures you see ads from dolce and gabbana, to give you a quick ve Italian fashion brand.


decided to HIO Asian models, ask them to eat traditional Italian food with chopsticks. Didn't go well. The Asian community felt absolutely offended.


Don't you think Governor had to cancel a catwalk and major event in Asia terms Hundreds of thousands of negative social media mentions.


V negative impact on revenue is millions of dollars.


In blue, we see a nod that had been created in house by Pepsi and in shorts. That was about Kendall Jenner.


Basically stepping a Black Lives Matter type of fry it wheezy kind of pepsi.


And with all due respect for Kendall Jenner who is a talented young lady, she grew up in carob assets, which is 10 minutes from where I live and base today. And I can tell you that we've never seen a Black Lives Matter riots in Canada SS.


So, she just because I'm credible, if you will, and it also brings to your attention, is it really for Pepsi, but place to be, to try to stop it, Black Lives, matter of type of cost?


So, cultural, meaning, done, right.


Now, I want to show you an example of a grid brand grid that really shows how we can make cultural meaning relay table four, our audience.


Nike has a strong culture of embracing social issues, and I'd say, in my opinion, that most of the time, if not all of the time, they do really well here.


So, one must harness Scorcher, that's super important. We see a direct impact on consumers to ship decision.


About 25% of brands, cultural, involvement, impact, the consumer decision of, should I run a set of purchase decision, is impacted at 25%, but, that brand involvement in culture.


We send example, family, lemon at the bottom of makes, creating what's very important here is to say that brands that don't get you, try to really suffer ...


by not only consumers will no longer both on voice brands but really no likelihood eventually advocate against them or cancel them.


Here on my screen we see a bunch of fun examples.


We have Bruce Willis and Pitching advance autoparts Fu Die Hard Batteries.


We have Budweiser whatsapp that created a remake of the ad during the .... But I'm right. Lots of fun is Blockbuster over the last Blockbuster location that's in Bend, Oregon survives as an air-b.n.b.


whereby you can rent this room and spend the night there. So that's culturally relevant and relatable for our audience.


10 meetings, 10 essential meanings are covered in the book. And today, we're not going to look at an all-time in the interest of time. We'll start with, the first one, does the pursuit of happiness.


And there is a quote in the book from a young lady in Los Angeles.


Says, on Instagram, I leave it on interface to flags.


And that's to say, that, for more connected, we are lonely or we feel, for the devices, for the social media, and messaging apps, we have access to.


Suddenly, especially younger generations, millennials, most importantly, Gen Z, have very few people, if any, they can relate to, in real life.


So what do we look for?


As people, before even being consumers is basic, yet, important emotions of comfort and coziness and Joe's simplicity, something intimate and the Phoebe and Joey is interesting, because in contrast, is happiness, that is a loosely defined concept.


Jay is very clearly defined as intense fleeting emotions that we experience in small moments.


And an example in advertising and branding is from Johnnie Walker.


If any worker walked with a psychologist who specializes in happiness studies, his name is Matt Killingworth, and what they detail means is a direct connection, direct linkage between gy and sales As such.


If any walker decided to evolve its tagline into J will take you further keep talking.


Second meaning post today is imperfect, just perfect, and that has to do is authenticity, and we see really a steep departure In advertising and branding from what we had 5, 7, 10 years ago, where everyone looked perfect towards something that is a lot more relatable for audiences.


Authenticity says, Kim Kardashian is a skill, to get people to really like, for you, instead of a cat to return for you by somebody else. Of course, we Mailmen applied the Kardashians that's a personal standpoint, in anything.


We can argue that they're very authentic.


Some examples of authentic brands.


He's ikea Levi's legacy brand from the Gold Rush.


Remember, we, they started creating clothing for people, digging goals basically and did stick to this legacy over time.


Pinterest is another one where users of the platforms express themselves in their own worlds and collects things pin to use for Pinterest expression, binks items that matter to them that are meaningful to them.


Yelp is that one, whereby you can peer review restaurants.


And here, again, I think it's a great illustration of people, like people like themselves, and people will listen to their friends, families, and people they can relate to, whereby Yelp is often more power for open table or any other review. website is likely more powerful than food critics, for example.


And the last one area is A brand of underwear garments.


And interestingly, back to what I said about two minutes ago, area advertises with real people, not perfect models.


