The Prism of Cultural Branding

Cultural branding is not new. It is a marketing strategy and the secret sauce of successful brands, enabling companies to establish deeper personal connections with their customers by embodying similar values and beliefs, where the brand is shaped according to the cultural context of its target personas. With this intent and in this process, the audience feels understood and has a sense of shared purpose with the companies, resulting better engagement, increased loyalty leading to better sales. Cultural branding must not be expected to happen overnight. The roadmap needs to be research, action, experiment driven with two aspects of marketing in focus– functional and emotional.

Product design can entice and earn customers, however, how the consumers experience the brand is a pivotal differentiator. Like in alloys we look at strength to weight ratio for durability of a product (example – the Titanium used in iPhone 15 Pro), for branding we need to look at product to experience ratio. Like when I think Apple, I think of it as a symbol of innovation. Similarly, the nuance is to look at data driven actionable insights that evolves the perception of a brand (or its product) to a specific visualisation and a feeling. That is the personal connection that is consistently trust inducing and delightfully captivating for your audience to not only buy but advocate. Hence whenever I look at communication, I look at marketing from the Flywheel perspective (see image 1) as opposed to the Funnel model. Reason being, it is simply impossible to churn back your audience who drop through the funnel, back up.

Confidence of consumer is built on trust. Trust is achieved when a brand’s ethos, values and actions are aligned – doing things for the right reasons, with transparency and authenticity. This according to me the glue of cultural branding. A new model, practical in nature and with an associated change in metaphor that helps make more sense of the complexity inherent in human buying behaviour which is linked to culture.

Here are three key things to creating a cultural pedestal of your brand strategy –

Story and Storification

Compelling stories bring out certain characteristics of the brand to form the connect and bond with the existing consumers and the potential consumers (strangers in the Flywheel). The challenge is in crafting, building and concluding a story, or maybe not even conclude but create in continuation. The format of the storytelling depends on the overarching media strategy. Marketers are always on the hunt for tactics to get as many eyeballs as possible- urgency, fear, discounts as bait. However, while those might work once or twice, they rarely build lasting results. So it is important to feel the story before storifying.

Brand Visuals & Language

Beyond aesthetics, symbols and their extensions have the ability to create spark among the audience. Think of Jonnie Walker, Ferrari, Dettol and so on. This is also because of a certain communication style and the underlying emotion that is intertwined to craft a truly unique and strong brand, you need to go beyond the surface and delve into the core of your business. This means understanding the essence of your organisation, values it holds, and how it aligns with the beliefs and aspirations of your customer base.

Inclusive community

And since we are talking about culture, I can’t think of a better example than how Harley-Davidson united riders from all walks of life, cultural branding starts with having a relentless commitment to fostering an inclusive community where customers can bond and support each other. Also, the brand thought about the people who love brand but nay not be able to purchase (being aspirational and expensive. The brand-designed apparel can be purchased for those who can’t afford their motorcycle. Stickers, riding gear, racing apparel, jerseys, and pins are available at their shop. These made aspiring Harley riders feel like they were still in the community. The power of community must not be undermined while building cultural branding that could evolve into a cult.

To conclude, cultural branding is journey toward crafting memorable moments, engaging human senses and forging deeper brand connections with consistently strengthening the bridge between your consumer & your brand and that bridge is made of authenticity and trust, the two most difficult elements to make and easiest to break in the prism. It must appeal, inspire, arouse interest and unravel something.

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