This whitepaper draws upon the anthropological concept of culture to introduce a new model for brands. The old brand model, which advocated the creation of an external brand image to influence consumers, is a thing of the past. We think it’s time to do things differently. In the new model a company’s true values replace the external brand image. In other words, looking good is no longer enough. To compete in today’s fast paced landscape, brands must be better from the inside out. They must embrace a cultural shift. We call this new model Brand Culture—and we think it has the potential to transform companies into truly amazing brands.
The theory of Brand Culture was partly informed by Douglas Atkin’s groundbreaking book, The Culting of Brands,(1) which was one of the first books to apply anthropological theory in understanding how certain brands work—specifically “cult” brands. While cults, by definition, are experienced by the few, every human experiences culture, and every brand has the potential to develop a brand culture.
Our concept of Brand Culture has also been influenced and validated by the recent writings of some really bright anthropologists who are studying the way consumers use brands.(2) And we love reading stuff written by really bright anthropologists. Don’t you?
Please let us now what you think. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter, so feel free to send me a note or—better yet—visit our blog, where you can participate in an online discussion about the Brand Culture model. — Dennis Hahn (Chief Strategy Officer)
Fickle, Fickle Truth
Science has taught us that truth is pretty much temporary. Just look at the shift from the Copernican cosmos to the Galilean. Or the leap from Newtonian physics to Einsteinian relativity. The Copernican and Newtonian systems were each believed to be absolutely, positively, and unchangingly “the truth.” That is, until the new system came along which proved there was a truer truth.
It’s the same with modern-day branding, which, until fifteen or twenty years ago didn’t exist as a business category, even if in fact its underlying concepts were being practiced by inspired marketers for some time.
Over the last hundred years, as the art of creating brands has evolved from designing logos and placing ads to the more complex integrated endeavor known as branding, we see a constantly shifting sense of what is true. We believe it’s time for another one of those shifts.