How to make Meaning
Yesterday we asked whether our brands are making meaning after examining the progression of brands from functional, to aspirational, and now to meaningful.
Today: how on earth do you make a brand meaningful?
Guy Kawasaki, when he discusses the Art of Innovation (exceptional videos – 10 minutes long), says that you must make meaning with your offering. He explains that products that go deeper than entertainment and touch at purpose at the ones who are making meaning – that their existence in the life of their customer is one that helps the customer define their world.
There are two core parts here for me that I would say we could distill “making meaning” down to:
- Help people understand and define their life through your offering. Deliver offerings that empower people to make sense of where they are today, and where they were yesterday.
- Move beyond entertainment to purpose. Provide people with direction, help them to discover their reason for being, where they want to be tomorrow. Make your brand something that people can derive identity from.
So we’ve got yesterday and today, and tomorrow. Understanding yesterday and today, and directing tomorrow. I believe that offerings and brands that do this are meaningful to me on the most fundamental level.
For example, my church, The River, is a meaningful brand to our community. We help people through teaching resources understand where they are and where they’ve come from. And our events, our community, and our strong emphasis on life application and living life on purpose provides direction.
So how do we go to the lab and make meaning? If our two key words are understanding and directing, then we must take what our offering is and adjust it to provide these two. Some ideas:
- Deliver tools that help people categorise themselves. This categorisation helps them define the world within them. Note that this isn’t boxing people in. For example, the book “Now Discover Your Strengths” by Markus Buckingham was meaningful to me because the large set of skills that it assigns you with via the online test helps you better understand yourself. The label increases self awareness with restricting me. Apple do this with their product types – “Are you a MacBook Air or a MacBook Pro – or are you an iPod Nano?”
- Deliver tools that people can build on. The idea of building platform is what Apple did with the App Store. Because of it, other developers have an income, therefore Apple is meaningful to them. Guardian also did the same with their Open API.
- Deliver tools that help people define the world around them. The power of faith is that it gives people a decision making framework through which they can understand their life. Decisions are powerful and when we help people make them and define their worlds, we are meaningful to them. Consider here how powerful youth tribes are in that they provide slang that defines what is part of their tribe, and what isn’t. That slangs defines their world.
- Deliver tools that help people direct their life. Or perhaps more pertinently, helps people make their next step. If your offering is making the next step for someone easier, then you matter to them. I’m doing courses with my wife on how to breastfeed, change nappies, give birth, etc, and the fact that these courses are preparing us and helping us make decisions about our life is meaningful to me. They are helping direct us.
- Deliver tools that people can use to help others. The power that I’ve seen in affiliate and networking marketing programs is how they give their distributors all the tools in the world to get others on board. And guess what? That type of assistance directs people to do it more, and the original distributor draws value and direction out of this.
For a more in-depth and academic approach to making meaning, read this article that I found on “developing meaningful brands“.
Otherwise, I’d like to hear your thoughts: how do YOU make meaning?