And the outcome is, as you may know Victoria's Secret, that has been a perfect brand if you will.


And what I mean by this is relied on perfect models and lots of shows and lots of glitter and confetti and lights. Well, Victoria's Secret is struggling today.


one because these women are respectful, but just not relatable, and in contrast area is opening stores and is growing double digits, Why?


Because it is personally meaningful to their clients. It is relevant, and it is the brand that people can relate to.


Nostalgia is kind of a very powerful meaning.


That's because we live in a time that's compelling but unsettling. What I mean by VCs.


Look, it's really cool to talk about AI and VR, and machine learning, and come up with any aquarium you want. It's fascinating, it's also very unsettling because we don't know what's going to happen over the next 3, 5, 7 years.


And for this reason, let alone, after the pandemic, we like to come back to time.


When things where Simple, not as complicated, and not as uncertain as they are today.


And nostalgia is omnipresent.


In advertising and branding, we see this in real estate, where you see downtown Manhattan, the West side of Chicago, in San Francisco, you see. Old factories.


Data are now being converted in very trendy, very expensive lofts, right? Flows where nuts and bolts factories back in the day. They are now very expensive housing. In retail of an outfitter, scales, pilloried, all those brands. We rely on nostalgia to revive basically, or to sell new products, as kills does. Any music, It's very interesting to see that ... is doing so well, in terms of growth.


And what's even more interesting is while music downloads from the Apple Stores are down, people don't pay as much music, again, double digit growth in physical formats, and we see this across all artists and across all age groups.


Know, what I mean by this is, yeah, of course, we are Rolling Stones and the Pink Fried will sell by knows to people are 55 plus.


And you see, but I have Justin Bieber, Justin Timberlake, Taylor Swift BTS doing extremely well in physical formats, in the younger age, in the first five age groups.


So a few examples here, off nostalgia as implemented in product development, and branding, brand identity, and advertising has put our aid.


Again, very interesting, and nobody needs to Polaris these days because we can take thousands, if not dozens of thousands, of pictures with our cell phones. It's obviously more practical, easier to store, easier to share.


We can think of 70 reasons why we, like how often better than polarity that polarity is going through a revival.


That is because ... reveal of the picture coming out of a camera. And this experience of sharing this picture in near real time, as it reveals itself with your friends around you.


And that's something that no camera font can do. I don't care how amazing the quality of the camera and the picture, and the filters and all that.


Neon is an interesting technology, because it is a very basic, very old technology. And what I mean by this is today, we have plenty of grid LED displays and flat screens and lasers and all that is great. And Leon is a technology from the 19 twenties. It's super simple. Gas, glass, electricity.


That said, it's a form of art and maintain view with a board member of the Museum of Neon Signs here in Los Angeles.


He brought to my attention that nothing glows nothing shines. nothing produces lights, as brightly as vividly, as Neon.


And for this reason, as human beings were attracted to the light were attracted to Nantes. And for this reason, Neon, which once again, is very old technology, is very popular with our younger audiences like Gen Z.


Oh, millennials, it's also if I may use this expression very ....


Couple of examples of brands that leverage neon, interestingly, you'll have a very high-end legacy brand, and that's definitely here.


You also have kiehl's that sells cosmetic personal care products, and here you have milk.


This one is in West Hollywood, Los Angeles. That's just to say, Milk is a quick service restaurant type of place. So, the point here is to say that we can use Neon in high-end legacy brand, luxury retail in casual restaurants in cosmetics, and many, many more other examples.


Few examples that's from a personal connection by collection, I'm sorry, baby, I really love neon signs.


That is a health club in London that's called Jimmy Bucks.


So, it's pretty cool.


Three-d. Neon, if you will, this isn't a restaurant in San Francisco. Again.


Interestingly, Swiss one, this blocks away from LinkedIn and that it's interesting, because it caters to an audience.


Um, very connected, tech savvy individuals, very often, you know, the first five years old and younger, Yet this bar shows this restaurant chose to use a neon, not just a fancy display.


It says, Cocktail says to us and mischief, and the last one is a picture I took in the center this because Hollywood is Hollywood.


And it says, Please don't do coconut butter.


