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Using Cultural Intelligence to Navigate Tough Brand Decisions


We are in the midst of evolution and change at an unnatural pace. We waited for the pandemic to hit, we quarantined and now we are figuring out how to go back out into the world amidst even more chaos given the recent events in Minneapolis and the global response.

These are gigantic steps on a journey that has just begun. Along the way, new guidelines, mandates, regulations, and laws will be set and reset, creating a constant state of change for both consumers and brands. As we have already seen, many people will applaud measures put in place and many will not. Their opinions will come to life on both social platforms and store floors.

In this environment, brands have no choice but to respond and act in most instances.

Will you stay open or closed?

Will you require patrons to wear face masks?

Will you continue sourcing materials from certain regions?

With every decision made, there will be lovers and haters. Yes, this is always the case, but consumers’ emotions, beliefs and ideologies are at defcon 5 right now. Aligning what you do, what you say and how you say it to those customers that matter most is imperative.

Take for instance May 8, the day that the internet exploded with viral conversations about Costco’s new guidelines requiring all employees and shoppers to wear masks. The response could not have been more polarized — one side thanking and praising the business and others amplifying the #boycottcostco message.

When Costco chose their guidelines, they essentially advertised their values, and therefore chose the online factions that would support them. They also chose who would likely feel disillusioned with the brand. Basically, they were damned if they did and if they didn’t, but they had to choose.

Yonder looks at the internet through the lens of factions — hyperactive online subcultures that bond over the things they love and hate. How does this impact your brand? Watch below.

Let’s break this situation down to a couple of current key challenges and opportunities creating this kind of reaction and environment.

Everyone is Hyper-online

More people than ever are online…some being forced there that have not before. Most are going there for a multitude of reasons; food, health support, work, personal connection, entertainment. 

Shifting Consumer Behaviors

Consumer expectations for how brands support them is evolving and will not return to pre-Coronavirus norms. New behaviors are being instilled that likely would have happened over the arch of a generation. Brands that cannot connect on shared values are struggling to find messages that matter to their market.

Mixed Messages 

Hypotheses, news, conspiracy theories and research will continue to be mixed together putting pressure on businesses to be increasingly clear about their offering, values and role they need to play in their market. More clarity and predictability is needed in the strategic planning process to avoid missing the mark on messaging and/or spend.

Amplified Pace of Innovation & Problem-Solving 

Everything is expedited… especially time to market. New methods of insight and feedback are needed to be able to ruthlessly prioritize based on what’s working and what’s not. 

Companies are positioned differently to address these challenges. Some may have high confidence in their brand values, yet lack the ability to find opportunities to connect with the right people in the growing abyss of messages and misinformation. Others may be extremely agile at finding new ways to serve their customers, yet the language being used to communicate this support is not hitting the mark…potentially even causing more harm than good!

This is the time to increase confidence in your brand’s value and be more clear than ever as to who you want to connect with. This is the time to understand your target customers more deeply than ever… their needs, wants, interests, language, influencers and style. This is going to require going deeper than a post they liked or a hashtag they shared. It’s going to mean developing cultural intelligence about your market built based on their ideologies and interest, not just their demographics.

Learn more about demystifying online culture and narrative — and — Join us for a conversation on June 19 about anchoring brand decisions on your values, new insights that reveal how your values align with those of your Ideal Customer, and examples of brands that are leaning into purpose and values to engage customers, authentically.

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