Picture this. You’re at a Gourmerican burger joint chomping a cheeseburger, when an outspoken vegan friend starts preaching that you’re killing the planet. Last week, that same vegan downed a pricey glass of pinot before their flight to a far-flung destination, armed with their strongest mossie repellant and first aid kit. Anything amiss?
Brand serious about connecting and engaging with customers need to offer a more culturally relevant connection with their audience, a new report claims.
The study, Building Brands That Attract and Engage Fans, released by the CMO Council in partnership with Fresh Squeezed Ideas, showed marketers must accurately situate their brands within a cultural, consumer and competitive context.
Using a brand ecology model, there are endless possibilities to create new communications, new innovation strategies and new marketing interventions by tapping into the power of a culturally informed brand strategy in a structured way, the report found.
“It’s interesting to note the successes driven by many of the brands leading in innovation and disrupting the conventional ways of doing business, thereby transcending their category and reinventing themselves in the process,” said Added Value Group CEO and head of Kantar Consulting UK, Bart Michels, as quoted in the report. “Essentially, they are using a form of cultural strategy to stand out on an emotional level.
“And we know that to sustain future growth, brands need to be seen as improving the life of the consumer in a relevant way. In an ultra-competitive landscape, they must earn every piece of equity from each moment of contact with consumers, as well as add value to the network they are a part of.”
According to the report, brands like Apple, Google, Samsung, IKEA and Microsoft appear to be getting it right. The report also looked into the likes of PepsiCo, Visa, Johnson & Johnson, to learn more about how these culturally connected brands stay valued, real and relevant with consumers.
“Around the globe, we see consumers are becoming omni-cultural, and geographical boundaries don’t necessarily divide them,” commented PepsiCo’s chief customer officer, Ram Krishnan. “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.”
According to Krishnan, consumers have become very engaged, are no longer passive, and seek to have a two-way conversation with brands, even dictating what that conversation should be.
“Whether it’s on social media or within the consumer relationship, the challenge for us is to aggregate all of that customer data into one place so that we can get a better picture of what consumers expect,” he said.
For Visa, it’s about conveying a global sense of everybody coming together, senior director or loyalty, Diane Salmon, claimed.
“Because of the nature of our brand, some of the cultural icons that we've used are Olympic athletes that convey a global sense of everybody coming together and focusing on the same thing for a period of time,” she said. “People tend to feel very positively about this kind of human effort, and that is one of the reasons we value that positioning as much as we do.”
When it comes to anticipating customers’ needs, Johnson & Johnson’s head of digital analytics in Asia, Alfie Ang, said the brand is able to do some predictive marketing and create micro-moments for the brands. For example, the brand has invested in health research and included findings in its communications to ensure mums understand that sensory interaction with babies is very important.
“Touch, smell, hearing, seeing and tasting are all very important, so we translate that into our messaging for the Johnson’s Baby brand so that we remain relevant to mums and give them information that is helpful for their babies’ development,” Ang said. “Overall, we’re seeing that consumers are wanting much more personalised information, so we need to be able to balance that level of personalisation while also making sure we aren’t overloading them with content.”
Top tips to culturally connect your brand to your customer
1. Understand the cultural context: This refers to the context your end user is living in and influenced by. Culture creates social and economic value because it shapes beliefs.
2. Connect to the most pressing cultural forces: Understand consumers’ lives so it’s clear exactly the role your goods and services play in them. You would be surprised by how seemingly benign products and services actually play very critical roles in our modern lifestyles.
3. Be objective about the conventions of the category: This includes the past, present and the emerging future. It is impossible to differentiate if you don’t actually map the competitive landscape and choose a fertile place to plant your flag.
4. Be objective about what your brand brings to the table: Each brand has boundaries around what it can and cannot be stretched to.
For brands looking to assess their level of cultural connectivity, the CMO Council also released a self-assessment tool to see where the brand might lead or lag in this important strategic area of focus.