Get Real: Tips to Create Culturally-Authentic Content

In today’s media landscape, consumers are deluged with advertisements: on TV, before YouTube videos, sandwiched between Instagram posts, you name it. In the sea of content, it can be hard for consumers to differentiate between ads and remember brands. 

We constantly assess what makes certain spots stick, while others fall by the wayside. Over time, the pattern is clear: consumers like content that authentically mimics their experiences, cultures, and values.

Our recent research explores the role of cultural authenticity in advertising and the various facets of culture and culture-oriented content. The research explores how consumers define culture.  It also reveals what types of cultural acknowledgement consumers want from brands in advertising, and provides a strategic framework for creating-authentic content.

Pride and Attachment to Culture

Not all consumers have the same penchant for culture. Multicultural consumers (Hispanic: 86%, Af-Am: 75%, Asian: 73%) are more likely than non-Hispanic white (56%) consumers to believe that it’s important to keep their cultural heritage as part of their lives. Multicultural consumers are concerned with cultural preservation, but also have a strong desire to promote their culture to others. It’s smart for brands to show that they embrace consumers’ culture and influence in today’s America.

A Craving for Diversity in Advertising

Multicultural consumers, in particular, like to see a diverse mix of ethnicities in media (Af-Am: 86%, Hispanic: 82%, Asian: 73%, Whie: 67%). However, it’s important to do your research and make sure that these portrayals are accurate, because consumers will bristle at imprecise content.

Diverse Casting Isn’t Enough

In 2017, diverse casting is just the cost of entry. It’s critical that brands weave in consumers’ cultural values and passion points into content. Multicultural consumers think that it’s important for brands to acknowledge their culture and cultural values in advertising (Af-Am: 65%, Hispanic: 58%, Asian: 45%, White: 42%). Asian consumers, in particular, want their hobbies and interests to be highlighted in ads (Asian: 51%, White: 40%, Af-Am: 36%, Hispanic: 34%).

The Do’s and Dont’s

As part of our recommendations, we also provide guidance around best-in-class executions in four critical areas: casting, language, passion points, and situation. Clients have access to the full strategic framework, but here’s a preview into one:

Situation: Acknowledge America’s changing dynamics

As the U.S. becomes more progressive, we also become more partisan. Decide where you stand and incorporate that stance into your messaging.

Best in Class Situation Execution: Johnnie Walker’s “This Land”

  • What they did: On the eve of the election, Johnnie Walker aired a spot which shows several vignettes of multicultural actors hard at work. Multicultural characters are seen in all different walks of life: some are doctors, while others are ranchers. Throughout the spot, a Hispanic-accented, male voice reads the lyrics to the American classic song “This Land.”
  • Why it works: The touching ad depicts actors both working hard to succeed and letting loose to enjoy themselves. It’s clear that the choice to cast mostly multicultural talent and use a Hispanic-accented voice was deliberate. However it’s not the whole story of the ad, so it doesn’t go too deep. The visceral images of one woman working as a doctor while another woman dances at a club encapsulates the millennial life-stage of early- to mid-adulthood. In one scene, a soldier comes home to his extended family, accurately portraying nuanced family dynamics. The ad avoids depicting only nuclear families. Most poignantly, the spot has immediate relativism. In a tense time, the spot has a non-politically charged, diversity-friendly message. It shows multicultural consumers that the brand values and understands them.

What does this mean for your brand?

Culturally-authentic content is more memorable, and bridges the gap between consumers and companies. Authentic stories allow brands to connect with consumers on a personal level. Brands should work to understand what makes consumers tick and develop creative content which reflects this.

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