May 08, 2019

Are Brands Neglecting Cultural Relevance?

Brands should aim to add value to their audience, not continually interrupt, cultural relevance is the way to achieve this.  

  • Cultural relevance is crucial in order to understand and respond to an audience in a way that they can relate to, whilst remaining true to the brand. 
  • In an ever-changing market, brands need to remain relevant, storytelling in order to create a two-way conversation between brand and audience, is an effective medium to achieve this.

In the past, companies would develop their brand image by identifying the key aspects and benefits of their brand and then projecting that to the market. They behaved as though they had control over their audience and its market.

However, this has now evolved and brands are more active in finding their purpose and place in the culture that surrounds them, whether it’s in the news, social media, or fashion, they are harnessing this awareness so they can best position themselves in the market.

This method for creating a brand image is far more effective because a brand is more likely to become part of a culture that they can engage with directly. They are showing their understanding of that culture, resulting in a more genuine connection with their audience and this is essential in today’s market.

In an industry where trends are always evolving, brands need to remain relevant, and storytelling is a medium through which they are able to encompass all these aspects that portray cultural relevance.

Stories shape brands and culture

Culture is built by humans and advertised by brands, and this is proven most effectively through the medium of storytelling.

Storytelling provides a way to make sense of the world and a brand, and this goes back centuries, from caveman telling stories to understand the stars, to tribes telling stories to build communities.

If a company can appreciate this, they will learn that this creates an opportunity for brands and their audience to form a connection - the best brand images will be defined by their ability to tell great stories.

Great storytelling is achieved primarily by understanding your audience: their values, opinions, and annoyances. Once a brand is clued in on the feelings of their audience, they can start to build a relationship through the correct use of tone and execution in their advertising and social media.

Brands have changed the way they tell stories

The market brands find themselves in today is far more accessible than before, they have the ability to interact with their audiences directly and less intrusively in their day-to-day lives through mediums like social media.

If a brand image was developed without taking into consideration what is going on around them and their audience, they will fail to connect with their surrounding communities. Consumers are responding negatively to intrusive advertising as they no longer want to be told what their culture looks like, instead, they want to form part of its development.  

Therefore, a brand should aim to tell stories that merge a brand into the culture their audience resides in.

How can this be achieved?

Put simply, to achieve this, brands need to incorporate the relevant elements of the culture into their brand image.

A brand needs to connect with recent events that also reflect their values so they can demonstrate an engagement with the culture of their audience. This is key to gaining your consumers’ trust as they want brands that represent their personal values. So, not only does a brand need to appreciate what’s happening in their audience’s culture, but they also need to identify the parts of that community which make sense to associate with.

In a campaign created by Dove two years ago, they successfully demonstrated how not to be culturally relevant through their limited-edition ‘body-shape’ bottle range. They intended on inspiring ‘real beauty’ and an appreciation for women of all shapes and sizes but instead were slated by the public for being patronising.

“I don’t know about you, but I have never felt oppressed by the shape of my toiletry bottles - I do not appreciate a company that so oversimplifies the complicated issue of how our society views women’s bodies.” Kristen Bellstrom, Fortune's Broadsheet newsletter.

Dove is one of many brands that have been noted by its audiences for inauthenticity. In a time where storytelling is used in order to build and uphold relationships with an audience, can brands justify neglecting the importance of cultural relevance?

However, a business that was able to successfully integrate cultural relevance into their branding was Always with their #LikeAGirl campaign. Just by watching and comparing the Dove and Always campaigns, it is instantly obvious which is more empowering, inspiring, and relevant for girls and women. They identified a current cultural issue that was relevant to their brand and spoke about it, while remaining true to their values, and providing their audience with a great story.

A campaign like this shows the effectiveness of authenticity in advertising. In a world where gender inequality is at the centre of most communities, with many brands attempting to tap into the attention surrounding this topic, Always managed to respond to it in a way which was not intrusive for its audience, but instead completely relevant and memorable.

How does CLICKON practice this?

At CLICKON, responding and adapting to trends is key to staying ahead of the game, but these efforts are all in vain if authenticity is lacking.

In a market where consumers have almost too much choice, the importance of brands demonstrating their cultural relevance is more crucial than ever.

An example of this is our partnership with VMLY&R to create the series, ‘Face of the Fleet.`` Through this CLICKON demonstrates a clear understanding of the need to create real connections by bringing to light the people behind the ships and jets that are normally associated with the Navy. As a result, the brand is humanised because real stories are told, allowing for relatability and personal connections.

Richard Wilson, CEO commented,

“Successful brands understand the importance of nurturing meaningful relationships with their customers. They know that in order to be heard in a busy marketplace they have to work hard to actively listen, respond and evolve, without losing what they stand for.”

He added,

“With 64% of customers willing to switch brands due to a lack of relevance, there is an important lesson for marketers. That cultural relevance will always trump brand legacy.”

This process is not easy or a quick fix, it requires a lot of time and hard work in order to achieve this. Brands need to understand what motivates and upsets their audience so that they can build real connections with them. Through understanding the culture they want to influence, in turn, their brand image will prosper.