Carisa Bianchi, chief strategist for TBWA/Chiat Day, on the importance of cultural relevance for branding.
iMedia: A brand used to be known as a promise, but going forward you said it will be known as a relationship. How can marketers form this relationship?
Bianchi: A brand is not just a product on a shelf. A brand is constantly changing and communicating, so it needs to think of itself as a person, not an object. It has to continuously prove its worth to people and nurture the relationship. It's no coincidence that Pan Am Airlines went out of business – the brand never changed to meet the culture's needs, whereas you look at a brand like Apple, whose customers share their experiences and have made it a cultural phenomenon. Apple has kept its customers' interest over decades by maintaining the strategy to provide "creative tools for creative minds." This is opposite from Microsoft's product-focused strategy. Apple sells benefits, Microsoft sells technology.
Rest of the interview here.
Ok, not many brands can hit the cultural jackpot like Apple, but being tuned in to, nurturing, supporting, and responding to the culture in which a brand lives and breaths is critical. On this website, by far the most popular google search term that refers people to the site is "NIKE GINGA", another great example of cultural relevance.
(had to add this to the post, from Grant McCracken's site, on the challenges brands face adapting to contemporary culture). (emphasis added)
Living as we do in a dynamic world, consumers are more various and more changeable than before. Creating current meanings requires deep knowledge of the culture and constant adjustment to its changing trends. The best brands are a little like sailing ships. They have the deep ballast of long standing meaning, the deck cargo of recent meanings, and tall sails that must be repositioned often to adjust to constantly, sometimes whimsically, changing consumer taste and preference.
To say that brands are having a hard time adding value is merely to say that they find themselves charged with the task of responding to a world that no one thought was possible. (Remember when capitalism stood accused of producing a monolithic, static culture?) It should also be observed that both marketing professionals (Lafley at P&G) and marketing scholars (see references) are hard at work trying to figure out how responsiveness might work.
Brands may becoming more like shadows, as Surowiecki says. Indeed we must hope that this is so. It will make them more nimble and fluid than they used to be. “Shadow management,” perhaps this is a new brand strategy. But it will take a subtlety and responsiveness that the marketer has yet fully to master. As the Elizabethans used to say: “Pursue your shadow and you will never catch it. Run from your shadow and it will follow you anywhere.”