Brands in Culture | Brand Network Trends & Insights Digest

Want to own the cultural conversation? Forget it. Gone are the days where a brand was the master of its own story. No longer can it broadcast an introspectively crafted agenda unto the world and expect to be heard. Instead, consumers expect brands to be attuned to the world around them and to find their place and their voice within the cultural conversation. Today brands don’t build culture, culture builds brands.

But all that cultural glitter is not brand gold. While many brands are lured by visions of relevancy and dreams of a trending hashtag – they struggle to find their place in culture. Buying relevance – whether through high price influencers or shouty out-of-home creative – often falls flat, because in culture, fakery is the enemy of relevance. The brands that have successfully found their place combine a finely attuned cultural antenna with an honesty towards their own role and contribution. There also needs to be a willingness to interact – after all, conversation implies dialogue. Earning attention and cultural currency requires the bravery to engage on social media and even face-to-face. Brands can create relevance and connection by participating in the wider cultural conversation – but don’t try and own the cultural conversation, let it own you.

“8% of 18 – 34 year olds know something is getting big when, ‘it lights up everywhere’ on the internet”

USC’s Annenberg Innovation Lab, June 2018

“The new normal is to maintain relevance and emotional connection in a reality where the ‘captive’ consumer no longer exists”

Cannes Lions 2019, Brands in Culture Award

“Consumers expect the same from brands as they do friends, including reliability, authenticity, and the feeling like the brands ‘get’ them and what’s important to them at this point in their lives”

Campaign Live

“Aligning your brand and culture has never been more important”


Aussie: reclaiming its cool-girl lust by placing it in the heart of culture

This campaign is based on a simple cultural truth: when the going gets tough… the tough go to the loo to cry. In the middle of Waterloo station, Aussie created a loo-inspired pop-up where people could stop by for a dose of fun and to experience the benefits of Aussie. Because no matter what the day throws at you, with Aussie you will have #GreatHairThough. Drag queen collective Sink the Pink were on hand to immerse consumers in the brand, driving cool-girl lust and placing Aussie into culture.

adidas: Mo Salah enters the British Museum

When footballer Mo Salah received one million votes in the Egyptian Presidential elections, adidas realised that it had an opportunity to bring its brand association outside of the world of football and into the heart of culture. Salah found his place in culture and in history, when his adidas boot was prominently placed in the British Museum’s Egypt collection. The clever and culturally relevant collaboration drove media coverage across the UK, Egypt and the Middle East. Beyond the headlines, this stunt sparked a broader cultural conversation about perceptions of Egypt within Western culture.

Mothercare: body proud mums proves “she’s beautiful, isn’t she”

When it comes to post-natal life, the cultural conversation is loud and judgemental. 80% of mums have compared their post-birth bodies to unrealistic images, with a quarter feeling the most pressure from the media. Mothercare took an opportunity to change the cultural conversation through Body Proud – a visual campaign that aimed to normalize images of post-natal mums – scars, stretch marks and all. Body Proud propelled Mothercare’s voice into the body positivity debate and garnered support from leading social influencers and the wider public.

The content in this document was produced for The Brand Network and was originally published in the Spring/Summer Edition of their bi-annual Trends & Insights Digest.

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Sector: Consumer Packaged Goods, Retail + Leisure, Sports

by Becky East @

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