Brands and Culture, Symbiotic?

Ecopreneurist logo new The article below discusses the need for marketers and communicators to take culture into account when establishing any brands.  Furthermore, powerful brands are able to become a part of culture because they actually make people's lives better.

Posted Sept. 30, 2009

By Ryan Jones, Ecopreneurist

When you need to urgently need to blow your nose in Germany and
don’t have a tissue on hand, you might ask a friend “Hast du ein
Tempo?” (Do you have a Tempo?)

Tempo, it turns out, is a brand of tissue, not the German word for tissue.

Substituting a brand name for a general product description is
relatively common across a number of languages. How many times have you
heard someone say “Just Google
that” or “Can I have a COKE please”? Over the years, powerful brands
have impacted our culture and slipped into our language. For a brand,
this is the ultimate compliment and a big awareness driver. In fact,
Coke and Google (the 2 examples above) are now the #1 and #2 brands
respectively on Interbrands latest list of powerful brands. Tempo continues to be a very powerful brand in Germany.

As Corporations grow in size and influence (51 of the 100 largest economies in the world are corporations
now) I’m wondering about the way in which Brands will deepen their
influence on culture in the future. But before we get into to that
discussion, let’s briefly touch on how culture impacts brands.

Culture –> Brand

Culture (e.g. music, fashion, morality, language, tech., law,
spirituality) forms the shared values and beliefs of a society. Much of
the discussion around how brands interact in culture centers around how
brands need to deeply understand local cultural philosophies and
consumption patterns when they enter into a new market. Often, we are
told, brands work well in their home country, only to fail miserably
when they don’t adapt their offerings to local cultures and traditions.
Wal-Mart, for example, had to exit the German market due in part to a lack of understanding around the German everyday discount shopper.

Indeed, understanding culture is very important for companies and
brands because culture provides the framework within which households
function. Recently, Branding Insider
pointed out: Culture, in effect, provides the framework within which
individuals and households function. A major consequence of culture is
its impact on consumption patterns of individuals and institutions.
Depending on the underlying cultural philosophy consumers tend to
follow certain consumption patterns.

Many big global companies have seen how their brands can fail when
they don’t pay close enough attention to local culture, so they have
adopted a strong “culture impacts brand” lens, whereby they take the
consumer is boss perspective to ensure that the organization respects
the traditions/norms of a culture. Local go to market teams are
deployed around the world and organizational measures are put into
place to help a product succeed across significantly different
countries and cultures.

Brands–> Culture

Moving back to the impact of brands on culture, discussion…beyond
language, when a brand introduces a new product with a new benefit that
changes an entire consumption pattern or norm, what does this mean for
culture? And, how will brands extend their role in a culture creation
in the future? One interesting area to watch is the world of fashion.
Fashion Brands definitely play a role in the development of a culture.
Fashion brands tell us what is or is not acceptable to wear, shaping
our values and norm…ultimately our culture. Google and Apple are also
brands that some tout as culture shaping. Both brands are revolutionizing the way we work online – personally and corporately.

It does seem very logical for Brands to want to be a part of culture
and, when they can, help to shape it. As James Hunter points out:
Culture is a resource and a form of power.

So if you believe that brands are inevitably poised to impact
culture in a deeper way moving forward, how should this responsibly be
done? Bob Gilbreath
offers an excellent approach where Brands are built “1 act at a time”
via meaningful marketing that people choose to engage with. In this
model, the marketing itself doesn’t intrude on people–it improves
lives. It sounds idealistic, but Bob provides a couple of tangible
examples: Nike has turned its entire marketing plan toward services for
training athletes. T-Mobile is creating spontaneous events in London to
give people an experience worth recording and sharing on their mobile
devices. Procter & Gamble is teaching people in developing nations
the importance of brushing their teeth and washing their hands.

Great points Bob, let 1000 meaningful marketing campaigns bloom!

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