What is Culture Marketing

Have you ever seen a TV ad for Starbucks? How much RAM does the latest iPhone have? How many obese people do you see in a McDonalds advert? How many car adverts tells you the size of it’s engine? Features have become less and less important when people try and sell us something. Instead marketers and sales people are targeting not only how a product makes us feel, but on the perception of self that we want to portray. This is something we’ve dubbed Culture Marketing, and is particularly prevalent on Instagram.

Lets do a little exercise.

How many brand logos can you spot in this picture? None? What about this one?

And yet both these images do a powerful job of giving you the message that Nike wants to give. That Nike products are about going the extra mile. Pushing yourself further. You want to be like these people don’t you? Looking awesome, doing awesome things in awesome places. Many of Nikes Instagram posts reflect their “Just do it” moto, regardless of whether you’re doing it in Nike shoes or not.

Lets look at an older example.

You probably remember these ads from the late 2000s. Sure these mention the features of Macs, but look closer at the subliminal message being sent here. Which one of these guys do you want to be. Do you want to be the young, carefree, relaxed guy, probably working out of a coffeeshop adorned with the latest street art? Or do you want to be the other guy, old, stressed, highly strung, probably working out of a tiny cubicle in a cramped office. How do you want people to perceive you when you use your laptop, what do you want people to think you do? When was the last time you saw a hipster in a coffeeshop working with an IBM Thinkpad.

This campaign has bee hugely instrumental in catapulting Apple in to being the highest value company in the world. It’s been a long time since Apple provided the most features, or the highest build quality (remember bendgate?) or the highest spec (do you even know it?) and yet still people flock to the latest iPhone launches, where they enter the store to cheering and applause. Where being the first person out of the store gets you on national TV.

Even on software developers, Apple have got their culture marketing down to a fine art. A CEO that comes out in jeans and trainers. Modern music blaring in the build up, secretive invitations. You don’t want to be some coorporate shill. You want to be on the cusp of the next big thing. You want to be cool. Beyond the development community you get a very different reaction between telling people your an app developer compared to software developer.

Culture marketing expands beyond the perceived culture of the consumer. Starbucks, even without million dollar ad spend, is well known for its culture of sustainability and ethnic sourcing. Don’t you want to be part of that? Don’t you want to be making a difference to some coffee bean farmers life? Meanwhile the company got caught dodging taxes here in the UK. How ethical of them.

Buffer is another great example of culture marketing. They provide social media marketing scheduling. How could a culture possibly spring up around that. But Buffer’s company culture permeates everything they do. They even have a “Culture blog” if you needed it to get any more obvious. They talk about how great life is for their staff. They talk about things like “Transparency” and “Reflection”. Don’t you want to be part of that. How does their attitude as a company make you think about their product? But then ask yourself, does it really matter? It sure does work though.

An industry we can turn to to see the effects of cultural marketing is fashion and cosmetics. It seems every few weeks another company is being blasted for heavily photoshopped, unrealistic, and even dangerous perceptions of women. Meanwhile other companies are being celebrated for using “real” women, plus sized models. Here we are seeing a shift in culture happening in real time, and the brands are just utilising it, they are facilitating it.

So for your next marketing push, pay some attention to the culture you portray and think about the culture you customers are or should be a part of.

What do you think about Culture Marketing? Do you think it works? Do you find it annoying? What are your favourite examples? Does buying that latest SUV really mean you’ll go base jumping off a mountain? Does owning a macbook suddenly make you a better writer (judging by the quality of this blog post, I’ll let you decide).

In the meantime I’ll let you enjoy one of my favourite ad spoofs from College Humour

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