How to Create Culturally Fluent Ads: Five Lessons

Using our CultureRate database, we analyzed over 100 ads gathered across the last 12 months to identify key lessons from “Culturally Fluent” ads that were best across all segments of the “New Wave” of younger Americans between 18-39.

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Brands Are Challenged by Rising Cultural Diversity and Polarization.

Research and insights leaders face enormous pressure to translate the rapid cultural transformation underway in the U.S. marketplace into clear action steps for brands.

In 2020, we experienced a tipping point when the inexorable movement toward a majority-minority population combined with sudden shifts in consumer values driven by COVID-19 and the emergence of the social justice movement. “Cultural Fluency” is emerging as a new mandate: the ability to use culture to connect effectively and authentically within and across segments. As a consequence, brands are being held to a higher standard.  In research from Session 2 of our virtual Roundtable in late 2020, we found that the number one “values” factor multiculturals want to see from brands is that the brand supports people of their race or ethnicity.

How CultureRate:Ad Reveals Powerful New Insights.

To address these issues, we launched CultureRate in 2018, a brand and creative evaluation methodology that is now providing our members with powerful new insights in to brand and ad performance across cultural groups.

Unlike anything on the market today, CultureRate brings together both ad and brand evaluations using a rigorous methodology that helps brands navigate the rapidly shifting consumer landscape before them by identifying what works and what doesn’t across diverse segments.

In addition, the methodology is integrated within Collage Group’s Cultural Traits system, a rigorously proven method for measuring cultural variation, that enables marketing professions to link how using cultural insights into specific segments improve ad and brand effectiveness. An example of how Cultural Trait analysis works when applied to Black consumers can be found here. and how we link Traits analysis and ad performance is detailed in Session 3 materials from our 2020 Roundtable and shown below.

Unrivaled Rigor and Database Depth.

At its core, the methodology is built on the observation that conventional ad testing poses challenges with legacy norms and sample bias that can exacerbate the cultural disconnect between legacy consumers and the consumers brands need to grow.

CultureRate:Ad complements conventional creative evaluation approaches by incorporating a deep understanding of the cultural and emotional influences that inform how consumers from diverse backgrounds process ads.

The methodology introduces two important new metrics: the Ad Cultural Fluency Quotient (A-CFQ) and Backlash, both of which are supported with an exhaustive range of diagnostic metrics. A-CFQ is Collage Group’s proprietary KPI that uses four factors to optimally predict high brand favorability and purchase intent. Backlash metrics take conventional brand favorability a step further by quantifying the degree to which an ad can “flip” perception from positive to negative or vice versa. Combining A-CFQ and Backlash metrics for target segments reveal the dynamics that make ads successful.

As a Collage Group member, you are entitled to one free evaluation of a brand and of an ad of your choice, an example of which is attached. Members frequently combine CultureRate:Ad and Brand analyses to track how changes in advertising performance impact brand performance over time.

Top Lessons for More Inclusive Advertising.

Referencing a database of more than 250 ads and close to 300,000 consumer responses collected since 2018, this presentation investigates the characteristics of the most inclusive ads from 2020, specifically for the population of 18-40-year-old Americans. This younger segment, which we have dubbed the “New Wave,” is notably important because it is the first segment in American history to grow up in culturally and intrinsically diverse environment. They are defining the future of values and respect for diversity that will make or break brands in the next years.

This approach is key to helping marketing break the “trade-off” between investing in effective campaigns for specific multicultural segments, like Hispanic and Black consumers, that risk limited appeal, and effective campaigns for the “general market” that risk being generic and forgettable.

By applying A-CFQ and Backlash filters, we identified a top performing group of 16 ads to review in detail shown below.

We find the sweet spot in nuance, storyline and representation that links cultural perspectives and deepens cultural resonance in general marketing campaigns while making dedicated marketing more effective. We derive five action steps into what advertisers can do to better incorporate cultural insight into creative briefs. These include:

1. Obey the Basics: Stay Attuned to Your “Right to Play” to Avoid Confusion and Boredom

2. Create Texture with Realistic Vignettes of Multicultural Segments

3. Show Firmness and Values About What’s Happening Now

4. Authentically Show the “Human Truth” of Connection to Resonate with All Segments

5. Activate on the “Cultural Truths” of Specific Segments to Drive Deeper Resonance

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