Many brands are using anthropologists to help them identify and understand the forces and themes impacting their customers’ lives and mindsets. And one of the main areas of observation for an anthropologist is culture. Understanding culture helps brands predict and capitalize on upcoming trends.
I personally have an interest in culture especially when I hear it bandied around often without an understanding of what it is, what makes up culture, how it is created and what influences it.
So this post is my attempt to understand culture and how brands can be part of it.
What is Culture?
Culture is fundamentally about meaning and expression. It is how and where we derive our meaning from the world and people around us.
Societies function via written and unwritten ‘rules’ that people ascribe to willingly or unwillingly. The rules that we follow without noticing, and the rules that some people break willingly. This is culture.
But these rules are constantly changing and evolving, in fact, most of the time, we don’t notice them until they are broken. For example, the act of ‘gathering people to eat’ is draped with cultural meaning – otherwise, the pictures below are just people having lunch. But a family lunch, team lunch and quiet romantic getaway are draped with different traditions, meaning and emotional attachments - this is culture.
Artists, Musicians, Comedians, Journalists often bring to light or challenge culture in their work. They make observations and statements about culture in their music or writing.
How can we get better at Cultural Understanding and Culture Spotting?
In order to understand culture and cultural meaning, we need to investigate the meaning behind certain rituals and phenomena.
As we observe and become curious about events around us, we should be asking: what does this symbolise? why is this important? what is changing? where are we going?
Can you think of some cultural rules that have recently been broken in MENA? Here are a few:
- The resurgence of artistic expression? What does this mean about how people are expressing themselves?
- Women driving in KSA? What does this mean about the way society is changing?
- Cinema in KSA? What does this mean about entertainment in the region?
Brands that wish to be more culturally relevant could choose to follow either of two directions:
- How can we be part of the cultural conversation?
- How can we challenge cultural assumptions in a way that attracts people to our brand?
The main goal of producing brands and their branded content is to ensure they resonate with their audiences so that they connect with them and provide solutions to their life, making the brand more salient. Being culturally relevant helps achieve this goal.