Next meeting we want to look at is experience, and Interference has been new status, symbol, and what do we see in the background history? Museum of Ice Cream, which ironically is arguably not a museum most, So an experiential experience, An experiential museum, and experiential place, if you will, that people go to, to get their pictures taken, that's basically the point of it. So in academia there is a concept that we call for years conspicuous consumption.


And what this means is advertising our wealth is expensive things. And that is how you buy a well swipes all your carrier read return back.


Now, in the world we live in, the emphasis is really on experiences, what people want to do, And interestingly, in traditional marketing, we will say that you tell 7 to 10 friends about grid brands.


Now, we social media.


You advertize your experiences, meaning a weekend at a fancy hotel, meaning a trip to Las Vegas, and so on and so forth, to hundreds, possibly thousands per G, possibly dozens of thousands of people on social media platform.


So the point is to say that social media has one shifted, our interests towards experiences, rather than necessarily owning material goods, and to amplified this traditional concept face very core academic concept.


Conspicuous consumption.


Everyone is necessarily the hero of their own imagination, that's front front, Scott, Scott.


And what you see here is Paul Smith, which is a clothing brand.


And that is this talk on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. People refer to, he says, with Pin quote.


Just have a bottom left of makes creating is, again, Millennials and Gen Z certainly not to stigmatize but a lot of millennials and Gen Z getting the pictures taken in front of that pin quo because guidance fed with color because it is so Instagram able, and that's really cheap advertising for Paul Smith's.


Reality is I spoke to their security person that just have to pin the war fresh every freeman's, but a bucket of paint or two, every three months, for dozens of thousands of social media mentions a day. Here, again, is pretty impactful, pretty cheap advertising, you trust me.


In brain activation, couple of compelling examples on my screen tap lefties: Eminence, Bud Light.


And we have Epsilon on the right, and, again, here, the point is to say, was, experiences immersive involving culturally relevant and Instagram able.


The last meeting we want to look at is a chapter that I really want to stress I wrote with respect for everyone's faiths and beliefs. That chapter is called the Sacred Secular.


and when you preachers, and the point of this chart is to say that, while Church attendance is down double digits in the US, that's not because people do not believe in anything anymore.


That is because, as consumers, we tend to transfer this belief in a higher power from the sacred to burns.


What you see on my screen is a screenshot of Soul Cycle.


And when Soul, Say, Call a Hut filed for IPO back in 20 15, it is clearly mentioned on the first page of that IPO Filing.


That I saw cycle is a walk out, But most importantly, it's really a cold teach brand. Whereby we want a charismatic leader that is going to gain required, and the fitness ability proficiency really comes second.


So, that's one example to say that, we still believe in something or in someone, Again, brands are increasingly taking over that tool.


This is a quote from Scott Galloway. Many of you are likely familiar with Scott Getaways, an industry analyst, is A media personality. He is. An. Is a clinical professor at NYU, he is also an entrepreneur.


And, uh, Delaware says, Google is not a search engine, Google isn't a Phase, God, Where do we pray, Where do we send information, hope, days, and divine intervention, and get a better answer back.


Our new go to Google.


And the point is to say that many of us, most of it's, possibly all of us, call phi two to Google, and expect that immediate answers back.


And in that fashion, this search bar we use, is taking over our belief.


Unlike going to church, for example, we simply don't have to wait for the answer when we as Google.


Last example is the applesauce that I really see, in my opinion as a metaphor for cathedrals and I visited many, many of those tools and I looked at literally, dozens and dozens of Apple Stores online.


And what I see is a pattern of, Number one, where hub was a very, very large dose.


We enter something bigger than ourselves.


Those doors have no functional purpose instead, They are really a nightmare in stem stuff, A C, and a heating system. The point, however, again, is to give you this impression of something grandiose, just like when you're in Turkey fuel.


We also see the sign of both the dough that is bride that shines and there is only one thing just like you to have a class. Now, VISTA case, you see, which again, we find in most of our stores.


It's pretty interesting because it is glass staircase which, by definition is very inconvenient. You have to clean it all the time. You can be super in the winter. You have to be careful. Let's not even mentioned the kids that are going to put their hands on the side glass panels.


So, it's not practical. The point here is that staircase leads you to something greater, something you want to explore.


Now, what's upstairs very often is a genius bar.


The Genius Bar geniuses that teach you how to use poor products.


So the genius Boss and Genius is they really run the Sunday school. That's the metaphor, and who is God?


