Greater Insight Essays 2012: Izzy Pugh - Added Value - Be a Culture Vulture - or Get Eaten by the Competition

Article excerpt

To anticipate what your consumers will want in the future, you need to understand the culture that infuses their lives. Here are three ideas to help forward-thinking brands stay ahead of the curve.

Evolve or die. It is a sentiment that rings true more now than ever before. The world is changing faster than ever, and as the world changes, the people in it change. And when people change, what they want from the things they buy changes too.

For a brand, standing still today is as good as going backwards However, if you understand and embrace change (before your consumer does), you can gain access to unprecedented opportunities to grow.

Where does change start? How does it happen? How can you spot it? Which changes first: people or the world?

Understanding cultural change is critical. It may be amorphous and invisible, but culture is everywhere.

It is part social, part political, part environmental and part physical; it makes up most of our lives. And in understanding culture, and cultural change, brands that want to grow today can make sure that they also keep growing tomorrow.

So how do you adapt and shape your brand to fit a future that is yet to happen? It sounds next to impossible, but it needn't be.

Detailed below are three ideas that can help you anticipate cultural change and use it to mobilise your brand for growth:

1. KNOW YOUR LANDSCAPE

You cannot understand people without understanding the world. Consumers might be able to tell you what they think of something, but not necessarily why. Culture teaches us what things mean, which is an essential rule of both basic survival (yellow + black + insect = don't eat it) and social survival (jeans + trainers = sorry, no entry).

However, because culture is not uniform, it's not as simple to understand. To grow a brand, you need to know the culture of each of your markets, or you risk missing the spaces of opportunity that might not exist at home. It is just as important to think about the 'rules' in your category.

What are the signs and symbols, the visual and verbal language at play? …

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