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Ms.The Rise of “Culture Marketing”

By Mar 25, 2005

Brands should ride the “participation revolution” among consumers in order to gear their marketing for the upcoming “culture economy.”

That’s the message that futurist Andrew Zolli and IEG President Lesa Ukman gave to attendees yesterday at the IEG Event Marketing Conference in Chicago.

Consumers have become participants, controlling their interactions with brands and marketing messages (think TiVo). Meanwhile, marketing has evolved from selling commodities to products, then services, then experiences. Next up: a culture economy, where brands fit consumers’ perspective on society at large.

“The relationship between brands and society will be a major opportunity and chafing point for the next century,” said Zolli, founder of New York-based think tank Z + Partners. “People deeply resist the idea that they’re merely consumers. They are participants—and what’s more, they are in control.”

Branded content is the first glimpse of the current crossroads between culture and marketing. As with TV programming, branded content can be worked into sponsorships to enhance consumer experiences, Ukman said.

“Rather than interrupting consumers’ experiences, companies have an opportunity to enhance them,” she said. “The big opportunity is to make people feel better about themselves because of a sponsorship.”

Strike a balance between “broadcast, where the media happens,” and “conversation, where culture happens,” Zolli said. Brands need to balance both kinds of marketing messages while remaining culturally authentic.

He also warned marketers to watch their step as they inject marketing into culture, showing a photo of logo-laden police cars as a bad example.

“Companies are coming into the public space with the same logic they have in marketing spaces,” he said. “Brands need to figure out how to act differently in public spaces.”

Brands need to find “a new way of humanizing capitalism,” he said, and posits six questions brand marketers should consider for future strategy:

* Can we be big and true at the same time? * How do we measure and reward behavior? * Is the public consumers, or participants? * Should quarterly growth be our foremost goal? * Do we need a longer view? * Is profit only financial?