Skip to main content

Customers are searching for meaning behind brands to build connections

Customers are searching for meaning behind brands to build connections
British philosopher, Robert Rowland Smith, explored the lessons that philosophy can teach us when it comes to exchanging value in retail 

History shows that as societies become more affluent, people want to buy fewer tangible things, said British philosopher, Robert Rowland Smith, at World Retail Congress yesterday.

Where does this logic go next? According to Smith, the most important in life, is meaning. “Things such as meaning, narrative and ideas. Turning a brand, product or experience into something that is relevant for your customers. Something they can attract meaning from.”

“A great example for this is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.” Smith said. “We can use the same triangle for retail. At the bottom, you will find goods. Stuff. Products. On the second level, you’ll find services, a sign of affluence. On the third layer we have brands. The ability to choose the brand we identify with, that makes us feel better about ourselves. The product itself become less tangible.


“What we seek are more intangible things. We are caring more about the association with the brand, than the actual product. At the top of pyramid is, just like in Maslow’s, meaning. The ability to share with others will make us take the other stuff for granted.“ Smith said.

As people become disillusioned with brands, the appetite will grow for things that remind them of their humanity, he said.

“The brands that manage to tap into this desire for meaning are the retailers that are going to win. The rise of TED talks illustrates that we are craving ideas as never before. The world of meaning is a world that hasn’t been fully explored yet in retail, however, the rising popularity of talks and podcast proves that there are clear opportunities for retail to be heading in that direction,” Smith said.

View all News

Join retail leaders shaping the future of global retailers