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Picture: 123RF/outstyle
Picture: 123RF/outstyle

Brand managers continue to use very traditional models to make sense of what the marketing world has become: the 5Ps, sometimes the 6, 7 or 8Ps. It may well be time to add a jarring “C” to this phonetic checklist: culture.

It is looming so large in the world of marketing that the question “What is your cultural strategy?” has become an elephant in marketing boardrooms.

To contextualise this question: we know digital experiences have enabled consumers to almost completely firewall brands out of their sociocultural reality. From banner blindness to adblocking software, consumers can choose to ignore brands.

Content marketing for marketers was going to be the big answer, right? Wrong.

When ranking channels by the number of subscribers on YouTube or Instagram, you find that corporate brands barely appear — only three have cracked the YouTube top 500. A video of a panda in a zoo racks up more than a billion views while brands’ content struggles to go over 10,000 views.

The reality is that very few people want brand content in their feed. Most view it as clutter — as brand spam. Consumers have little interest in the content that brands churn out. When Facebook realised this, it began charging companies to get “sponsored” content into the feeds of people who were supposed to be their fans.

What type of cultural content is likely to even start competing with a baby panda video?

So, what can be done about it? It starts with developing a clear idea of the three components of a brand’s cultural strategy:

  1. What is your cultural stance as a brand and what gives you the right to it as a brand: the voice which can be accepted, if not welcomed, within the hallowed ground of consumer culture? That question is probably easier for a sports brand than it is for a financial services brand, but even a bank is entitled to a relevant cultural voice.
  2. What are the Trojan horses that brands can piggyback on, to be allowed within cultural arenas? Brands need to identify subcultures and actors within these subcultures they can partner with, and which can give them a cultural authenticity. Nike successfully leveraged Colin Kaepernick in this regard.
  3. What type of cultural content is likely to even start competing with a baby panda video? Brutal honesty is required here: too many marketers and advertising agencies act as naked emperors on this question. Too many content calendars are a box-ticking exercise.

It’s an urgent marketing question: so where is your cultural strategy, folks?

* Laurent Marty is a partner and strategic planning director at Joe Public

THE BIG TAKE-OUT

Consumers have little interest in the content that brands churn out

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