Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Why Culture Will Become Crucial for Success in 2010 and Beyond

It's 2010: a new year, and a new opportunity to consider how the massive cultural and technological shifts of today are reshaping the way we think about tomorrow. These evolutions are not only changing how we navigate our public and personal lives, but the way we relate to businesses and brands as well. At this starting block of a new decade, it is imperative that we consider the cultural shake-ups and changes in how we work, think and play that will prove relevant to our business in 2010 and beyond.

1. AMERICA RE-ENVISIONED. As this year's Census will soon show, we are a country comprised of increasingly diverse and expanding "nations within a nation." By 2042, it is projected that non-Hispanic whites will no longer represent the dominant ethnic group in the U.S. -- an evolution of our demographic makeup that will turn our soon-outdated dichotomy of minority/majority on its head. The 2010 Census will be, in many respects, a preview of things to come, and is primed to serve as a catalyst for the reimagining of our old conceptions of the American story and dream. Over the last decade, brands such as McDonald's, Nike and Toyota have made bold attempts at targeting a growing non-"general" market, earning accolades and success for authentically connecting with a multi-dimensional U.S. audience. In 2010, we expect to see more brands rising to the challenge of understanding consumers that defy traditional segmentation and tried conventions -- an emerging business imperative.

2. CULTURE AS A SELLING POINT. As the composition of the country grows more complex, brands must also rely on their understanding of culture beyond ethnicity to stay relevant, and must invent strategic ways of harnessing it. Anthropologist Grant McCracken sees culture as so integral to brands that it should have its own executive position (the CCO, or Chief Culture Officer) in today's corporation: "Culture is an essential piece of the intelligence an organization needs in a turbulent world. ...The corporation cannot hire in [or farm out] its cultural intelligence any more than it can surrender financial decisions to a visiting bookkeeper. Some things are too important to be left to outsiders. Some kinds of intelligence must be integral to the organization."

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