Activating with Cultural Fluency

Can a brand be culturally fluent? Is there such a thing? If so, when does a brand achieve this and and why is this important?

We look at the framework through a brand lens to inform activation choices for marketers. If you’re new to this idea, start with Cultural Fluency: A Framework for Winning in Today’s America.

Achieving Cultural Fluency

As we explored in the intro to the framework, the four segments often have cultural values and beliefs that intersect and overlap.

For example, hard work and the American dream are cultural traits that resonate across all segments, while adventure and acceptance are common among Explorers and Idealists. Understanding these overlaps allows brands to choose where to play and how much territory they can command, based on which segments they want to target. As a result, cultural fluency defines where a brand is rooted along a specific point on the framework and how it can effectively navigate.  Achieving cultural fluency is all about maximizing your growth potential.

Brands can achieve cultural fluency by following three steps:

    1. Connect your brand purpose with culture
    2. Stretch or pivot across different quadrants of the framework
    3. Inform key choices within your brand strategy

#1: Connect purpose with culture

Purpose is critical.  When it comes to cultural fluency, purpose roots the brand in a specific quadrant of the framework. This represents the brand’s core consumers who relate to it most because of its purpose.

Dove serves as a great example of a brand where their cultural values connected and played a key role in strengthening their brand purpose. Dove starts with its functional benefits of protecting and cleaning with products like soap and deodorant. This ladders up to the emotional benefits of providing women with confidence and self-esteem. The cultural value connected with these benefits is female empowerment. Finally, these steps lead to a deeper, more meaningful purpose: Authentic. Unique. Real Beauty. Dove’s purpose and its connection to culture is seen across platforms and initiatives.

#2: Stretch or pivot

What do we mean by stretch? Marketers must often stretch to cover more consumer territory along the framework, in order to increase their reach. A brand can stretch if their purpose is relevant to segments in different quadrants. Modelo provides a great example of this by focusing on shared values of hard work and achieving dreams.

Marketers can also pivot and change their brand purpose, which requires a redefinition or re-rooting of its purpose to a different quadrant. Their new purpose will target a different consumer group and will relate to a new set of cultural traits.

Levi’s is a great example of a brand that pivoted in order to be more relevant today:

“This is an exciting time for Levi Strauss & Co. We’re building on our heritage to move the company forward, to be as innovative and relevant to today’s consumers — and tomorrow’s — as we were when we invented the blue jean 140 years ago.”

– Chip Bergh, President & CEO

For more tips that allow brands to stretch, check out The Do’s and Don’ts of Culturally Authentic Content.

#3: Inform key choices within your brand strategy

Next up is to inform key choices within your brand strategy such as communication, channels, product, and media. A brand’s purpose should be visible and clear across the value chain to ensure consumers know what the brand stands for.

What does this mean for marketers?

Cultural fluency can help brands become more relevant and impactful in the marketplace. Our framework gives you the opportunity to:

    1. Build your brand’s cultural fluency
    2. Make a bigger impact beyond your current scope
    3. Uncover meaningful opportunities for your brand

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