We spend so much time thinking about what consumers want that we almost separate brands from people’s actual needs. Could it be that people are both increasingly inviting brands in and therefore more sophisticated about what they expect?

Fifteen thousand people in 12 countries told us that their relationships with brands are often not what marketers imagine it to be.

Our brandshare™ study told us that people believe their relationships with brands are transactional and one-sided. The good news is that we found ways to help address that. People who are Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, and live in both developing and developed markets, told us that brands today need to take three actions:

  1. Be responsive: to be always on and always adapting.
  2. Be inclusive: to infuse marketing with a storytelling and storysharing mindset.
  3. Be responsible: to have conviction and commitment to a brand purpose.

What we learned is that people care about the “why and the how” of brands more than the “what and the who.” Meeting people’s rational and emotional needs is no longer enough. People are demanding more.

brandshare shows that to embrace the current landscape, a brand needs to become participatory. A brand is no longer solely built by the company that operates it, but also by the people who interact with it. A brand needs to be purpose-driven and know itself well enough to tell a memorable story about its relationship with people.

We learned from brandshare that a brand needs to be inspirational. It must excite people to share aspects of the brand because it matters to their everyday lives.

And finally, we learned that a brand today needs to take people in to their minds and hearts and become larger part of people’s lives.

Do this and the brandshare data shows that a real and measureable value exchange will occur between consumers and brands.

Michelle Hutton is currently the CEO of Edelman Australia and was announced on September 30 as the upcoming global chair of the Consumer Marketing practice.