Could appointing a ‘head of culture’ boost your brand?

With Diageo recently appointing a head of culture and Bacardi instating a VP of fashion in April, it has become clear that brands are increasingly eager to stay culturally relevant. But they should be careful not to lose credibility.

Earlier this month, Diageo appointed Leila Fataar as head of culture and entertainment Europe, a newly created role focused on embedding Diageo’s premium brands into music, film, fashion, food, drink, sport, art and design.

Speaking about her new role, Leila Fataar comments: “Making Diageo’s already legendary and iconic brands relevant in culture and shaping how we connect with and reconnect with today’s switched on consumer, is an amazing opportunity. With the convergence of the physical and digital worlds, the ever changing communication industry has never been more dynamic.”

Diageo isn’t the first brand to create new culture-based roles. In April, Bacardi named Akiko Maeda as the brand’s VP of fashion. Speaking to Marketing Week at the time, she said the brand is keen to develop broader and longer-term relationships with influencers within the world of fashion.

“Where I think Bacardi has an opportunity to work more closely with the fashion community is to build much deeper relationships, including with retailers and publishers, also broader in that we’d work with more than one at a time,” she said.

The start of a wider trend

As brands seek to build more emotional relationships with their customers, it has become increasingly important to consider how they fit into their target audience’s lifestyles. For many brands, aligning with their target consumers via entertainment and culture is the most logical choice.

“Not only is it where the vast majority of millennials and Gen Z are choosing to invest their time, it is also an extremely content rich environment that provides infinite ways to create engaging content and establish a longer lasting dialogue and relationship with the consumer,” says Daniel Walsh, MD of entertainment and lifestyle agency Full Fat.

A recent study by AEG and Momentum showed that 93% of 18- to 34-year-olds surveyed like brands who sponsor live music events, with eight in 10 citing branded festivals and concerts as the best way to engage with them.

“The new battleground is more focused on who can best exploit the zeitgeist to their brand’s advantage – usually away from the big screen and more in an experiential context – preferably when consumers have a drink in hand,” says Jeremy Hemmings, global client director at M&C Saatchi.

On a broader level, Diageo’s appointment could be considered a strong strategic move as it will allow the company to keep up with the latest trends while also harnessing potential foresight into whether a campaign will hit home with its target audience or not.

“My view is that the creation of these job roles will become a more common occurrence for brands. It has perhaps never been so important for brands to be able to truly leverage the likes of music, film, fashion and sport,” says Richard Armstrong, CEO of content marketing agency Kameleon.

Bacardi was one of the first alcohol brands to create a culture-based role, appointing Akiko Maeda as VP of fashion
Bacardi was one of the first alcohol brands to create a culture-based role, appointing Akiko Maeda as VP of fashion.

Credibility is key

However, if brands want to capitalise on these cultural alignments, they need to ensure that they add value to both the cultural platform and the consumer experience.

“Modern consumers are looking for an enhanced experience, not to be force fed marketing gobbledygook. The smart brands are the ones that understand how they can add value, outside of financial value, to the entertainment and culture platforms they are aligning themselves with,” Walsh says.

Adding to this, it’s imperative that consumers believe that these changes to a brand’s culture are credible. Values and culture are intrinsically linked and it is important for any brand to figure out how these two connect.

“At MediaCom, we worked with Shell to create its ‘Power of Sport’ campaign which spoke to consumer’s growing interest in sustainability and their heightened concern that traditional energy sources will not be able to cater for future generations,” explains Josh Krichefski, the company’s COO.

“To demonstrate that Shell was working to overcome this challenge in Brazil, we combined the country’s universal love of football to create sustainable energy from people’s movement. Using kinetic tiles on a pitch in a favela in Rio, Shell generated power from movement on the pitch to power floodlights at night, meaning kids could play football, rather than be out in the streets.”

Being ‘part of culture’ also offers brands the potential to escape both ad blocking and ad-blindness by giving people something of value they actually want to experience. However, the word “culture” does run the risk of becoming a buzzword, says DigitasLBi strategy director David Carr.

“The challenge is that ‘culture’, like the other c-word ‘content’, has become a buzzword. It seems every brand and agency is talking about ‘creating culture’ but everyone seems to have a different definition.”

– David Carr, DigitasLBi strategy director

While the creation of culture-based roles seems to be increasingly prominent within the alcohol industry, it is wise to expect that other industries will soon follow.

“This is no passing fad – particularly as increasingly markets ‘go dark’ and remove the opportunities to engage with consumers using the old world media channels,” concludes Hemmings.



There is one comment at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Rob Blake - PocketMath 10 Nov 2015

    Roles like Diageo’s new ‘head of culture’ will only become more prolific. Ad blocking has sent a clear message to all brands: ‘Show me value, or don’t show me anything at all’.

    This is one of the biggest shocks for our industry in a long time, but consumers saw it coming and now brands are racing to deliver what the modern day consumer expects.

    It would be wrong to dismiss this appointment as a mere fad or doomed experiment. Anyone who doesn’t give this due consideration could be missing out on creating extremely powerful connections with the consumer and their fair share of people’s time, attention and loyalty.

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