How to create a culture brand in a post-Brexit, Trump world | Mumbrella360

In this session from the Mumbrella360 conference, a panel of experienced strategists and managing partners consider if 'culture' brands can succeed in such a politically divisive time.

Over the space of a few months, corporate giants Pepsi, Dove and McDonald’s have all come under fire for various misguided attempts at positioning themselves as ‘culture’ brands. From political protests to dead dads, it seems there’s nowhere brands won’t go in an attempt to tug at potential consumers’ heartstrings.

But in such a politically divided time, can a culture brand even exist, let alone succeed?

In the following panel from the Mumbrella360 summit, Louise Eyres, AANA board member, is joined by former Clemenger BBDO strategist Al Crawford, Amanda McGregor, SBS’ director of marketing, and Nicola Hepenstall, managing director at Hall & Partners Open Mind. The panel is moderated by Richard King, managing partner, GRACosway.

Louise Eyres kicks off the session by pointing out how the true definition of post-truth is “when emotion plays a greater part in decision-making than fact. And that really is in many ways what great branding is – when you can play to emotion and draw people in”.

She adds: “If we put the Trump policy aside, there are many aspects of life in Trump that there are lessons to be learned for brands and consumers”.

Richard King makes his position on the topic of culture brands clear: “I am and always have been a cultural sceptic, I think that at best, it’s a waste of shareholder money, and at worst a cynical exploitation of customers to sell more stuff.”

The panel then considers if it’s possible for a brand to remain a ‘culture’ brand whilst also appealing to a wide variety of consumers.

SBS’ McGregor says: “Often we’re drawing on both ends of the spectrum, and again that’s really important because in these matters we need to be impartial and we need to be inclusive, and that can be tricky for some people. Some of our content can be challenging and confronting but it’s important that we tell these stories to as broader audience as possible.”

However, as Crawford points out, it’s far easier for SBS to retain its culture credentials than a company attempting to sell a can of beans: “A) brands don’t necessarily need to enter that kind of vacuum, and B) if they do, they have to be super careful about it so they don’t look exploitative.

“At the moment there is a liberal elite who tend to dominate marketing and advertising agencies. There is a desire to shoot your brand into the cultural stratosphere, and everybody seems to want to be ‘I’m not a can of beans, I’m here for the liberation of whatever it is’.”

Crawford then points to Saturday Night Live’s Cheetos skit, which pokes fun at this trend towards meaningless emotional advertising.

Hepenstall counters with the results of a recent survey which found 75% of people believed businesses had a role to play in social issues. “What that actually means is”, she says, “a meaningful role to play.”

“If you just decided that ‘It’s a great hashtag and and it’s all about an ad and how to get around people’s natural scepticism by going to something incredible emotional and important to them’, but you’re not demonstrating how you’re actually impacting on the cause, you’ve really lost the plot.”


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