Cultural Innovation in Marketing Part 2
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This book is broken up into two sections. Part one of the book explains cultural innovation theory and its development. It covers the stories of seven different brands that were lackluster in performance that became extremely successful by utilizing cultural innovation, whether or not they realized they were doing it. It is interesting to note that the authors claim to have really wanted to avoid simple “post-hoc explanations of business success (p. X)” but rather want to create tools to help managers in the future. Part two of the book consists of four case studies; the authors claim these case studies illustrate how the cultural strategy model can help managers to create branding success stories and not just explain ones that have already worked.
Holt and Cameron start off their book by explaining what the problems are with blue ocean theory. Their main argument is that, “innovation proceeds at the cultural level and not the nuts-and-bolts, build a better mousetrap level (pg. 9)”. The authors state that the most powerful application of the cultural approach to branding is innovation. They spend some time discussing the many traps that companies fall into, saying that most of these can be broken down into the “functional benefits” trap and the “emotional commodity” trap.
The functional benefits trap is companies wasting their time and resources developing new function benefits for products, only to have them be copied by other companies, or having these benefits be largely consistently ignored by their consumers. This was the case several times in the development of Nike, where Nike’s products were ignored, even though they were technically innovative.
The emotional commodity trap is described by the authors as companies trying to use soft or emotional benefits to describe the products. Happier, fluffier, more satisfying, etc. the authors argue that since every company uses these words, often the same ones for much different products, the adjectives themselves become meaningless with the consumers, and that they [the consumers] fail to connect with the products.
Finally the authors tell us that many so called blue oceans are false blue oceans. For example, Sparks alcoholic beverage tried to create a blue ocean by marketing a new kind of product, an “energy beer” that may have been functionally innovative, but did not take cultural innovations into consideration. Such as that consumers in the United States still want their beer to be beer, but were willing to try an alcoholic energy beverage that didn’t still try to be beer, such as Four Loko. They leave us with this thought before plunging into examples of companies successfully using cultural innovation, “From a cultural perspective, blue oceans are defined by latent demand for ideological change, not latent demand for functionality”