Brands succeed when they break through in culture, however, in a world that is increasingly overburdened by choice brands must work harder than ever to stand out. It is the brands that can elevate themselves above conventional value propositions and category benefits to champion, disrupt, and resolve specific cultural tensions in a social context that stand the best chance of achieving this and doing it in a meaningful and long lasting way.
Brands have looked to the rise of digital and social channels as one of the ways in which to break through in culture. These channels have, as we all know, dramatically shifted the way in which culture is consumed. Previously access to knowledge and entertainment was primarily through tightly controlled broadcast media channels. These broadcast channels created hugely impactful communal moments, with the likes of 30 million tuning in to watch Eastenders. But those moments were passive, one-way and scripted.
As digital and social communications platforms have become mainstream they have not just impacted the way in which culture is consumed - they have also dramatically impacted the way in which culture is created. Now, thanks to the Internet, we live in a world where culture is open and democratic. Knowledge and entertainment are not controlled by traditional media channels but enabled by social and digital platforms where people can share their point of view (or dance moves, beauty tips or DIY advice etc) and connect with others. Where previously culture was controlled by media oligopolies now, empowered by social and digital media, culture is created by the crowd.
This fundamental change in not just how culture is consumed but how culture is created has huge implications for brands and is a missed opportunity for many when it comes to their approach to digital and social communications. Many still use these channels in a consumption-led broadcast way. Repurposing TV ads for digital channels as a way to increase reach and views. Instead the real opportunity is to understand and engage with the emerging cultural trends being driven by creators and communities online - from championing gender diversity to the rise of grime music. Brands can use these platforms not just to distribute breakthrough creative ideas that impact culture but to actually co-create culture with people.