The Six Best Ways to Connect Brands to Culture

collage of brands and pop culture

By Evan Horowitz, CEO, Movers+Shakers

What is the key to increase relevance, driving brand love and, ultimately, revenue? Well, the answer isn’t far off from how one got to be class president or homecoming king/queen in high school. The secret is simply to be “cool”!  And brands can do that by making themselves culturally relevant. Just like the popular kid in school wearing trendy clothes, brands benefit greatly from participating in pop culture.

Here are six ways to connect your brand to culture, shared in rough order of most accessible to most involved.

Participate in large cultural moments

These are moments everyone is talking about. They usually pop up, get large and then disappear quickly. Even if you aren’t fully tuned in, these opportunities are hard to ignore, like the Bernie Sanders meme, for example. Many brands, like Shopify and Smile Direct Club, found creative and hilarious ways to incorporate Bernie and connect to the conversation that swept the internet.

The trick here is timing. What is even more important than engaging consumers, is that you strike at the right moment – and quickly. You don’t want to be the brand that activates the day or week after people have already moved on to the next big thing.

Engage in TikTok trends

Connecting to culture can be as easy as making a TikTok video. Did you know that 61% of TikTokers like brands better when they create or participate in a trend on TikTok?

TikTok has clearly taken off and it is an excellent barometer of what is happening in the world. Each week, new trends blaze through TikTok from dances to sounds to skits. Take the time to monitor the conversations people are having, and participate when it is relevant to your brand and its values. And don’t be afraid to get creative and take risks!

Tap into the conversation of the season

These topics may not be as widespread but typically trend for longer, so they pack a punch. NFTs are a great example. Brands have been making headlines and connecting with consumers through NFTs for the past few months, and the conversation is likely to continue through the rest of the year.

To tap into the conversation of the season, the question is, what are people talking about today? A great way to measure how people are feeling and what’s on their minds is to look at the media and what journalists are writing about. You may not have to respond as quickly as with large cultural moments, but you should still activate in a timely manner.

Use music to create relevance

Music has always held a place in culture. For brands, music used to predominantly mean jingles, which were designed to be catchy and jump out at you. At the time, it was extremely effective. Today, we’ve redesigned what it means to create branded music. It’s still catchy — but it also fits right into your customers’ playlists. That gives your brand an incredible cool factor.

React to consumer insights gleaned from social

Social media also holds a place in culture. As your team is looking at what is happening online (and offline too for that matter), you may see moments that relate to your brand. Follow along with what your customers are saying and play off of those conversations. When a video went viral of a Southwest airlines customer checking a pool noodle as checked baggage, Southwest responded quickly. They greeted the customer on her return flight with dozens of agents waving Southwest-branded pool noodles. That led to many more viral videos. EOS is another great example of this.

Give consumers something they didn’t know they wanted

Steve Jobs once said: “Some people say, Give the customers what they want. But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.”

The concept here is to be one step ahead of the consumer and predict their needs and wants before they do. So how do you give consumers something they didn’t know they wanted? It’s based on deep consumer insights and an understanding of the customer in an unexpected way, in a way that no one thought to put two and two together before. Do this right, and you could get everyone talking!

As they say, “with big risk comes big reward.” There are many different ways to connect your brand to culture and build relevance. And the good news is, you can start with things that are easier and more accessible. The key is to stay tuned in to what’s happening around you.

Building cultural relevance helps drive brand love, and ultimately sales. How will your brand enter the chat? Ready, set, go!

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