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Guest Post: Cultural Relevance Is The Life-Blood Of Brands

Cultural Capital

Culture encompasses our lives — it’s everything around us. For anything to be meaningful to us, it has to have a role in culture. Although culture is often difficult to measure or understand, Clyde McKendrick, Executive Strategy Director at WDCW and founder of the Cultural Capital Insight & Innovation Lab, provides an analytical research approach to measuring brands in relation to culture, which he explains below and details in his new book aptly titled Cultural Capital.

Guest Post: Cultural Relevance Is The Life-Blood Of Brands

Any CMO would likely agree that the most iconic brands in the world (such as Apple, Coca-Cola, Nike, Red Bull and MTV) owe their status primarily to their role in pop culture.

Yet, the marketing practices used by many corporations fail to achieve the potential of these iconic brands because of one simple oversight — they do not put culture first.

Common marketing processes place the priority on the brand, believing that any property owned by the company should be the thing which they should promote and the reason their customers will buy. But in truth, companies don’t own their brand, consumers do, and this approach is a sales strategy, not a marketing strategy. So the question is why do companies continue to manage and measure brands in isolation of the consumer world in which they exist — in culture?

Rethinking Brand Strategy for Culture.

Cultural Capital® is a ‘culture first’ approach, which provides an analytical research based valuation method for brands to measure the real value of their brand based on its popularity and relevance within culture’s many genres.

The new methodology is the result of a year-long developmental study and I am excited to share a preview of it here:

Culture First Methodology.

The methodology for Cultural Capital is simply explained in three steps:

1. The Audience

Any audience cohort is first asked values based questions in order to determine their perception of the world. These questions help understand if the respondent holds rigid personal values or if they are more readily influenced by their peers through their social values. These questions also identify which cultural values and attributes (Self Image, Environment, Wealth) matter most to them.

2. Cultural Engagement

The cultural interests and behaviors we adopt are wholly based on our beliefs (our values). So in the second step of the methodology, respondents are asked to rank the level of importance, time, money and interest they commit to any given cultural interest genre.

Cultural interest genres are defined by breaking the core components of culture into 24 separate and inter-relating segments such as Fashion, Music, Media, Enterprise, Communication, Relationships, Sport, etc.

The level of cultural engagement is then measured within the audience composition which effectively scales and groups people based on how ‘into’ a genre of culture they are.

For instance: Someone who either spends more money or time (or both) on fashion and ranks the role of fashion as important in their life has a higher level of engagement.

3. Brand Preference

Firstly, respondents are asked to recall brands they like most relating to their cultural interests. This helps to capture the most loved brands within a genre and compare how brand preference differs based on level of cultural engagement.

For instance: People most actively engaged with fashion may state Gucci as their most preferred brand, while people less engaged may state H&M based on their fashion related preferences.

After capturing this information, respondents are asked about the client brand we wish to study and its category competitors.

A series of questions focusing on the roles the brands play within each cultural interest genre captures how popular each brand is perceived to be.

Finally, the difference in popularity is measured against the respondents’ level of cultural engagement to understand if the brand is becoming more popular the more heavily engaged in that cultural interest someone is.

For instance: If people are asked questions about the roles of Coca-Cola in relation to their fashion interests, we may find that those more engaged in fashion feel Coca-Cola is more popular, versus those who are less engaged in fashion. From this we can measure the difference between groups to gauge cultural relevance.

By analyzing all the variables for all the questions and all the cultural interest genres, the Cultural Capital score is calculated. Its calculation uses an algorithm which creates an index based score for the brand’s Cultural Capital.

This index score gives the brand a finite and statistically robust metric which acts as both an initial auditing tool for brand planning, but can subsequently be tracked against marketing efforts to see how the brand’s relevance is shifting.

Deep Cultural Insights for Brand Planning

Beyond providing the Cultural Capital index score, this new approach to branding measurement delivers powerful insights for brands to act upon.

By combining the separate steps of the Cultural Capital methodology, it is possible to uncover what’s driving culture and how brands gain popularity and relevance with it. It is even possible to accurately map important shifts in audience groups to find the tipping points in culture and how to change brand messaging accordingly.

New Study Measures Top Tech Brands Cultural Capital.

Below I have brought my Cultural Capital treatise to life using a study conducted among 18-24 year olds in America that focuses on measuring leading technology brands.

The study includes: Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Microsoft and eBay and provides compelling findings which include:

1. Apple dominates the sector with the highest Cultural Capital.
2. Google proves most popular, but scores low in relevance.
3. Facebook dominates music culture with young adults.
4. Twitter holds most actively engaged role in culture.
5. Microsoft, eBay and Amazon have most need to improve relevance.

    Clyde McKendrick
ClydeClyde is Executive Strategy Director at integrated advertising agency WDCW, based in Los Angeles. He is also founder of the Cultural Capital Insight & Innovation Lab, a division of WDCW dedicated to analyzing the changing influences in culture and providing strategic consultancy for culture-led strategies. Originally from the U.K., Clyde founded his own lifestyle brand consultancy, advising the cultural strategies for brands including Red Bull, Coca-Cola®, Stella Artois®, Levi’s, T-Mobile®, Bombay Sapphire® and Diesel®, before moving to the U.S. to lead brand strategy for Pepsi® with TBWA\Chiat\Day. Clyde is a contributing writer for business and cultural media, including Fast Company, Mashable and AdAge. He also founded MILK Magazine, a periodical journal reporting on changing culture and creativity.