The power that money can’t buy: are you managing your ‘Brand Kultura’?

7 years, 5 months ago


Content and brand stories created by a brand’s community play an increasingly significant role in promotion and innovation. Yet many brands are still failing to harness the potential benefits of collaborating with fans. By Andy Green.

Your future, the difference between success and failure is in the hands of the people who love you most - your fans. 
At its extreme you may even be loved by them, but are you in danger of taking them for granted or worse, alienating them? Do have a strategy in place for both sides to gain full value from the relationship? 
´Brand Kultura´ – the content and brand stories created by a brand´s community – will play an increasingly significant part in your brand exposition and promotion as well as your innovation strategy.
Yet, how many brands have a Brand Kultura strategy? How many are not only failing to harness the potential benefits of working with fans, but adopt policies and practices that may alienate, even poison the well of goodwill to the brand?
A gateway to innovations 
If you manage and cultivate the relationship, do it right, your Brand Kultura can provide you with a gateway to new business innovations, new market opportunities and a brand that grows and resonates beyond its existing boundaries, with the best army of unpaid salespeople that money can´t buy.
Get it wrong however, and you could well be facing the equivalent of ´Brand Taliban´, dogging your every effort, while missing out on potential valuable new business and market opportunities.
Whatever business you are in, we live in an age of more people socially engaged and connected, along with a greater expectation to be involved with what you do. As a result you need to manage the customers and stakeholders who go beyond the normal in supporting, indeed celebrating what you do.
Super-fast word-of-mouth
In an age witnessing super-fast word-of-mouth, new opportunities for rapid co-creation and engagement, coupled with growing cynicism of corporate messages and difficulties of getting through to people, your fans may prove to be your most potent tool.
Major brands like Coca Cola embrace innovation strategies using a 70:20:10 model: 70% of your time and resource is committed to delivering the core of your business; 20% is used for making new things happen; 10% of resource is dedicated to exploring the new, things beyond your existing boundaries.
Doing innovation is hard. It´s difficult enough keeping your existing customers and shareholders happy, let alone the unknown ones of tomorrow. 
What if there were a group of people who are intimate with your product and service but not bogged down with the internal barriers and niggles that stop things getting done?
What if there were a group of people who with their knowledge of your product could discover new niche applications or markets for you? 
Unpaid angels
These unpaid angels are there for your brand: they are your fans weaving new uses and applications, new markets, ways of doing – often outside your existing paradigms, or even beyond your imagination.
The next time you text somebody, don´t be thankful to the far-sighted telecoms designers: rather your gratitude should extend to the legion of young urbanites who, unconventionally, harnessed the text facility and transformed its use. And as for Viagra users we need to thank a failed Angina treatment trial and those trialling the drug seemingly enjoying an unintended benefit!
Managers who fail to capitalize on their Brand Kultura usually fall back on a number of responses:
  • the new idea doesn’t fit into an existing way of doing, so can´t be accommodated
  • they view the world in a black and white  perspective, unwilling to accommodate ambiguity, or opportunities in a shade of grey. They fail to recognise that often half-baked is no baked.
  • there is a lack of partnership working; you´re either a ´buyer´ or a ´seller´, rather than a potential partner or collaborator.
  • there exists a corporate hubris, an arrogance that you do not need to listen, especially to unlikely sources
  • often there may be a denial of an underlying ´Not-Invented-Here-Syndrome´
A good way of gauging your organization´s sensitivity to Brand Kultura is to use what is called a ´Harry Beck-ometer Scale´ (named after the creator of the iconic London Tube map whose design was initially rejected by London Transport and coined in the book ‘Tubespiration!’.)
The scale consists of:
0 Hostile - sometimes based on misinterpreting a fan´s new idea as a commercial threat, or over-valuing any lost commercial exploitation which is more than outweighed by far greater and more profound, although often not-overt or intangible, brand benefits. Otherwise known as ‘doing the right thing’.
1 Ignore - refuse to listen, acknowledge to any possible inter-action.
2 Begrudge - reluctantly listen with the minimum of expectation  
3 Embrace - recognise the added value by establishing a dialogue, creating additional activities such as merchandise for your fans.
4 Fully Engage - actively work with, listen to in order to collaborate and co-create
As a result your organization may be one of three types:
´Kultura Blind´ - primarily hostile or ignoring, at best begrudging
´Kultura Lite´ - mixed responses from ignoring to embracing
´Kultura Champion´ - effectively harnessing the potential off your fans. You may not use every activity but engage a benign scepticism to work with what you identify as potential partnering   
Is your business Kultura Blind or a Kultura Champion?
The lesson for managers is that if you treat your fans like second-class citizens, you could face a second-class future.
Author’s Details
Andy Green FCIPR was voted ‘Outstanding Public Relations Practitioner of the Year 2013/4’ by members of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations. He is author of six books on creativity and communications which have been translated into eight languages. His latest book ‘Tubespiration!’ shows how you can use the London Underground as a creativity tool. He is the organizer of ‘Tube Kultura’ which showcases unofficial maverick brand content creation on the London Underground.


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The Author

Andy Green

Andy Green is a leading expert in brand storytelling, creative capacity building in communities or teams, and PR strategy.

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