Here's a lesson for product manufacturers: Consumers want to buy brands they trust. Even more than that, consumers gravitate toward companies making an effort to improve the planet. If companies can convince shoppers that they'll do more than just add another product to the shelves, they may just win a customer for life.

In a new survey, researchers found that when companies invest in the greater good of the world, it pays off — big time. The Meaningful Brands study conducted by the Havas Media Group found that brands that are considered meaningful by consumers see increased sales, better brand awareness, and higher annual returns than other brands.

For the study, researchers surveyed 300,000 people in 34 countries and asked them questions about 1,000 brands from 12 different industries. Through the survey, researchers found that consumers consider three factors when rating whether or not a brand is "meaningful": the actual value that the product brings to their lives, the personal benefits reaped by the consumer, and the collective benefits the brand offers to the community as a whole. Overall, researchers found that meaningful brands enjoyed 46 percent more "share of wallet" — defined as how much a person spends on a particular product — than brands that did not score well in the survey. In addition, the top 25 most meaningful brands outperformed the stock market by a whopping 133 percent!

So which brands were considered most meaningful? In the U.S., online marketplace Amazon came out as the survey leader. Amazon not only scored top marks for product value and community benefits, but it captured the personal connection that is often missing from other brands. “They do really well on the personal component,” said Maria Garrido, international marketing director for Havas. "They make people’s lives easier, giving them new ideas through a customized experience that people consider to be enriching their lives.”

Other brands that made the list include Target, Johnson & Johnson, Campbell's and Google. 

Around the world, only 20 percent of brands were seen as having a positively impact people's lives. And that disconnect is even higher in the U.S. where the survey found that Americans would not care if 92 percent of brands disappeared from the marketplace

The bottom line for companies is that they need to think beyond the bottom line when marketing their products. Consumers don't just buy products; they buy brands. And consumers are much more likely to buy from those that improve lives and our world.

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