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Cultural insight is a modern organisation's crystal ball

Crystal ball in air

“It's always about timing. If it's too soon, no one understands. If it's too late, everyone's forgotten.” - Anna Wintour

In life they say timing is everything. As it is in entrepreneurship. In fact, the number one critical success factor for entrepreneurs, from SME to corporates, is timing. In his 2015 TED Talk, The Single Biggest Reason Start-ups Succeed, start-up founder Bill Gross looked at data from a multitude of organisations and ranked each company based on five factors. In his analysis, he found that one factor stood out the most in determining the success of a start-up: timing. “Timing accounted for 42 percent of the difference between success and failure”. If something is too early no one understands it, but if it’s too late, it is easily forgotten. 

Cultural insight through analysis is the best predictive tool available to ensure an organisation’s timing is right when looking to launch new brands, communications, products, innovations and public policy. By understanding if we are on the right or wrong side of culture (just ask the Royal Family or the Australian Attorney General), we have the ability to super-charge our success. 

Studying the Cultural Currents

At TRA we use cultural insight and analysis via our Culture Engine. This allows us to make sense of where the world is going for our clients through emerging cultural signals, which we call Cultural Currents. The Culture Engine is part human and part machine; cultural signals are tagged via artificial intelligence and then analysed by our culture specialists to look for growth opportunities. Often the cultural signals are cloudy at first view, but may be indicative ‘green shoots’ of things we are likely to see go mainstream in a few years, thus representing a significant commercial opportunity. 

Through a rigorous analysis of Cultural Currents we can foresee where culture (and people across Australasia) is moving to with surprising accuracy. In fact, since Covid-19 many of the Cultural Currents we predicted were at play have remained the same. For clients who already had their eyes on these opportunities, these were accelerated. For clients we work with who foresee culture as a kind of ‘crystal ball gazing’, the opportunities are infinite.

Breaking category conventions to be culturally relevant

Lion and the Speight’s brand used cultural insight to understand how to maintain relevance for the iconic Kiwi Speight’s beer brand, which extended it past the traditional nature of masculinity.  
Cultural analysis identified the changing nature of masculinity and broke with category conventions to portray a new definition of what being a mate means. To be culturally relevant Speight’s, whether with mates or in any other context, needed to show real belonging. This formed the backbone of the highly awarded campaign, which won the Grand Effie in 2020, demonstrating the power of cultural insight as a springboard for great ideas. 

Hitting a cultural sweet-spot to make a favourite ad

ASB (owned by Commonwealth Bank) used cultural insights as the core springboard for a brand communications campaign. The insight identified showed that Kiwi culture around what progress looked like was significantly changing, moving from ideas of individualism to 'you do you' and ‘progress not perfection'.

ASB was uniquely positioned to take advantage of this emerging cultural insight. They applied it to the development of a new brand platform built around the protagonist Ben, which has been hugely successful at connecting emotionally with Kiwis who could relate to the emerging sentiment around ‘progress’ in culture.

The campaign was so effective that it earned by far the most mentions in TRA's recent Favourite Ads research, where we asked over 1,000 New Zealanders what their favourite ad on TV was. Nearly twice as many Kiwis mentioned this ASB campaign as their favourite than the next most favourite ad by Sky.

It is clear working with Trans-Tasman’s largest companies that using cultural analysis is a source of competitive advantage. 

Amber Coulter
Partner at TRA

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