Oct 29, 2019

Why does Cultural Relevance matter?

Brands need to ensure their marketing strategy is more culturally relevant so they see an increase in consumer engagement.

  • To achieve cultural relevance, brands should aspire to add value to their audiences, not bombard and interrupt.
  • Ensuring cultural relevance is a focal point for brands because it means they can understand and respond to an audience in a way that they can relate to, whilst remaining true to the brand experience.
  • In a rapidly evolving market, brands must remain relevant so they can create a two-way conversation with consumers.

“Culture is broad-based, and how you identify what those cultural moments are, that are relevant and resident to your brand is where we start to be able to be more targeted in how brands can inject and interject themselves in those moments.” Stephanie Prager, global head of agency development at Twitter.

Alongside buzzwords like authenticity and storytelling, is cultural relevance and how a brand can align themselves with a cause or issue that their target audience shares. While it can be argued that connections cannot be forged if they do not exist and businesses should stick to what they know, there is an opportunity for brands to overcome this. If they can understand what their audience believes in and adapt the brand to complement that, both the consumer and brand should benefit.

What is culture?

The meaning of culture has changed over time, with 83% of consumers expressing that culture now goes beyond the traditional definition of family, food, and language. Consumers now believe it includes pop culture like music, social trends and arts, as well as current affairs, including events, politics, and sports.

According to a survey of 865 consumers carried out by IPG Media Lab and Twitter, it was found that 25% of product purchase decisions are driven by cultural relevance and that this factor is almost as important as a strong brand image. 

A cultural shift.

In the past, advertising a product or service was fairly straightforward, brands simply had to present them compellingly and then run the ad in a newspaper.

However, with the addition of cinema and TV, the use of video presented brands with the opportunity of emotive advertising and thanks to the limited media outlets, target audience had little chance of escaping these brand messages.

When the internet came into play, the successful formula marketers had created began to see cracks, and their job became increasingly difficult. The introduction of the internet meant, for the first time, that consumers could form part of the conversation while consuming information. This shift was accelerated further with smartphones and the addition of social media, as consumers could reach and follow more brands and people.

Now, it is far too easy for consumers to ignore messages they do not want to invest in and people have the power to tailor their media experience to their interests and needs - they can shut out anything that does not abide by this.

Therefore, advertising has had to evolve in line with this and brands are taking a more active approach to finding their purpose and place in the cultures that surround both themselves and their consumers. The brands that consumers choose to associate with, form part of their identity and so, they must learn how best to harness this cultural relevance so they resonate with their audience.

This approach to developing and tailoring the brand experience is more effective as a brand is more likely to form part of a culture they are trying to engage with, by showing an understanding of that culture - this will create a more genuine connection with an audience.

What should brands do?

To ensure future growth, brands need to add value to their consumers, they need to be improving their experience in a relevant way.

Ram Krishnan, PepsiCo’s chief customer officer comments:

“Around the globe, we see consumers are becoming omni-cultural, and geographical boundaries don’t necessarily divide them. They aren’t defined by where they were born or where they live. Rather, their passions unite them with like-minded people around the world.”

Not only are consumers’ passions driving their purchasing decisions, but their beliefs and values are also demonstrated by the brands they choose to buy. Consumers are becoming more engaged, moving away from their passive nature and now actively looking to have a two-way conversation with brands, sometimes even trying to take control of that conversation.

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

So what?

A brand must form part of a culture because their consumers are part of that culture. Consumers are finally beginning to trust brands and as a result, brands are almost serving as cultural barometers. If brands are not able to accurately represent their consumers’ values, consumers will lose trust in the brand.

The place a brand has in culture is an aspect of a business that cannot be copied, unlike their products or processes and this is what will provide a brand with a unique edge that their audience will resonate most with.

Immersing a brand within its audiences’ culture is not a quick or easy fix. It requires time and effort for a brand to understand what motivates and upsets their audience, but through understanding this, brands will be able to build real connections with their audience and their brand experience will prosper accordingly.