Go to Steve Jobs.


So that's really it for our presentation today.


I think the parting advice I want to leave you always is whether we're individuals who are consumers, We are marketing, research, marketing, practitioners, branding advertising. This whole thing is not about achieving an end goal.


That's not what finding meaning is about it request itself, meaning we never complete that project of finding meaning. We just build upon it.


Thank you for your time today, and I hope that presentation was compelling to you.


And with that said, I'm going to take, I'm going to take a question we have here for from the audience about social media influencers.


And we spoke about interference as the new status symbol, and of course, the question has to do with what is the role of social media influencers in that process?


So the answer is, in traditional advertising, we relied on celebrities for the likes of George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez and you name it.


Uh, it's good because, plus personalities, we can recognize them and look up to them if you will. However, they are not necessarily relatable.


And what I mean by this is, as consumers, of vast Niger, each of us don't live like George Clooney.


The reason why social media influencers made the mark a few years ago, is because there in academia, we call this reducing the social distance, whereby no more they're much more relatable to you and I Than George Clooney, or Jenny Philip for Jennifer Lopez ever would be and a search that placement of products is a lot more authentic.


With that said of the time for most of them that authenticity, faded because they are now full productions if you we're always teams of people producing their videos and managers and agents and so on and so forth. So, at the end of the day, where we're going with this is the micro influencers, with a specialized audience and a strong connection with the audience.


Make complete sense, and are very relevant to brands and products.


Just want to be careful of the big influencers for awhile. Swayze, following said, 10 million, 20 million namings.


because, if it's in personal care, beauty care, it makes sense in many other product categories that are chestnut.


That's just don't bring the credibility. You want for your product and they are not as relatable.


Or they are no longer relatable to the audience, if you will.


And, I think we may have a second question coming up.




And I don't see any specific question on my screen.


I had one, but it disappeared for some reason.


With that said, I'll give you a second or two, if you want to.


Read it out for you. Oh, yes, please.


OK, I think you're going to like this question.


How can we find brand hacks into book form? I've looked for it on Amazon, B, and, and, but it is only available electronically.


Yeah, thank you.


And the reason being, and we have, when a good problem is, we sold too many books. It sounds like a humble brag, but I don't mean it that way. We're waiting for more books and they've just been delivered last week at the warehouse.


So the book is going to be available again in a paper form within the next few days, you know, likelihood, maybe early next year, but rest assured that we received a lot of books in physical formats.


Also, as you suggested you made by the electronic version on Amazon.


And you can also find some sample chapters on LinkedIn and find more information about the book at ipsos dot com, which I all encourage you to visit. It says that Cone, which is such a great resource for thought leadership and guidance and strategy.


Many papers are available, completely free of Charge Street, ... dot com.


That's great. Um, there was one other question that came in, but with a show of appreciation from another listener about how great the book was. Oh, thank you so much. I appreciate your kind of Well, maybe on that no till I know we can tell our audience from book is written.


I believe it's an easy read. I sincerely mean it whereby you can learn about consumer psychology, importantly you can learn or sort by hundreds of rent hikes that you can activate as an outcome of reading the book And you'll have a recap at the end of each chapter.


And the point of this book is to say, I really want to be humble about us as marketers.


And about the work I do as a guide here, if you will. And I trust that the book is approachable and relevant to you. whether you're starting your career or your C level executive, at least that's what feedback we received so far.


And that's really my intent in terms of how we like to connect with the audience to make things relevant and easy for you to digest.


Which I hope came for doing our webinar today.


Well I think with that said and I think it's true, Emmanuel, for my part sitting here listening in on today's really interesting discussion.


I didn't switch screens not even once because I found every example really intriguing.


I want to thank you for your time. I want to thank everyone for joining us today.


And I want to remind you that there is something in the webinar console for you to download as reference to today's conversation.


Also, you will receive an e-mail with a direct link to today's recorded presentation And be on the lookout for that, certainly this week.


And in the meantime we always welcome an opportunity to speak with you. So please feel free to reach out to us to Manuel directly.


That now concludes today's webinar.


Have a wonderful day everyone.


Thanks Emmanuel.


Thank you so much. Everyone would speak soon. 

The author(s)
  • Emmanuel Probst Global Lead, Brand Thought Leadership

Consumer & Shopper