The chicken or the egg, it’s an age-old question. But today I’m talking about marketing and culture, which comes first? Are marketing campaigns the result of cultural influence, or does culture adapt based on marketing?
Andy Badalamenti, creative director, copywriter and content developer, recently contemplated this idea in his LinkedIn blog post “Is marketing driven by culture, or is culture driven by marketing?”
In his post, Badalamenti uses the example of the recent U.S. Supreme Court vote to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states and how social media lit up with #LoveWins and rainbow colored profile pictures, but even more so, how brands turned to social media to show their support. Mastercard, Target and Maytag all found creative ways to share their support on social media.
Ultimately, Badalamenti came to the conclusion “I wish I had an answer for the perpetual, protein-packed chicken-and-egg riddle of marketing vs. culture. If anything, they seem to ignite each other now more than ever—in a perpetual exchange of creating the mainstream.”
Badalamenti’s article led me to research other opinions about marketing and culture, an important consideration for any brand in its efforts to connect with consumers. Here are some key takeaways for your next branding meeting.
What Is Culture?
This Forbes article gives a good definition of “culture” in terms of marketing: “When I talk about ‘culture,’ I mean the world happening outside the company’s walls. It’s the thing Wikipedia defines as the way of life for an entire society, including codes of manners, dress, language, religion, rituals, norms of behavior and systems of belief. It’s how we make deep and lasting meaning.”
Consumer Insights Versus Cultural Insights
Huffington Post Business explored this in its article “How Cultural Marketing Is Different From Consumer Insights.” The article positions consumer insights as market research on its consumers based on scientific analysis, through surveys, focus groups and interviews. The information is then used to draft marketing plans that match the data gathered in the research. Cultural insights, however, are based on a certain society’s way of life and how that affects consumer behavior in the form of values, attitudes and behaviors. In other words, a consumer insight is what someone says is important, an opinion, where cultural insights, more observation based, is what is actually important.
By combining these two types of insights, marketers can develop a more well-rounded marketing plan.
2015 – the Year of Culture-based Marketing
Fast Company had a great piece earlier this year on “How Marketing Will Change In 2015: The Creative Forecast.” The article shared insights from leaders in the marketing world and if you read through the article, you’ll see so many leaders suggest that “culture” will be impactful. Tor Myhren, worldwide chief creative officer, Grey, said “Producing work at the speed of pop culture so that our brands are fast enough to draft off the fleeting conversations and fascinations driven by mass media, celebrity gossip, tech trends and memes—that's our biggest challenge of next year.”
Regardless of which comes first, just like with the chicken and the egg, you cannot have marketing without considering culture. For a message to be successful, marketers must understand how to tailor a message to a particular culture and when it is both appropriate and opportune to do so. A marketing message is good if it resonates with someone, but if it speaks to them on a cultural or personal level, then you’ve really hit a home run.
What do you think – does culture play a major role in marketing? Which came first? I’d love to hear your thoughts and also what cultural marketing tips you have for our readers – shoot me an email here and best of luck on your campaigns!