The issue of how brands deepen meaning for consumers by creating Cultural Value is gaining ground among the marketing community. Added Value asked: can we establish some key best-practice principles? Here are our three how-tos:
1. Start with a bold, intentional brand purpose
A brand’s purpose should make it clear what it stands for, and be the driving force to mobilise toward action. Patagonia is a great example. The brand has a very clear purpose: ‘Use our brand and business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis’.
Its ad from Black Friday 2011 (‘Don’t Buy This Jacket’) is seen by many as the epitome expression of the brand’s purpose. After the recession of 2009, the brand was tracking the emerging cultural conversation around the redefinition of value. Conspicuous consumption was slowing, and people were seeking goods of more enduring worth, and Patagonia cleverly tapped into this growing cultural movement.
Its latest foray is into food: Patagonia Provisions is a solution to the ‘broken food chain’ that feels like a natural step in its purpose-driven journey.
2. Bring this purpose to life in culture
Using purpose as its North Star, the brand must bring it to life by connecting with an aspect of culture that has resonance for its audience, creating a deeper human connection and driving brand relevance. Under Armour is doing this very well. Its purpose is to ‘Empower athletes everywhere’, but by its own admission, it sucked at doing this for women – not quite ‘shrink it and pink it’, but almost.
Recently, the brand has moved to smarter engagement with its female audience by leveraging the growing cultural conversation around women in sports through the ‘I Will What I Want’ program.
The brand seeks to create deeper meaning for women by subverting the cultural dominance of the male narrative in sports, featuring female athletes who have the will to tune out society’s prejudices and norms in order to achieve their goals. The stories told illustrate the dedication and hard graft of celebrity athletes and sportswomen – highlighting the challenges overcome by each athlete
3. Fuel ongoing cultural curiosity in the business
Bring the outside in to fuel brand actions in real time and inspire ideation in-the-moment. Cultural Radar is a tool we’ve employed successfully to help clients put culture right at the heart of their business. It creates a live culture feed, delivering ongoing feedback from various locations around the globe, embracing brand activations, social media conversations, happenings and events.
We monitor how culture is shifting in real time, and how this relates specifically to the client’s category. We also pick up weak signals that show us the emergent direction of key cultural themes – where they are headed and what brands can do to stay ahead. The team receives rich, inspirational material on a private website, enabling the business to ideate, activate against and respond to emerging opportunities.
In conclusion, all these examples make it clear that the quest to create cultural value should have a profound influence on what you do as a brand. It will drive your actions, influence who you partner with, affect where you appear, and inspire how you innovate.
Helen Firth is senior vice president of Kantar Added Value.