Maybe you don’t know Phil McKenzie.  But you probably know the Influencer Conference, his global platform (heading into its fourth year this fall) that brings together thought leaders and change agents in the arts, entrepreneurship, philanthropy and technology.  Global because you can catch it in NYC, London, Berlin, Sao Paulo, Mumbai, Detroit, Tel Aviv and Brussels.  Dope, right?

Catch up with Phil through InfluencerCon, in addition to the global conferences they consult to connect companies to influencers, or follow him on Twitter.

Here’s his take on cultural leadership.  As a reminder, I’m defining it as follows: The ability of a brand to impact the zeitgeist, especially in relation to a particular topic or issue and move it to the forefront of conversation.  Take it away, Phil!

Q1: Does this definition work for you? What would you add?

I think the definition does work. The challenge is whether or not it is possible for a brand to achieve this.

Q2: A more basic question: Does the concept of cultural leadership exist at cross-purposes to the main function of the enterprise, i.e., to sell more stuff?  Why or why not?

I think they can exist together but the main purpose of a enterprise is to sell more things. They can construct an alignment using culture but their mission is not to advance culture.

Q3: How does risk figure into the equation of a brand’s cultural leadership?

Risk is the “third rail” for brands as they will do their best to avoid it. As long as brands remain risk averse it will be impossible to lead in culture or anything else for that matter. Fear is their motivation so risk is avoided at all cost.

Q4: Is there a brand that comes to mind that’s leading a cultural conversation well?

Unfortunately, I can’t think of a brand that leads a cultural conversation. They might try to co-opt existing ones, or participate on a lifestyle level but I don’t see them as cultural leaders.

Q5: On a 1-5 scale (1=completely suck, 5=rockin’ the house!) where do you think MOST brands are when it comes to leading culture?


Q6: What’s the 1 thing you’d suggest brands start doing right now if they’re serious about improving their cultural leadership abilities?

Stop trying to “not lose”.

Inspired to add your voice to the mix? Then click here to fill out the questionnaire. I’ll review and serve up the best answers.

Posted by Rob Fields

Observer. Curator. Marketer. Dot connector.