Cultural Relevance and Storytelling

Cultural Relevance and Storytelling

It's all about Data and Authentic Engagement 

The new reality for brands is people are consuming and creating more content in more ways than ever before. Eric Schmidt said we now generate as much information every two days as was generated from the beginning of time to 2003. Next time you stand in line at your local Starbucks notice how everyone is staring at their smart phone sending emails, updating Facebook status or reading the headlines.

This combination of consumption and creation has opened new opportunities for brands who want to get into the content game. Many brands are getting into the content game, According to AdAge 51% of marketing executives said they were already investing bigger marketing budgets.

L’Oreal is a great example of a brand acting like a publisher. They noticed a trend that women were watching YouTube videos on how to apply cosmetics. A competitor Lancome was already sponsoring a YouTube personality and makeup artist Michelle Phan. L’Oreal’s response was a partnership with demand media to create well-produced how-to videos that engage consumers at each stage of the buying process. Marc Speichert, chief marketing officer of L’Oreal USA says: “It’s important for us to get this right, because the whole path to purchase is changing. In the past it was a relatively simple cycle: we’d generate demand on TV and in print and then drive sales. Now, consumers research online first, and there is a new first moment of truth. So we have to think about how we insert ourselves into that consumer education.”

However, there is an inherent risk in creating too much-planned content. The big one is missing the opportunity to be timely. Timeliness shapes the perception of how relevant a brand is in the cultural conversation. Timely = Real-time, or as my colleague Dan Burrier (@dburrier) describes it as “Perceived real time”. The idea behind this concept is that you don’t need an instant response. Instead take a moment

to reflect, create a story and engage with an authentic voice.

Operating a culturally relevant and real-time publishing model gives you the ability to anticipate market shifts and adjust in real time. Another person on our team likened this to the scene in Back to the Future where Michael J. Fox went back in time and got the sports almanac and was able to predict who was going to win the World Series.

Identifying relevant topics can be done in many ways depending on budgets. We have found the combination of listening platforms, search insights and curated content feeds are great ways to stay on top of real time trends and can scale depending on size or program. You can think of this as a newsroom team that wakes up to listening reports, curated news feeds and trending search topics to inform its daily/weekly editorial calendar.

Just staying on top of the trends and streams is not enough. It is important to find the intersection of what is trending with your brand’s messaging. This is the sweet spot. This is spot where your brand’s story fits into the larger cultural conversation.

Ralph Santana from Samsung describes that staying culturally relevant demonstrates you have a role in the lifestyle, beliefs and shared value systems of a group. This approach allows brands to move away from the feature sets to telling stories about their role in your life, which bridges the gap from a functional role in the mind of the consumer to an emotional one.

Having spent several years working for a provider of large-scale content management solutions I have seen very well planned editorial calendars that adapt to real time trends, and others that are so focused on the process they miss the opportunity to be timely. I am not advocating a move away from a well-planned editorial calendar; rather challenging you to think about how trends can inform what is planned, and how to augment a strategy with a real time model for responding to what is happening now.