Q: Havas' Meaningful Brands Index was released this month and my brand was not in it. It's the kind of publicity my chief executive will want us to be part of. My question is, what does 'meaningful' mean?
A: You and your chief executive need to worry about whether there is a Meaningless Surveys Index. If not, then I have a nomination for the inaugural number-one slot.
Let's be honest. Surveys are never intended to reveal what people think about an issue. Don't confuse them with opinion polls, which are. Surveys are commissioned as a hook on which to hang a news story and generate PR for the commissioner.
It used to be easy. A few years ago, one of the big insurers was constantly surveying its customers for trivia such as their favourite car colour. This would be repackaged and dignified into a survey, and appear in a tabloid under the headline 'Britain's favourite car colour revealed', opening with the line 'A survey commissioned by leading insurer X... ' Surveys became to PR agencies what testimonials are to ad agencies.
As this technique became debased, the half-page became a column, then a small box. Recognisable pollsters or famous seats of learning were conscripted to add gravitas, but it was too little, too late.
Let's assume I am wrong, though, and this survey was not conceived simply to generate PR. Look at which brands score highly. Take Leroy Merlin; it is a Gallic B&Q and a flawless intermediary between my bank and the money-pit that is my French summer house. But a meaningful, global brand, at number five, ahead of another 295 global brands?
It seems odd that it has come out so well, along with a few other French-sounding businesses, in this French-commissioned survey. I haven't dared check whether the Meaningful Brand Index correlates to the client list of the company that commissioned it.
If anyone would like to nominate other meaningless surveys to fill my inaugural index, please send them in. This one is not the worst; it just ended up in front of a marketer who has bought and paid for a house in France (among other things) by commissioning and publicising similarly meaningless surveys for more than 20 years.
Will Harris is a former marketing director for Nokia in the UK and Asia region. He was the first marketing director of the Conservative Party and launch marketing director of the O2 brand.