Welcome to the last part of our three-post series exploring why companies are looking to culture for inspiration. Our first post highlighted shoemaker-philanthroper TOMS and real estate lifestyle brand AVA. Both are good examples of how connecting with culture can drive brand relevance for customers in unexpected yet authentic ways. In part two, we explored how societal trends can help companies uncover new paradigms. And today, we consider how culture can fuel the brand experiences that companies create.
Building better brand experiences
You can’t say you want a revolution and not be willing to commit. Knowing your audience and being open to new opportunities are great. But if you don’t practice what you preach, it’s all talk. Understanding this responsibility, AVA, the real estate brand we’ve been featuring, used cultural cues to inform everything they did — even the approach they took to personalizing apartments. By offering options like chalkboard walls, customizable apartment numbers and DIY design kits, they gave residents unexpected control. And they allowed them to bring personality to their space.
This commitment to connecting what you stand for to what the world is yearning for through unique experiences isn’t just for young brands. There are many great examples of established brands benefitting from staying relentlessly aware. In 2015, REI announced their Black Friday experience #OptOutside. They committed to closing all of their 143 stores and encouraged their customers to join them in opting to go outside on the biggest shopping day of the year.
Naturally inspired by their own sense of purpose, REI’s call is also particularly resonant for a culture constantly debating whether technology and consumption are making us less connected to the world around us. Recognizing the relevance of their brand to this cultural reality, they created an experience that offered, well, a way out.
And when your experiences are intuitively connected to cultural dynamics, the risks you take become more calculated. REI committed to something people care about. Within 24 hours, they had more than 500,000 active participants, a full-blown media swoon and people vowing to do all their holiday shopping with them.
These examples and countless others show what happens when companies realize that they are not facing society, but are a part of it. Culture drives their businesses forward. You don’t have to be big. You don’t have to be famous. You just have to genuinely seek answers to the questions we started with: How is the world at large changing? What dynamics are inspiring that change? How might that affect your business?