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Strategic Communications Workshop: Why Brands Are Only As Strong As Their Culture Muscle


Nov 21, 2014 - 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.


Columbia University, Northwest Corner Building, Room 501

Brand strategists have long known that when brands leverage happenings in culture, good things happen for the brand. For the first time, researchers from ad agency J Walter Thompson have developed a method to quantify a brand’s cultural strength, and more importantly, quantify the relationship between a brand’s cultural strength and its financial success. Participants will take part in a workshop exercise to connect a brand to real-world cultural shifts.

Mark Truss is the Global Director of Brand Intelligence at JWT, and Karen Montecuollo is the Brand Intelligence Manager at JWT.

Truss teaches From Information to Insight and the Portfolio Project for Columbia’s M.S. in Communications Practice program as well as Insight Discovery for the school’s M.S. in Strategic Communications program.

32 Culture Muscle Shifts

  1. Acceptance Of Sexual Orientation: People are more accepting of gay people than they used to be
  2. Age of Impatience: It seems like people are more impatient today than they used to be
  3. Changing Gender Roles: Men are more likely to help out around the house than in the past
  4. Convenience Vs. Quality - Cuisine: People are paying more attention to the quality of the food they eat
  5. Convenience Vs. Quality - Language: Written communications are getting shorter and shorter these days
  6. Customization/Personalization: Having technology tailor all the information out there to people’s preferences is helpful
  7. Democratized Voice: Social media allows people to express their opinions to more people today than even five years ago.
  8. End of Anonymity: The government and companies know more about me today than they used to
  9. Ethical Business Practices: Today, it’s important to people that the companies they do business care about more than just their bottom line
  10. Extremism - Media: It’s hard to find an unbiased, balanced view of anything in the news these days
  11. Extremism - Politics: In politics today it seems like there’s only a far left or a far right…what happened to the middle?
  12. FOMO: Social media has amplified people’s fear of missing out on things like social events, new products, etc.
  13. Formality/Informality - Language: Today, people are using more slang in everyday conversation.
  14. Formality/Informality - Social Norms: People are dressing more casually today than they used to
  15. Healthier Living - Cuisine: People are making a conscious effort to eat healthier these days
  16. Healthier Living - Leisure: People exercise more today than they used to
  17. Immersive Experiences: Rather than watching or reading about it, more and more people want to participate in the actual experience
  18. Income Inequality: The rich are getting richer and the middle class is not going anywhere
  19. Move To Visual Communication: Instead of just using words, more and more people send a picture or video
  20. Overload Leads To De-Teching: More and more, people are taking periodic breaks from their smartphones, tablets, and laptops
  21. Proliferation Of Choices - Food: These days, it feels like we have more food options than ever before
  22. Proliferation Of Choices - Technology: These days, it feels like we have more technology and gadget choices than ever before
  23. Public Apathy - Government: People are less likely to vote in elections today than in the past
  24. Public Apathy - Religion: Fewer people are participating in organized religion than in the past
  25. Racial Tolerance - Language: People are more sensitive about language that refers to race than they used to be
  26. Racial Tolerance - Social Norms: People are more accepting of interracial couples than they used to be
  27. Remixing Tradition: It seems like people today are mixing and matching old traditions with new ones more relevant to their lifestyle
  28. Returning to “Real Real”: These days people are too caught up in portraying a certain image, whatever happened to just being yourself?
  29. Sustainability - Commercial Practices: More and more today, people are talking about sustainable sources of energy
  30. Sustainability - Social Norms: Protecting the environment is more important today than it ever has been
  31. The Beta Mindset / Done, But Not Perfect: These days, getting it done quickly is often seen as more important than getting it done perfectly
  32. YOLO: Today, we are more likely to “live in the moment” than think about the future

Download the presentation slides (PDF, 7 MB).


Mark Truss, Karen Montecuollo