by Jamie Dunham
Founder of Brand Wise
What makes one brand wired and another tired? I believe it is all in the culture.
Brands are no longer locked in worlds of advertising or corporate ideas of what we want to tell the consumer. We marketing folks get so caught up in brand speak – brand essence, brand differentiators, brand propositions, brand babble – that we often forget the most important thing about a brand: How relevant is the brand to our culture?
Here’s my favorite definition of a brand:
A brand is a cluster of ideas built on a strategic premise…. and deemed relevant by our culture.
This is a different notion that views a brand more like a living molecule than an inert substance.
The Top Culturally Relevant Brands
There’s a new poll out that tracks the most culturally relevant brands. Apple, Google and Amazon are the top three culturally vibrant and relevant global brands according to Added Value, the Cultural Traction survey by WPP.
Each of us could cite reasons for the relevance of every one of these brands. It’s not just one thing. It’s a combination of bold ideas that are visionary and exciting. Apple’s ideas of simplicity, design and strategic fit among its products are legendary. Google started with easy access to the information of the world and now provides a platform for communication with the world. Amazon began by selling books online and now downloads and ships the world to us.
Relevant brands are dynamic forces in culture
The brand must speak to the culture, the mindset and the identity of the consumer. Brand ideas are always a means to an end. They start with a problem to solve and continue as a dynamic force in the culture. Brands are not limited by the brand owners, but receive contributions from consumers and other brands.
The iPod is a prime example. Many of us bought and discarded MP3 players in the era before iPods. They were not easy to operate or download music. Along came Apple with the iPod with its iconic design, trendy white earbuds, its own iTunes music delivery system, celebrity U2 editions and hip advertising based on current music. The iPod answered multiple needs and was cool. We went from iPod to iPhone in just 6 years as Apple continued to provide for a need. Today, one out of eight mobile users has an iPhone, again answering a need for 24/7 mobile access.
Turning marketing into cultural logic
Brilliant marketing has the ability to translate the brand’s value into a sort of cultural logic.
• Are you telling a story that solves the consumer’s problem and grants their wish?
• Are you telling the story in a visual and verbal language that your consumers understand?
• Is the story inspiring and energizing?
• Are you telling your story in such a way that consumers desire to be part of the story?
• Are you telling a story that invites your consumers to co-create?
If you are doing these things, then that’s cultural relevance.
Jamie Dunham is a brand strategist. Her firm’s focus is building cultural relevancy for brands that leads to stronger and more profitable consumer relationships. She has spent much of her career focused on Marketing to Women and blogs on the subject at TheLipstickEconomy.com.