This week, Design Week asked Erika to share her thoughts on how brands might improve our lives.

Lego man

This comes in response to a report published by Havas, about Meaningful brands. The truth of the matter is that the Havas research is designed to emphasise the value of their content offering. Good content is a great marketing asset, one feature of a complex tapestry of marketing activities. Brands with meaning do need great marketing, there’s no doubt about that, but it’s perhaps disingenuous to suggest that marketing in itself brings long-term value to their customers.

Erika’s answer is:

Can brands improve lives? This is a multi-layered and philosophical question. We’d all agree that great brands deliver a connection that goes beyond their function, however Havas’s report is designed to market their content services. Brands which ‘make life better’ like this are simply doing really good marketing, which means (like Amazon having a shop I pop into when I do my bedtime reading) they are tripping me up and drawing me in when my defences are down.

Yes, it’s useful to order cat food from bed, but it would be naive of me to be grateful to Amazon for this intrusion into my private life. I like the lady who sells pet food on the market but I wouldn’t invite her into my bedroom. Brands that make the effort with their design, marketing and NPD might improve my life, but they are naturally and justifiably doing it to grow: philanthropy it ain’t.

As an aside, the brands with which I feel a deep connection aren’t doing it through content. They’re either supreme and unrelenting at what they do, an ingrained part of life, or a joyful discovery. I’ll probably always feel safe with John Lewis. Reiko has replaced all other trousers, giving me Gallic insouciance. Lego’s reinvention from the interchangeable 2x4s of my childhood to the phenomenally engineered sets of my son’s is genius.