Amber is a strategist at hot boutique agency Big Spaceship. A seasoned big picture thinker, Amber brings a background in music marketing at MTV, where she worked with artists as big as Armin Van Buuren to the Soundcloud producer. Here’s what she added to the discussion of cultural leadership.
Again, I’m defining cultural leadership 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.
Q1: Does this definition work for you? What would you add?
The short: brands amplify real human behavior. This gives individuals an outlet to express themselves or celebrate a unifying cause.
The long: Life imitating art imitating life is something I always come back to.
It is fair to assume that brands amplify the zeitgeist rather than impact on it. Brands can leverage their audiences to bring individuals together and amplify a unifying message, they seldom seed those messages.
One of the most impressive thing brands do, in my mind, is timely responsiveness to culture. Brands that are in touch with internet memes and behavior that can provoke/amplify it in such a way gives consumers a reason to celebrate it great.
Apple was able to unleash the inner minimalist art critic because there was a simmering burn for it – they were able to give an outlet to unify these supporters and unite them.
It is in similar way that brands talk about getting UGC – the way they are best able to do so is when they track real human behavior on the internet and amplify it in a way that marries well to the brand.
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?
Cultural leadership is for brands looking to build an own-able emotion to the base category to which they compete. Some brands need not do that, some brands do.
Building a cultural leadership practice is relevant as a branding exercise, but does a service brand need to do so? Say a meals on wheels type?
Q3: How does risk figure into the equation of a brand’s cultural leadership?
Risk depends on scale, uniqueness and time.
Q4: Is there a brand that comes to mind that’s leading a cultural conversation well?
Old Spice – great example of an old brand that is passing down their heritage of man grooming to younger generations that do not yet have a care for it.
Nike – the everyday athlete. Fuelband and other tech stuff coming out of R/GA is very exciting and pushing them to unite the everyday sportsman.
$1 Shave club
AXE – gives younger guys an older brother’s voice and caring guidance in the mating game as they are first introduced. They also have their finger on the pulse of internet behavior and memes, quickly adapting them to suit the AXE tone.
To some degree Instagram. The guys over there have taken the basic human practice of photography and applied to to social media. Duh, but think about how human taking photos and sharing it with your friends. Then look at the environment – social media age. They make something that was perfectly human in digital.
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?
Know the personas of the audience you are dealing with like they were your own blood. Find out what they care about, where does your brand sit with them? How can you help?
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.