Brands as Culture
It’s not enough for brands to make ads anymore, they also have to create culture. In simpler times, there were only a handful of TV shows to watch and only so many products to advertise to an audience that was available and attentive. But given the oversaturated and chaotic culture we live in, breaking through the noise requires a lot more than a full-page ad in the Sunday paper.
Brands now needing to create culture can sound overwhelming or insurmountable when added to the ever-growing must-do list. But they don’t have to do it alone. Instead of co-opting, which is a knee-jerk reaction or an attempt to keep up with the moving world around you, brands can and should co-create.
Bacardi is a great example of this. They cleverly named Swizz Beatz as Chief Creative for Culture and started “No Commission,” a creative space for artists to sell their work sans high gallery commission (hence the name) at this popular and culturally relevant event that’s had runs in Miami, New York, and soon, London. By creating a genuine partnership with Swizz Beatz, someone with the necessary credibility, and launching their own platform in the music and arts scene, they’ve positioned their brand at the intersection of where culture is born. They could have opted for a traditional endorsement, but now they’ve earned a bit of credibility in the process of creating their own nugget of culture.
Another great example is Paris-based concept store, colette. The mother-daughter duo behind the wildly successful cultural outpost has successfully married retail, gallery, and art all in one. Aside from curating hip and hard-to-find products, they’ve been collaborating with other artists and brands for decades, turning their retail space into a culture hub that includes an art gallery and exhibition space. Their impressive list of collaborations spans from Hérmes and Yves Saint Laurent to Ladurée and Aston Martin.
If done properly, brands can give resources and bring attention to worthwhile cultural movements. If handled poorly, it can teeter the line between inspiration and duplication. Creating culture doesn’t just look like the examples above. Brands can experiment in ways that match their personalities too: events, advocacy of social initiatives, or entire new mediums of sharing… whatever it takes to breakthrough today’s attention economy.
Creating culture offers brands a competitive advantage and the opportunity to connect with the people most invested in them. It can also be a powerful tool for innovation. Rather than another a box to check, this new mandate can be a legitimate and viable strategy for economic growth. At the very least, it’s more fun, right?
Photo credits: Clem Onojeghuo (top post) and Pana Vasquez (bottom post)