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Driving brand relevance in cultural moments


Driving brand relevance in cultural moments


Connection is arguably the most important thing for brands to get right with customers. But when it comes to capturing the attention of consumers, a brands’ work is cut out. Consumers are using more devices; they’re engaging across more platforms with more content ready at their fingertips. Lion Group’s Anubha Sahasrabuddhe explores.

The importance of connection

Amongst this increasingly fragmented landscape, cultural moments are more important than ever for brands to engage in a meaningful way. Recently, a much-loved Canadian prime time news anchor, Lisa LaFlamme, was dismissed from her position after more than three decades with CTV network. It soon came to light that a senior executive had demanded to know who approved LaFlamme’s choice to “let her hair go grey” before she was unceremoniously dropped.

The narrative became a springboard for a much a larger conversation about the challenges of ageism and sexism at work; it presented the cultural moment for Dove to engage its customers with the #keepthegrey campaign. It was a success with consumers because this already aligned with Dove’s values and resonated with its longstanding Real Beauty Pledge, which encourages women to feel good about themselves by being their natural selves.

Cultural moments are more important than ever for brands to grasp as the conduit for connection. From shared experiences like major sports events to shared reactions to news stories like Lisa’s resignation, occasions that captivate the public are a valuable opportunity to engage audiences and share a message that will have lasting impact. I believe when done correctly, these cultural moments have a key role in building an authentic connection between a brand and its consumers.

Not every cultural moment is the same

The saturated media landscape is making it harder to achieve brand salience, and most marketers will appreciate why leaning into cultural moments is a significant opportunity. Yet simply ‘showing up’ to the nominated moment and expecting your audience to engage with your brand does not guarantee success. It sometimes doesn’t even guarantee any noise for your brand.

When it comes to cultural moments, not every event can trigger the same impact, or spark a meaningful conversation. Participating in a cultural moment usually lives on a spectrum ranging from fun and light-hearted, to ‘out there’ or nuanced. In my experience as a marketer, it has often involved a combination of these. What brands need to discern is the right moment to take part in the cultural conversation. Not every moment will be the right one for your brand to have a voice, so having that deep understanding of why your brand is choosing to play in this moment – and what value you can contribute – will help elevate the way customers respond to you. Brands should also play with the ‘long game’ in mind, therefore consistency in values is key for your customers.  

Using culture saves brands in real time

When a cultural moment presents itself, there can be an inclination from brands to instantly jump on the chance to be seen and spoken about. But it’s our role as marketers to discern the opportunity at hand and acknowledge how we can add genuine value to the conversation. After all, one of our biggest responsibilities in our jobs as marketers is to understand how to solve problems in real time. 

 As Dove has executed so well last month, when brands decide to get involved in cultural moments to build identity, it needs to be easy for people to connect the dots and understand the relevance, the ‘why’ behind getting involved. We’re seeing this challenge play out for many consumer cohorts – whether it be LGBTQIA+ community, or Gen Z consumers – most brands want to be appealing but the connection is hard to maintain without relevance.

Representation is more than visual

Speaking of connecting with audiences, embedding brands in cultural moments is such an important conversation for us to consider in the cultural melting pot that is Australia. We pride ourselves on our diversity, but we need to acknowledge that our cultural identity as Aussies is more complex than the country our parents were born in or the number of languages we can speak. Driving representation in cultural moments is more than casting diversity to break up the sea of white faces. It’s a start, but marketers have enormous potential to contribute to building a culturally diverse voice that connects with consumers.

We cannot lose sight of our role as marketers in shaping culture. We are tasked with representing the breadth of our cultural landscape here and now – and our ability to connect with the next generation of Australian consumers will determine our success. Shaping culture requires courage to try – and the willingness to learn from mistakes – with the knowing that it’s all in service of better outcomes and stronger brands.

When riding the wave of cultural moments in Australia, I believe brands have an exciting opportunity to lean into the richness of what makes up a modern Australian. The opportunities are ripe for brands to join the conversation and have something meaningful to say that will connect with audiences. As I said before, we have a significant responsibility as marketers to not just draw attention to our brands, but to identify what are our barriers to deeper cultural relevance and how we can show up to respond to diverse consumer needs.   

 It’s an exciting time for marketing in Australia. There’s huge potential for brands to join in conversations and use moments to be a part of changing cultural shifts. While brands must always remain discerning of where, when and why they’re participating in a cultural moment, these challenges shouldn’t make businesses shy away or throw the opportunity into the ‘too hard’ basket. Marketers should not lose sight of the underpinning goal to build genuine connection – there’s no greater satisfaction in recognising when your brand’s role in a cultural moment has the ability to generate a long lasting and positive impact.


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