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If you want to go global, you’ve got to move at the speed of culture

Cultural differences should be celebrated, but their near-infinite complexity can hamper brands’ dreams of global expansion. Our Global Strategy Director Matthias Gray, digs into how to keep pace with culture for global success.

Keeping up with local cultural trends can be an enormous task for established global brands – never mind a growing brand looking to break into new markets. The complexities of culture when layered with a specific target audience and category can be difficult enough, without even considering the lens of each individual’s unique beliefs, values, and expectations.

To get it right, brands need to understand what information is required to enable them to make the best decisions for global growth and the delivery of relevant, effective campaigns across different markets.

Culture is defined as the ideas, customs, and social behavior of a particular people or society. There’s a lot to unpack there for a brand looking for global success.

Fast v slow culture

Let’s explore two different types of culture, both of which have an impact on how a brand connects with target audiences. Fast v slow culture is a framework developed by Canadian anthropologist Grant McCraken that clusters distinct characteristics in culture, allowing a more nuanced view on cultural drivers, identity, and cultural expression.

According to McCracken, fast culture is the bleeding edge, particularly notable in the fashion and design industries where ‘that’s so five minutes ago’ is a meaningful insult. Slow culture is represented by less flashy, more subtle trends, like how we think about our food, or how our homes are changing to reflect updated needs.

Slow culture is the underlying ‘operating system’ of a culture; its established rituals, beliefs, norms and values. Elemental drivers that give people in a culture direction and a sense of belonging. Moments celebrated together that have existed for ages and offer people orientation and comfort.

Fast culture, or ‘nowness’, is where tensions and frictions with the modern world lead to exciting new cultural expressions, manifesting in lifestyles, emergence of sub-cultural tribes, and exciting new interpretations of fashion or music. The edge that might become mainstream.

Fast culture represents the trends, fads, influences which have meaning in the market right now. This could be linked to food, entertainment, fashion, communication styles, language, people and much more. Fast culture changes, well, fast.

Brands who rely on fast culture to tap into the zeitgeist and mood of today’s generation and inspire creative ideas need to ensure they have a robust strategy to maintain their knowledge and ensure it is implemented into their ongoing in-market brand communications.

Slow culture looks deeper: the traditions, values and beliefs passed down through generations which have evolved through the history of a country and have been shaped by the people who have lived and worked there. These are like an operating system, in the background, which determines our preferences, beliefs and motivations. Slow culture evolves over time. For a brand to be authentic, it must be understood and respected.

How can brands use slow and fast culture to their advantage?

Brands must understand both slow and fast culture to enable better briefs, support the creative process, and reach amazing campaign ideas that connect authentically with audiences across multiple markets. The result will be more effective communication and empowered global marketers with the information to steer the direction of the brand in a way only possible through the power of insight.

A great example of a brand harnessing the combination of fast and slow culture is Samsung. In a recent campaign, ‘Voices of Galaxy’, they showcase a Bolivian female skate group, and how technology has given them a platform to share their sport with more young women wanting to take part.

It’s distinct, interesting and creative. The combination of slow culture and fast culture is represented by the members of the group. They reflect age old traditions and style but disrupt it with new role models, emancipation and modern sports.

Watch ‘Voices of Galaxy’ campaign 

Let’s make this easy

With over 30 years’ experience working with brands to build their presence internationally, at Freedman we’ve crafted a best-in-class approach to harnessing cultural insights and utilizing them to drive effective campaigns across multiple markets.

We’ve launched a suite of four local insight products (Explore, Belong, Communicate & Validate) each designed to provide global marketing leaders with powerful insights to drive understanding, relevance, connection, efficiency, and growth.

Catering to both fast and slow culture, our products will not only ensure you have all the information you need to drive your localization strategy, but also save you time and money getting it right the first time.

This article was first published on The Drum