Cannes: How Brands Can Avoid Cultural Pitfalls & Build Credibility

(MENAFN- PRovoke) CANNES - Rather than jumping on what's hot and being cancelled for cultural appropriation, brands need to rethink their understanding of diverse communities if they truly hope to build credibility, according to University of Michigan marketing professor Marcus Collins and P&G chief communications officer Damon Jones.

The duo were speaking at an Inkwell Beach discussion that explored how companies can avoid the pitfalls that so often plague attempts to build stronger cultural connections.

"It starts off with the framing of how we think about consumer insights," said Collins. "We start thinking about consumers as boxes, that aren't who they are. We reduce people to the hardware without understanding the software - identities, beliefs, ideologies."

This reductive approach strips consumers of their multifaceted identities, leading to superficial engagement efforts. "Then, we tend to reduce culture to popularity. What people are wearing etc, are by-products of their culture. Culture is focused on why they are doing it," Collins explained.

These efforts are further stymied by the lack of a coherent worldview. "A lot of brands don't have a point of view of the world beyond what they do," Collins noted. "They don't have a good sense of self, of who the people are or what the culture is. So they just jump on what's hot. Because of that lack of understanding."

Jones pointed out that conventional wisdom often leads to brands pursuing a misguided approach akin to "let me find the cool people, throw them in a room and give them some money."

"You can't buy your way into communities," responded Collins. "You can pay for a ticket to come to the party, but people won't engage with them. You invest in the relationship and pay for it in social capital."

Jones noted that P&G has adopted a "4R framework" to address these challenges: Reaching them, Representing them, creating Relevance with them, and Resonating with them. "All of those things need to be true, and it's not just one thing," he said. "I can't just stick a group of Black and Brown people in a room and say 'create'."

All of these initiatives, however, require more diverse people in the room,
not as a token effort but as a strategic necessity.

"Diversity has unfortunately become a talking point that we have skirted away from," said Collins. "We think about it as a social good, as some philanthropic effort. But the truth is that diversity is a strategic advantage, it is a business imperative.

"The more perspective that we have, the wider the world gets," continued Collins. "If we want to get the best representation - we have to sit in many, many, many, more seats. The wider the aperture gets, the better the solutions get."

And companies wary of being cancelled for cultural appropriation, need to recognise the importance of intimate relationships with communities, many of which are historically under-represented.

"It requires thinking about cultural appropriation as a set of conditions as opposed to a binary thing," pointed out Collins. "Intimacy allows us to mitigate any error of exploitation, that keeps us out of the snares of being cancelled when we try to engage with audience with more diverse cultural perspectives."



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