Online communities are now the creators and arbiters of culture. These powerful networks of like-minded people define and disseminate culture. Building a successful global brand means achieving cultural relevance for the brand. Brand managers yearn to have their brands become part of the nomenclature of these digital communities. This crowdculture is at the forefront of cultural innovation, and therefore essential to branding in the age of social media.
Crowdcultures congregate around unlimited topics from coffee to cars to kangaroos. Each community wields its own power, no matter how trivial the subject. Think of the millions of people around the world that love cats and consume cat culture’s media. Brands would love to be cultural innovators in the $103 Billion pet industry.
Societies of Art and Culture
In addition to huge communities established around mundane subjects, there are mass populations of consumers and creators sharing art online. Fine arts, music, motion pictures, photography and theater among other art forms are pooled together from around the world, able to be shared critiqued, discussed, dissected, elevated, or destroyed and established as cultural innovation. Streaming music services are driving the music industry and global culture as well. Branding partnerships with musicians as cultural ambassadors makes sense if mutual goals are aligned.
A Societal Shift to “Cleaner” Food
Chipotle tapped into the crowdcultures that formed around the trend toward locally sourced and community-based agriculture. This societal change caused a cultural shift toward organic farming and cleaner food. Chipotle transcended to cultural innovator status by aligning with this movement. Their tagline, “Real Ingredients. Real Purpose. Real Flavor.”, emphasizes what is important to this culture.
It’s Always been This Way
Prior to the age of the internet, brands would partner with tv, music, and movies and hope to latch onto part of the influential culture of the day. The great influence of limited media outlets created brand giants like Proctor and Gamble, Unilever, and GE. Today, influential culture arises from once-isolated niche online communities. They now have an easy way to congregate, discuss, collaborate, and disseminate large swathes of information that can be arresting, engaging, and easily shared in a matter of minutes. This exchange of information makes crowdcultures primary cultural innovators. Brands must find the crowdcultures that align with their goals to achieve cultural relevance and become successful global brands.