CULTURE CREATION is the key output of any successful youth brand.
Creating an amazing product or experience is essential, but the best brands do much more than that. They create culture and spark interesting and fresh conversations. They create stories. Why do they do this? Well, for starters, youth today are über curious and love discovering new experiences which help define their identity and give them platforms for self expressions. They’re constantly searching for ‘cultural capital’ (interesting new stuff to talk about) and they’re chameleon like in behaviour in that they are always looking to dip in and out of different subcultures and try new stuff. They are fluid like in the way in which they live, they expect the same from brands. Back to how this relates to culture creation.
The best brands in the world are always one step ahead, they CREATE stuff constantly for youth, whether that be events, content, marketing embedded into products or brand utility or even new ways for youth to connect and socialise. They define, they lead, they jam culture, they smash the status quo. They never ever ‘mimic’ or piggy back onto a current trend. If they collaborate with other brands, they create something new and fresh, redefining the rules as opposed to just sponsoring a property and plastering. It’s more than just integrating your brand into a cultural object, it’s about bringing real value to that consumer experience, creating something worth talking about which is flexible. It’s being social in nature bringing people together to connect and create conversations. Most brand ideas are disposable, around one day, gone the next, when you create culture, you stand above this.
So, which brands are best at Culture creation?
Well, first to mind is Red Bull. They are the kings of culture creation. They are a content creator, not just an energy drink manufacturer. They don’t ‘sponsor’, they constantly create events and re-invent experiences which cover the cross section of youth lifestyle. The world of Red Bull is shaped by creativity and adventure, by courage and a maxed out lust for life, populated by their athletes/ambassadors. They create culture in every foray into youth culture they attempt…from their music academies, to the Red Bull Air Race, to Felix Baumgartner BASE jumping and ‘wiing’ suiting across the English Channel, to Red Bull X fighters , to free style football competitions, to Flug Tag, to Art of the Can, to the X Alps event, to extreme freestyle snowboarding. They continually re-invent and create stories for their fans, giving youth cultural objects to relate and aspire to.
Nike in ’08 did a great job of creating culture, their Nike Bootcamp cross digital training program helping youth ‘train like a pro’ delivered amazing utility, but what it really did was create a cultural phenomenon whereby the football community was completely interconnected and competing on an unprecedented level. Their culture creation was about connecting and inspiring the young football community.
Burger King USA continually create culture be redefining ways in which their brand fans can show their LOVE of the Whopper. Culture Creation is as much about inspiring your brand fans, giving them a platform to show their love and letting them take your idea and run with it, as it is about you doing all the work and creating properties where you do all the work. Culture creation is conversational by nature and inclusive.
Axe/Lynx creates culture by redefining and inspiring young men in the mating game. Whether that be, coming out with loofers for blokes, digital tools like the ‘Get in there’ or chocolate scented body spray, they constantly push themselves to work out how they can give young guys the edge in the mating game.
Culture Creation is a journey not a one off event your brand creates. Think about how your brand can spark ongoing conversations, it’s not about one off campaigns that live big then are forgotten, only to be remembered as a ‘great ad’ back in ’09. You have to have a FAIL FORWARD approach, do 10 things, if 5 things work out that’s awesome. Youth will give you credit for having a go, putting yourself out there, as long as you are authentic and stay true to who you are.