Behavioral Science

Marketing Meaning - Uncovering Ways to Connect with an Audience

Do you ever wonder why you buy certain things? Is it price, value - or does the product mean something to you on a gut level?

When you surf the internet, are you doing research, looking to be entertained, or just looking for a community in which to share stories? What is the value to you of meaningful information, and how do you decide what matters to you?

Most of us make decisions based on what they mean to us. There's a reason we do things, and in most cases it's because we feel some sort of connection to a product, place, or person. If I buy Campbell's soup instead of a cheaper competitor, it means that I've had a good experience with the brand. To me, the experience of eating Campbell's soup means that I will always feel good after having had the product. This positive meaning is almost always based on past experiences. If I decide to buy the latest CD from Bruce Springsteen (it's on my "to do" list), not only do I love his music, but the words and notes have a way of connecting with my teenage years on a deep level. When I listen to his music, I remember the rebellious times, and am able to relive the feelings and memories of an adventurous time in my life. It means something to me and, in advertising products that invoke similar feelings, agencies can tap into that connection.


Perhaps the most dreaded words to advertisers and marketers are the words "Who Cares?" When it comes down to it, most people want the same things in life: happiness, wealth, family, health and acknowledgement. We want to have fun, and feel good about what we do. Everything we do, and virtually every decision we make, involves connecting with other people, places or things.

Hollywood has been able to create meaning for us out of fictional characters. In many cases, we are moved because characters mean something to us. They represent our human attributes, and our ability to care for and feel emotion for others. Remember watching ET "go home?" Who didn't identify with Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, who found herself looking for brighter and better things in life? Is there anyone among us who didn't shed a tear during Forrest Gump? (and for those of us who did, didn't the music have something to do with it?) Could anyone not identify with James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause? And who wasn't upset when the coyote just couldn't snag that roadrunner?

Let's design more meaning into the products we use, and the places we visit. Companies who market meaning will be the real winners in the new age of connection.