Now is a perfect time for brands to reflect on how they can better respond to and prepare for unexpected culture shifts. Just four years ago, TikTok was not a part of the mainstream social media landscape. However, after it became globally available in 2018, the app has emerged as a fierce competitor to established social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, with over 1 billion active global users. It’s essential that your brand has the tools to approach cultural shifts proactively rather than reactively. Below, we explore four ways brands can begin moving at the speed of culture.
Crucial for understanding your current users—what drives them, what they like and dislike, and where the trends are heading — social listening tools are essential resources for brands of all sizes. Social listening tools not only show consumer insights and data, but in a broader sense they can tell you what is happening in the world, which consequently helps you understand where your brand needs to be.
REI is a great example of a brand staying connected to their community. Their campaign #OptOutside was originally created as an opposition to consumerism on Black Friday, however, over time it developed into an ongoing tradition. As an outdoor retailer, this campaign resonated with their audience in values and interests. In 2019, four years after the campaign's inception, the hashtag had been used 259,000 times with a whopping 11.6 million engagements. The number of engagements is the clear proof of why REI was so successful with this campaign. People were not only participating in the campaign, but that participation was driving others to engage as well, thus expanding brand awareness.
When brands consider reaching fans who are directly in their community, they tend to automatically consider partnering with macro influencers. Macro influencers have the broadest reach, but there is a possibility that they are not necessarily reaching the biggest fans of your brand. Luckily, micro influencers are on the rise with the proliferation of social media channels. Brands are finding that when they need to speak more directly to the consumers who fit their ideal profiles, micro influencers are ideal messengers. Their performance is also better than for influencers with a larger reach, with microinfluencers on Instagram having an average engagement rate of 3.86%, while influencers on TikTok with fewer than 15k followers have an impressive 17.96% engagement rate.
They are driving culture in a variety of creative ways, so it is up to your brand to identify those who not only most align with your brand values, but who can drive your messaging in a new, fresh direction. Your brand must initially determine the different communities and demographic that you want to speak to in order to locate an influencer that can speak directly to consumers on the right channels. Having a stronger voice that is more connected to the brand generates concentrated engagement and differentiates ambassadors from advertising. Using micro influencers is more about connection rather than targeting, and when done right, can strengthen the relationship between brand and consumer.
Creating seamless experiences across digital platforms allows consumers to connect more with brands. Having consistency in marketing and communication allows brands to adapt to new and upcoming trends in their industry’s landscape. When a brand’s mobile app, website, and in-person experience is cohesive, consumers feel more comfortable shifting across different platforms.
For larger brands this is even more important due to having various locations and more campaigns throughout the year. Chick-Fil-A has recently updated their menu board content so that their 2300+ stores can transition different menu items with ease, but also so that each location feels familiar to their customer base.
Having a partnership means finding a creative fit that’s authentic and aligns with the story your brand wants to tell. However, being perfectly in sync can sometimes stall the creative process. When putting out an RFP to find an agency, look for a creative partner that will push your brand’s team out of their comfort zone. Creative agencies can create the space for brands to push the envelope a bit more, especially those that go above and beyond the ask and expectation. And if they do, don’t be afraid of the tense conversations that may arise because of their boundary pushing. Brands tend to hire creative partners that share the same vision in order to avoid tension, but if the creative teams see overly eye to eye, they lose an opportunity for growth and connectivity. Having a healthy tension during the creative process is often where the magic happens.
It’s also important for creative partners to click with brand teams beyond the project they are currently working on together. During the initial meeting phase, try to understand your creative partners’ passions outside the workplace. Seek diversity in hobbies and interests—from a passion for MMA to D&D to R&B, you never know what outlet will spark great ideas. Finding a partner who is not only a good fit professionally for the project but also a good fit personally with the team will simplify the creative process, bring forth everyone’s best ideas, while also making the experience more enjoyable and authentic.
Ultimately, adapting to changes in culture requires awareness, understanding, and agility both internally and externally. It requires brands to know their consumer and connect meaningfully with them. Whether that is through digitization, influencers, partnerships, or a combination of these tactics, it is vital that these communities are built in new and unexpected ways.
About Carrie Golvash
Carrie leads the B2B global marketing efforts for SGK, focused on generating marketing qualified leads and building strong industry and brand awareness. Prior to this role, she partnered with a wide range of clients to optimize their marketing operations and technology stack. Carrie is an avid reader and is described as an empathetic leader by her colleagues.