Today we are living in an experience economy. Meaning that, a broad scope view of the marketplace supports the reality that consumers are after experiences more than ever before. This definition of experience stretches further, into things like experiencing cultural connection. People defining themselves less by things that they have and more by their thoughts, passions, causes they support, and communities they are a part of. As a result, many brands feel an unprecedented pressure to deliver on this shift in order to survive, but more importantly to grow. This new challenge is about creating cultural value, and it requires a combination of market research, cultural marketing, and embracing change. Let’s explore cultural marketing and why it is a critical component to a successful brand in today’s world.
The Role of a Cultural Marketing Curator
Simply put, cultural marketing pays special attention to what is going on in the wider cultural at any given time. Marketers are tasked with carefully observing the culture around them so that they can gain some strategic foresight on what issues are of growing and trending importance to consumers. They also need to dedicate time to social listening so they are able to identify movements and trends that their brand can speak to in a timely manner.
What cultural marketing efforts really aim to do, is to move beyond the products and services of a brand by getting behind movements and leading trends in the prevailing culture. Doing so benefits brands greatly as they gain a deeper understanding of how the marketplace is shifting and changing as consumer preferences and expectations change. This ultimately helps brands identify “white space” or opportunities for growth.
Several good examples of brands who succeed in their cultural marketing efforts are discussed in Kantar Added Value’s case study, where they also define cultural value as the most important emerging currency in marketing and innovation today. Although, a personal favorite of cultural marketing is the Dove Real Beauty campaign. With this campaign, Dove transformed the traditional product narrative into a story that champions all kinds of feminine beauty, and they ultimately started a cultural conversation that hasn’t stopped since the start. By reflecting the concerns and desires of their target market, their relationships and bonds with the consumer have grown deep and have earned Dove a leading position in steering cultural change.
A United Front: Market Research & Cultural Marketing
In general terms, market researchers help marketers understand the consumers in terms of demographics, psychographics, lifestyles, attitudes and behaviors. Marketers will often use these insights to build campaigns or inform new product development, and in many cases they come from a quantitative study, such as surveys. Qualitative methods are used in practice as well and include the likes of focus groups, in-depth interviews, and even ethnographic studies.
While these methods provide a robust picture of the consumer’s needs and behaviors, they can miss the mark on accounting for cultural trends that change those needs and behaviors over time. The reason for this is because often times respondents may not be consciously aware of social and cultural trends changing or influencing their needs and behaviors, therefore they are not speaking to these when answering a survey. Which is why cultural marketing is so important today. Combining market research and cultural marketing is what will drive a brand to success, relevancy, influence, you name it.
Market research and cultural marketing efforts allow brands to be an agent of culture. Rather than simply responding to needs and wants by selling a product or service, brands can actually shape and create culture by foreseeing and joining in cultural trends that resonate with their audience. In doing so, they will deepen connection with those they serve and ultimately drive business success.