Basically it means I try to connect brands with culture. Little-c culture. It’s not really about Art and Music and Food and Architecture… but why people do the things they do, how they do them, what’s going on in their heads while they do so. It’s the behaviour, stuff and un-spoken rules that surround us every day.
But to understand culture, brands have to first start with the right questions. Looking directly at the problem rarely solves anything. For example, a client once came to me completely obsessed with owning “social television” (like Zeebox, etc). The real question was actually, TV is already social (connecting people, shaping their values, generating fear, etc), we just don’t understand how.
Most brands operate within an orthodox approach to their market/ing. They want to know about positioning: “how are we positioned within the competitive context?” Frankly, if this is their starting point, they may have already lost. A better question is usually, “how is everyone else doing it, and how are they missing the mark?” Culture is an (increasingly) quickly moving target, and brands are often slow ships to steer. So if a brand is really upping its game, the place to start is understanding where culture has moved to - and indeed, where it will be going next. This is not about trend forecasting, but it’s not a million miles off. It’s about understanding the political, social and economic influencers over people’s value systems; and then being able to visualise how this is going to manifest through material culture and in specific ways.
What I do is bring brands closer to this culture; to their culture. Every brand is just a part of a much bigger culture - and acknowledging this humble position is a good place to start. I like to say to my clients, “We should be so lucky to be a part of this (these) culture(s)”… be it Fair Trade, artisanal foods, cycling, fitness, product design, indeed - television watching or even something as big as “English culture”. Permission to influence, amplify, shape and change culture is something a brand has to earn. It earns this permission first by respecting and understanding culture, telling great stories, creating great product, and then creating, or at least supporting, the communities that form within the culture.
But it’s not just about what a brand can do. It’s about what a brand should do. To get here, a brand must have a cultural pursuit, or a purpose. This pursuit guides behaviour, and clarifies the role a brand has in culture, in its customer’s lives, businesses, homes and communities.
My team and I work with brands who really want to have a role in culture, not just selling stuff. It’s a good place to start. So, this is my round-about way of saying, if you want to do this, let’s do some work together. Drop me an email collynahart @ gmail.com
Photo via trendtablet.com