Cultural Vibrancy: The New Essential Partner for Growth

06/26/2015 04:40 pm ET | Updated Jun 26, 2016

Technology has become a catalyst for change. We connect differently, we share more freely, our eyes are open to the world in a way they never could be before and 1.8 billion millennials are collectively defining their future, our future, across geographies and across culture. Today people have the power to be activists, citizens, entrepreneurs, owners - they are creators, collaborators and contributors. The old idea of a consumer has been left behind.

People don't care about brands, so make your brand an authentic champion of something they do care about. Cultural Vibrancy is the essential partner to drive meaningful brand growth. To cut through in an increasingly cluttered landscape requires brands to contribute to culture (and even to create culture) in a way that is meaningful beyond their category. This means that businesses need to think about connecting with culture as a core part of the marketing day job.

The first step is to open your eyes to the changing landscape around you. Added Value's work with Diageo proves the value of this mentality. They have big ambitions to make their brands cultural icons that transcend their categories. For Diageo understanding the shifting culture of socializing has been essential. When people now socialize they are looking for experiences that make their lives feel richer, that broaden their horizons and Diageo have had to expand their thinking to understand how their brands can still play a part here.

Next, turn this cultural understanding into strategy by developing a brand purpose that is driven by your brand's cultural mission. It's not about jumping on the back of a cultural movement but playing a part in one, or even better starting one. Sport for England is picking up where Dove left off to encourage women back into sport without being worried about the way they look. The #thisgirlcan campaign has understood the cultural reasons getting in the way of women exercising and it's busy re-writing the rules. And Uber and AirBNB are changing how the world works. These are not niche challenger brands; they have in a short space of time become global cultural icons. These brands are united by one thing - they have all looked outside their category at the wider world to understand the contribution they should be making to people's lives.

To move from identifying a cultural mission to really contributing to culture and changing the world in a tangible way, you need to activate your brand's cultural strategy. Diageo did just this by identifying cultural spaces they could play in with Smirnoff's cultural mission to move people to be more open, based on the insight that the brand's biggest purchasing power lies with millennials, the most networked generation for whom inclusivity is a way of life. So how do Diageo seek to make the world more inclusive through vodka? By taking inspiration from the music category and the most inclusive genre that anyone can create in their bedroom, Electronic Dance Music. They set up the 'Sound Collective' which not only showcases music, but brings people closer to artists, contributing to a cultural space that is fundamentally linked to openness.

The final step is to show its working and change your perspective to think of culture as meaningful data and setting your brand up for future growth, giving a 3rd dimension to traditional tracking or brand health studies. Over the last 5 years, brands have improved their cultural traction as they embrace technology. Jaguar's #goodtobebad campaign gave the brand a delicious dark side, saw them in sync with culture and surge past their rivals with US sales rising by 20%.

To fuel growth, businesses need to think about culture first and their brands second. This means creating a culture of culture within the organisation, identifying a cultural mission that will allow your brand to make a meaningful contribution to the world and then activating it. And finally turn culture into data to see the brand world differently; deeply connecting businesses to what is happening today and consciously driving what will happen tomorrow.