Brands that shape culture

Culture has always reflected the relationship between people and brands, with brands finding inventive ways to stay culturally relevant. But more recently brands have started to shape culture.

These ‘culture brands’ have a mission beyond themselves: they’re looking to champion a societal need, change a social attitude or behaviour, and make the world a better place. For brands to succeed, it’s no longer simply enough to communicate what the brand does; also, and more importantly, it must convey what it stands for, it’s values and what it calls us all to do.

Many companies have recently looked to define their purpose as a way of stretching beyond their own needs, and combining this with doing good in the world. Now brands have taken on this mantle, whether it be challenging female stereotyping, standing up for workers’ rights or creating a new vision of balance in health and wellness.

In order to better understand how brands can shape culture, we have put cultural understanding at the heart of our newest research methods. We have done this by working with the biggest cultural phenomenon of our time: the sharing of photography via smartphones.

Our inventive projects rely on ‘show’ rather than ‘tell’. People show us how they experience the world and brands. The result is fresh profound truths. It provides a real-time window to people’s lives. Instead of analysing people’s behaviour by reflecting what they ‘think’ they did, we analyse what they actually did. Instead of telling us after the event, they show us during it.

Mobile has embraced people’s love of taking photos, and empowered them to share images instantly and in unprecedented numbers. Visual content has become – through technology – a key indicator of people’s loves, hates, aspirations, experiences and, sometimes, fears.

Photography is, more than ever, becoming the story of people’s lives. Not the story of what was but what is. Not what they once cared about but what they care about now.

Culture is something you sense unconsciously from everything around you. We’re moving away from research methods that are out of context, reflective and framed by our language, not theirs.

We’ve found four major advantages in putting culture at the heart of our understanding of brands:

CONTEXT REVEALS HIDDEN TRUTHS

Discovery moments, surprising competitive contexts, behaviours people couldn’t explain, things we didn’t even know to ask

IDENTIFIES HABITUAL BEHAVIOUR

Which is often very low conscious, and easily forgotten about when asked retrospectively

REVEALS THE INTIMATE AND THE EMOTIONAL

People are prepared to share the things that are most personal to them

INCREDIBLE ENGAGEMENT

Using photography as our frictionless gateway into people’s lives generates thousands of pieces of content from just a few hundred people

Tapping into cultural behaviours puts us closer to the culture that’s being shaped and, in turn, helps us guide our clients’ cultural strategies in new and surprising ways.

Culture brands shape the experience. Cultural research understands it.

Richard Owen
Richard Owen
Hall & Partners

Check out more Client Resource articles

Soccer is booming but focus on the 2026 World Cup not Qatar

New study: What you need to know about patients of the future

Why all brand marketers should know about the 95/5 Rule

Why it’s better to prepare for multiple futures, rather than striving to accurately predict just one

The Dodgers game that could have made history teaches us an important Brand Strategy lesson

Stop only asking if patients will use a new treatment, and start looking for their unmet needs

What will be the next unpredictable, life-altering event in the healthcare sector?

Why a cultural perspective on health and disease can help us better understand our past, present and future

Hall & Partners appoints talented trio to global leadership team to accelerate growth and implement its new corporate strategy

Why foresight and trends research provides pharma with much-needed agility

Previous
Next

Signup for our Newsletter

A monthly newsletter bursting with thinking on how to grow your brand: from in-depth analysis to practical advice. Sign-up for the latest industry perspectives, insight reports, free-to-attend webinars, and exclusive events.

You can view our privacy policy here. By submitting this form you are opting in to receive occasional brand, marketing and communications insights from Hall & Partners

Signup for our Newsletter

A monthly newsletter bursting with thinking on how to grow your brand: from in-depth analysis to practical advice. Sign-up for the latest industry perspectives, insight reports, free-to-attend webinars, and exclusive events.

You can view our privacy policy here. By submitting this form you are opting in to receive occasional brand, marketing and communications insights from Hall & Partners