Want to catch the attention of consumers? New research from MAGNA|IPG and Twitter says you'd better be culturally relevant, according to AdAge. Particularly if you're aiming at younger people.

It might not seem like a surprise if you've been following news of marketing programs over the last year. SC Johnson found itself on the wrong side of a case of brand identity that unfairly tied it to the opioid crisis. Nike and Colin Kaepernick had a hit in a massively successful ad campaign last year that pointedly embraced a political view. Heck, Domino's took up fixing potholes. Talk about getting involved.

According to the study, none of it is surprising because people want more of brands. Twenty-five percent of consumer purchase decisions involved brand cultural involvement, versus 44 percent on price and quality and 31 percent on brand perceptions.

However, hold off on the assumptions for a moment. Cultural involvement is a broad concept that can include social issues and movements, pop culture events, and trends and issues. It's not enough to be aware of a big social movement. You need to know about such things as Taco Tuesday and National Dog Day as well as the latest political or social whirlwind.

Here's a rundown of some aspects of popular culture: 38 percent of people consider brand involvement in pop culture social issues and movements either important or very important while 47 percent think the same of social issues and movements. And consumers from 18 to 35 feel much more strongly about brand involvement than average. Particularly Twitter users, the study that involved Twitter claims.

Not to suggest that any of this is necessarily wrong. When you are responsible for a business, you are also responsible for a context greater than making a buck. If something is wrong in society, maybe you have an obligation to address it. If there's a social event, perhaps you should take part in some way as your customers do.

However, there are some considerations you need to make. One is whether a given embrace of popular culture is authentic. There may be an obvious connection between something and your company's brand and values. The association may be more subtle, but still, when pointed out, clear. For some types of popular culture, like a major sports game, the context can be contrived and still reasonable, like that furniture store in Houston that has bet and lost millions more than once on furniture giveaways, depending on the winner of that year's Super Bowl.

Or there may be no real connection with something more serious, in which case people may see you as using an issue as a marketing ploy. The terms greenwashing and pinkwashing--brands trying to promote themselves with a veneer of caring about the environment or breast cancer--are two examples.

Another consideration is whether whatever effort you make, even assuming a completely genuine motivation, connects with your customers. If not, it doesn't mean that you should walk away from what you perceive as important. Respect your own beliefs, as it will help you be more authentic, which eventually can have positive impact on the business. (Or might just be the right  to do.) But don't assume that what you do is necessarily going to translate into a marketing boost.

Finally, when you consider studies such as these, also look at statistics behind them. About 22 percent of U.S. adults use Twitter, according to Pew Research Center. But 80 percent of all tweets come from 10 percent of the adult users, or 2.2 percent of the general populace. The median Twitter user in the U.S. in a given month posts two tweets, marks another tweet as a favorite, follows 89 accounts, and is followed by 25 people.

Much of the traffic and breast beating and disapproval comes from a tiny and non-uniform sample from the country. The big lessons you are supposed to learn might not even apply past a vocal but miniscule group.

Published on: Oct 9, 2019
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