How to build culturally connected brands through experiences

Being culturally connected is the Holy Grail for brands aiming to create an emotional connection with people. Brands that tap into culture develop deep and longer lasting connections. But building culturally connected brands means we need to look at the world and people differently.

Instead of looking at consumers as passive receivers of messages, we need to think of them as actively involved in the process of creating brands.

And, instead of thinking about one-way marketing messages, brands need to think about the stories they tell in everything they do. When done right, experiences and events can play a very powerful role in creating cultural connections. How consumers think about status has radically transformed over the last few decades – whereas in the past, status was all about what we own, today it is about who weare and the experiences we have. The way we define ourselves and success has fundamentally changed, and our material possessions don’t play as crucial role as they have in the past.

For brands that want to get talked about and create cultural connections, experiential marketing has become an important part of the toolkit.

Think of the story you tell…

What makes experiences and events so powerful is that they give brands the ability to be creative and interactive and to engage all senses, from smell to sound. Therefore, thinking about the story you want to tell and what you want to achieve is even more important.

Magnum recently leveraged the power of experiential to strengthen its image as a brand that is part of the fashion world; its recent shopping event – which saw Regent Street closed for traffic in order to make space for live DJs and catwalks – was a powerful way of establishing credibility and associations in this new space. What part of your story do you want to tell through an experience?

...And the story people who were there will tell

The idea of experiences as the new status has had huge implications for what consumers talk about and the stories they choose to tell. While talking about new possessions can be seen as ostentatious or passé, people want to share experiences that say something about them.

Luxury brand Prada is among many who have realised the power of creating meaningful experiences; they have done this through hosting a literary festival with Italian publisher Feltrinelli, as well as intimate literary salons in their stores. How can you provide experiences that enrich consumers’ lives and are meaningful enough to make them proud to share?

Think about who you want these people to be

Reaching the right people – influencers who will spread the brand’s story – is crucial in order to make the most out of brand experiences. These influential, creative consumers respond well to experiences and content that feels original and fresh.

Kopparberg engaged creative consumers when it launched its Scandinavian cider in the UK market a few years ago. Knowing their audience wanted to be the first to discover the newest places and the freshest music – and to do so themselves rather than be told about them – they partnered with hipster media giant VICE to create a series of events celebrating the freshest talent from fi lm to fashion. How could you leverage the power of influencers to create new customers for your brand?

Focusing on cultural connections and storytelling means brands can create experiences that positively change behaviours and associations, and have a long lasting and wide-reaching impact.

This article was also published in Engage Magazine.