THE BLOG
01/28/2016 07:43 pm ET | Updated Jan 28, 2017

Connecting with Culture

It is becoming ever clearer that people don't fundamentally care about brands. They are so peripheral to people's lives that only around 5 percent of brands would be truly missed if they were to vanish tomorrow (Meaningful Brands, Havas). Instead people, of course, care about the things in the world that matter to them -- the things they find fascinating, thrilling or important.

This sentiment is never truer than with Millennials. The 1.8 billion individuals that make up this cohort are demanding more of brands than other generations ever did; they aren't simply willing to accept what they are given. They tend to value experience over commodity, and they are constantly seeking something bigger than just products. They want to be engrossed in something different and genuinely meaningful.

This realization means that brands have to push beyond just their products and services. They have to embed themselves in culture by tapping into the things that people are actually concerned about. Brands are beginning to acknowledge that they have to do far more than just say things -- they have to do them as well. They have to contribute something of value beyond their category.

In a world where people don't care about brands, it is a brand's role to champion something they do care about.

The best way to do this is by connecting with culture. It is the key to finding the topics that people honestly connect with. This can be major global issues -- animal testing, carbon emissions and responsible farming have all not just been addressed, but have seen real change as a result of brands' actions -- but it can also be the smaller, more personal things too.

From behaving like a genuine lifestyle brand the way Dulux do, to encouraging children to get mucky in the great outdoors like the National Trust, to celebrating the power of women and girls the way that Always and Sports England have -- brands' actions and voices can echo far beyond their product offer.

Brands need to understand the role they wish to play. From local start-ups to global heavy weights, more and more brands are pushing themselves to stand for something that is both meaningful to people, and distinctive in the world. This way, they can not only stand out, but they can also have an impact on vital trends and issues. They can pre-empt cultural shifts and harness change for themselves, setting the trail ablaze for the rest to follow.

Contributed by Hazel Barkworth, Associate Director, at Added Value and Tom Pattison, Cultural Insight Executive at Added Value.