The age of culture-led brands

Culture has a huge influence on an individual’s personality. Whether it’s the music you listen to, the food you eat or the clothes you wear, everyday experiences shape who we are as people. The products and services we choose to buy are also a key part of this culture.

The brands we decide to spend our money with say a lot about our individual identity and the culture we’re associated with. Even a decision as simple as the supermarket we shop at can say a lot about who we are, what our income is and what we value. Cultural branding is just one way businesses can align themselves to a particular group of individuals, a social or political movement or, a set of values.

This article will explain what cultural branding is, how it can be created and what the benefits can be for businesses.

What is cultural branding?

Cultural branding is when a business shapes its brand around a particular cultural movement or group. Although it’s more commonly associated with B2C giants such as Coca-Cola, Starbucks or Nike, there are leaders within B2B sectors (like Deloitte and McKinsey) that have inspired and promoted relevant business cultures.

In short, while a standard brand might promote a new product or service, a cultural brand would talk about the way they do things and make their ‘culture’ the driving force behind everything they do.

Recently, some of the world’s biggest brands have started to make this shift towards culture-led identities. Much of this movement has been driven by the increased interest and engagement in environmental causes such as reducing meat consumption, responsible resourcing and sustainability.

One of the most recent examples of this is Burger King. What began as the much-anticipated launch of a plant-based menu became the transformation of their Leicester Square, London branch into a 100% meat-free restaurant and a pledge to make 50% of its menu meat-free by 2030.

Originally aimed at the meat-loving crowd, this is a huge shift in focus for Burger King and shows a real commitment towards both the meat-free movement and the younger demographics that align themselves with it.

So why would the brand decide to make this radical change and how did it and others go about it?

Why choose a culture-led approach?

There are many benefits brands that take a culture-led approach can take advantage of, including:

• Better customer engagement: by aligning to a customer’s cultural preferences, brands can connect to them on a much deeper level. Creating or promoting a culture that your customers are or aspire to be a part of shows that you understand them, share their values and want to create experiences or products that will truly enhance their lives and identity.

• Easier adaptation to local markets: different parts of the world have different cultures. So, if you’re a current or aspiring multinational brand, then taking a culture-led approach will mean you can connect to customers in different parts of the world effectively and quickly.

• Increased authenticity: younger consumers in particular value the authenticity of brands highly and make it a determining factor in their purchasing decisions. If you and your customers genuinely believe in the same values, then you can create a truly meaningful and profitable relationship.

• Improved internal experience: having a clear and purposeful culture doesn’t just have benefits for your customers, but for your employees too. From recruiting like-minded individuals into the business to bringing teams together around common values, your colleagues won’t just work to live but become your most effective brand ambassadors too.

• Positioning you as change-makers: whether your take on a little-known cause, become part of a subculture or new, innovative movement, being led by culture means you become an icon, ambassador, and thought-leader within it.

What does culture-led branding look like?

When you think of skateboarders, you think Vans. Innovation? Apple. USA? Jack Daniels. Culture is a far-reaching and all-encompassing term that can be difficult to pin down. So what does it look like within a business and how are brands led by it?

Taking a stand.

Market leaders in pre-loved fashion, the Vestiaire Collective and its products have taken a stand against the throw-away culture. An online marketplace where users can buy and sell luxury or designer items, their aim is to encourage fashion lovers to follow their passion, without making an environmental impact.

Their most recent campaign, ‘Long Live Fashion’, demonstrates this perfectly, with a fashion show where ‘everything is pre-loved, even the models’. Rather than humans wearing their clothes, they’ve created their own puppet models from pre-loved clothes. Fun, creative and innovative, it connects directly with the eco-conscious fashion lover.

Creating a community.

Harley Davidson has always been an iconic brand within the biking subculture. More than just a bike, the Harley culture is about experiencing the ride together whatever background you have or part of the world you’re from. Freedom, adventure and unity are the values that Harley riders live by.

Creating this sense of community has been the inspiration behind Harley’s latest marketing campaign ‘United We Ride’.

This approach clearly sets out the values that the brand and its followers hold dear, as well as harking back to its heritage and product quality. By showcasing the lifestyle and experience, Harley creates a culture that people aspire to be a part of.

Doing things differently.

Just because a business is B2B doesn’t mean it can be any less inspiring or aspirational. One example of this is Clim8 Invest, a sustainable investment fund and platform. Rather than following a traditional business model, Clim8 purely focuses on investing in clean energy and sustainable businesses.

Using an app, customers can take advantage of the team’s knowledge and invest directly in green businesses. By structuring its business in this new, innovative way, Clim8 not only takes a stand against climate change, but sets out a new culture and approach for investors who want to make a genuine difference with responsible investments.

How can you bring more culture to your brand?

For culture to take a lead with your brand, you need to first understand what that culture is. Whether it’s a movement you believe in, the purpose that drives your business or an alternative approach to customers’ challenges, getting experienced advice from a branding agency can help you dive into what your culture is, shape it and roll it out across your whole brand.

Having worked with a range of B2C and B2B brands, we know how to get to the heart of the culture that drives your business and turn it into an identity that shapes and elevates your brand.

To find out more about how we could turn your brand from an unknown to a cultural icon, get in touch with our team today by emailing us at hello@designmc.org