Cultural Innovation in Marketing Part 4
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On to the good stuff… application!
In the second half of the book, the authors attempt to explain how to use cultural innovation theory as a tool for managers. Since I obviously cannot now apply what is in these four chapters to my internship, I will instead analyze their main principles a explain how they may have been appropriate for use when I was in China, or how I would use them going forward if I were a high level manager in Skullcandy.
In summary Holt and Cameron’s Cultural Strategy is a six stage model that is a bit abstract and existential. Here’s where it gets a bit tricky; the steps are numbered but the Authors say that this is, “just to present the analysis as linear stages for ease of analyses (pg. 196)” and that really, “the development of cultural strategy proceeds by moving back and forth between the six analyses making ongoing comparisons (pg. 196)”. Well ok, I guess that’s fair enough, let’s take a look at the six steps now.
1. Map the Category’s Cultural Orthodoxy
2. Identify the Social Disruption
3. Unearth Ideological Opportunity
4. Cull Appropriate Source Material
5. Apply Cultural tactics?
6. Craft Cultural Strategy
Map the Category’s Cultural Orthodoxy
The cultural orthodoxy is, as the name implies, the culture’s conventional characteristics that are traditionally used by marketers to market products. The authors state that this cultural orthodoxy consists of ideology, myth and cultural codes. It is stated that these orthodoxies are what create red oceans. This is something that could have helped me in my internship experience. As I have previously stated, at Skullcandy we were aware of how specific cultural influences and historical events would affect the adoption of Skullcandy products by Chinese consumers, this model however would have helped me group and better understand how the events worked together.
Identify the Social Disruption (that can dislodge the orthodoxy)
This one is pretty straight forward, in order to create change and get people to see your product as the change they want, you need to know what can make that splash that makes consumers either want what you’re offering or not want what the competition is offering. For example with Skullcandy, we’ve identified that consumers want to differentiate themselves and show off their individuality. More colorful and expressive headphones were all the change we needed to add in order for them to become popular. The case is not entirely different in China. However, instead of necessarily catering to consumer’s desires to be differentiated by an interest in action sports, in China, just being at all different may be enough. Skullcandy already offers an appealing collection of products, some development might have to be done to tweak color and model selection for China, however for the most part this is probably not a large issue.
Unearth Ideological Opportunity
This part of cultural strategy addresses the positioning of the strategy to capitalize on the feelings of anti-orthodoxy that the consumers may be feeling. The ideological opportunity is really the key to cultural strategy; it is what people are feeling, the cultural need that is not currently being satisfied. The counter culturism you can create as a manager is then the opportunity. It is here how you can see that going back and forth between two analyses’ can happen many times, as in order to identify the social disruption (#2) you may have to first consider a potential ideological opportunity. Using this knowledge in China, I probably would have positioned Skullcandy as product(s) that not only differentiates Chinese youth from one another but also help connect them to the world abroad as a citizen to a planet, not just a nation. One of the reasons the internet has taken off so much in China (they now have more internet users than any other country) is because it provided the Chinese with a way to interact with the world around them, and not be closed off. Skullcandy could capitalize on this feeling of anti-isolationism but showing consumers using the products not only to listen to music but also to communicate via cell phone and the internet (Skype). This is one of the reasons I recommended in my report that all Skullcandy models sold in China be sold with an in-line microphone for phone usage.
Cull Appropriate Source Material
According to the authors, cultural source material is, “social movements, media myths, and the brand’s own assets (pg. 198)”. This would be one of the most difficult analyses’ to conduct in China. This would require in depth analysis and careful study and research to fully understand. Again in China the social movement of more freedom of speech and less censorship could be a powerful image for Skullcandy to use. If Skullcandy can be shown to connect consumers to the world and eliminate boundaries, it could be a very effective brand.
Apply Cultural Tactics?
This analysis simply states that at some point a specific technique needs to be employed in order to effectively, culturally, brand a company. Example techniques are given and then listed to which companies’ story they are relevant. For example: Mythologizing the company for Jack Daniels and ESPN, cultural capital trickle-down for Starbucks, Vitamin Water and Fat Tire Beer, and so on and so forth. In particular, “crossing the cultural chasm” as it is called in this book would be hugely important for Skullcandy in China. Skullcandy has a strong brand identity, one that could be a good cultural match for potential customers in China; it just has to bridge the gap from being unknown to embraced.
Craft the Cultural Strategy
Now it is time to develop the cultural strategy combining everything we’ve learned from the other five analyses. The authors go one to tell us that cultural strategies are detailed documents that cannot simply be one or two page summaries with an “architectonic figure” to further summarize the strategy.
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and I believe there are some very important key concepts in it. Most importantly I believe I have learned, and in the future I will be much more keenly aware of cultural influences on the successfulness of company branding. I believe the first half of this book should be read by every perspective MBA student. Whether or not the authors have invented anything new, there are simple observable facts to marketing that they point out that are not considered by typical marketing schools of thought (that I have seen so far). I now believe it is extremely important for managers to have knowledge of cultural innovation in order to be successful in branding.
I believe the second half of the book, and in particular the exact formula the authors give for developing cultural strategies is helpful, but not complete. As I mentioned earlier, I believe cultural innovation, strategy and analysis to be just one piece of the marketing puzzle. I feel more of the blanket has been pulled off of the complete view of marketing rather than an entirely new view having been discovered. I look forward to trying to utilize the knowledge I have gained from this book in my future entrepreneurial endeavors.