The Culture Connection in Brand Strategy

August 31st, 2023 | Kendall Gadie

In early August, the Comperemedia Research team got together to discuss how interfacing with culture has become a key part of brand strategy. The necessity for brands to engage with consumers at the cultural level has always been important in marketing, but as brand transparency has become more in demand from consumers and technology has facilitated this (e.g. social media), companies often face a higher level of scrutiny in their marketing efforts.

McDonald’s and Nike were two companies that emerged as part of our discussion due to how they have managed to stay relevant and, in many ways, etched in the lives and minds of consumers. Despite having had their own share of PR backlash over the years, these brands remain some of the most recognizable in the world. They have done this not only by providing great products and services but also by knowing how to engage at the cultural level by understanding the internal values of their audience.

During our meeting, we posed several questions, and below are some of the responses from Comperemedia analysts. 

What other brands have done a good job branding to their strengths and engaging culture? How?

Carly Cascio, Research Analyst, Insurance

Obviously, the Barbie movie has done an amazing job in terms of both the quality and quantity of their campaigns. You’d have to be living under a rock to not see something about Barbie over the past few months. There were strategies we hadn’t seen before, like an entire AirBnB being built in honor of the movie. In my opinion, brands look a lot better when they’re creating their own trends instead of copying them, which I think can come off as formulaic or even a little opportunistic. I think it’s important to note, however, that Barbie didn’t just appear out of thin air. It’s been a brand for decades, so the nostalgia factor gave their campaign a significant boost. If Barbie was something completely new, I don’t think it would have been as well received. I want to say it’s kind of like a perfect storm situation – they had the nostalgia from Barbie, the nostalgia from movie theaters in a post-pandemic world, released the movie during the summer, and numerous monumental marketing events where we saw that classic Barbie pink everywhere. They were bold and it paid off.

How has social media changed the ways brands can tap into culture?

Vivian He, Research Analyst, Financial Services

Social media has provided more opportunities for brands to pick and choose how they want to connect to different demographics. It’s old-fashioned, but being able to add personalization to a social post is important to consumers. I recall back in high school when Snapchat was used, you could find a variety of emoticons and filters if you shopped or dined in certain places. It was so popular among high schoolers because they were the ones interested in those fancy visuals. Personal touches matter for teenagers and Snapchat has achieved certain success because they found the language that best resonates with this group. If brands want to reach a variety of audiences, for example, people who speak different languages with different backgrounds, it is best to do some research before venturing into the general channels. In one of my Marketing to New Canadians presentations, I shared The Little Redbook with a financial services client. The platform is extremely popular for idea-sharing, and blog-posting. Given its capabilities of photos/video posting and unlimited word count, people call it “China’s answer to Instagram.” The app is very popular among Chinese immigrant communities. I shared how I found cashback credit cards when I first came to Canada. Redbook is a success because it has the ability to attract different groups of people, and its visually appealing content with the freedom to post as many words as you want makes it a go-to place for anything trending or fun. 

What pitfalls might exist as brands engage via social media while also dealing with the impact of AI, politics, cancel culture etc.?

Marisa Frys, Digital Marketing Analyst, Financial Services

Navigating the ever-changing terrain of social media requires brands to recognize that today’s conversation is not yesterday’s, nor is it tomorrow’s. The landscape introduces a constant influx of new threats, controversial topics, emerging platforms, and new tools that compel brands to engage and respond. Even previous comments and ideas are susceptible to resurfacing, ensuring that brands are never truly free from scrutiny. The challenge of social media is that brands need to know how to effectively pivot strategies and remain adaptive in the face of any emerging threats. I think when brands understand this, they are already one step ahead, because it shows that they know they are not, nor will ever be perfect. One of my favorite quotes is, “You can be the juiciest, ripest peach, but there is still going to be someone that doesn’t like peaches,” and brands can’t fool themselves into the lie that they are meant for everyone. As we know consumers value authenticity, and the brands that leverage their ability to anchor themselves to their core offerings, adhere to their brand values, and stand by them when necessary are already primed for success. As we have seen many times before, brand communication on social media can provoke a backlash. This reality underscores the importance for brands to stay true to their beliefs and quickly issue apologies when they recognize harm or wrongdoing. Cancel culture and cultural conversations are never going away, so brands are tasked to find success by upholding their image, ensuring that it remains consistent and finding a balance between their voice and responsiveness.

Are you interested in speaking with a member of the Comperemedia team about how we can help strategize your next marketing campaign? Reach out today and someone will be in touch soon.

Kendall Gadie

Kendall Gadie

Kendall Gadie is a Research Manager for Comperemedia specializing in Insurance. Kendall uses his competitive intelligence experience to help clients meet their marketing goals by providing expert analysis on the marketplace and emerging trends.