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Unlocking Brand Relevance: A Framework to Cultural Currency

In today’s digital landscape, paying to reach your entire audience is nearly impossible. The concept of “niche” has become the new currency, replacing the traditional idea of “mainstream.” Culture thrives at the intersection of these various niches.

For instance, consider the hit Netflix series, Stranger Things. It’s not just about characters; it blends influences like Dungeons & Dragons, Stephen King’s storytelling, Kate Bush’s music, and 1980s nostalgia.

This show illustrates the power of cultural fusion, showing how it captures the spirit of the times. Brands that understand this concept can position themselves as active participants in culture’s evolution.

In this context, hacking growth starts with hacking culture. Traditional methods of reaching a broad audience have become both costly and complex. Brands can no longer rely solely on paying for attention, especially when intrusive advertising formats disrupt people’s experiences.

Until recently, building a brand was all about its connection to current moments and trends. However, it’s time to acknowledge that, much like music and movies, brands themselves are cultural products.

The key to building a brand lies in its cultural value, which is fueled by its connection to art, design, architecture, fashion, food, well-being, and more.

Bruno Bertelli, the Chief Creative Officer of Publicis Groupe Italy and the Global CEO of Le Pub, provides four essential steps for developing a project with the potential to become a part of culture and gain relevance among the audience:

1.Map the Cultural Mainstream: Identify prevailing cultural trends within the category.

2.Find Ideological Opportunities: Recognize societal shifts or challenges that resonate with the audience.

3.Recognize Social Disruption: Identify opportunities to align the brand’s values with cultural shifts.

4.Define the Brand’s Cultural Role: Establish how the brand contributes to and integrates with culture.

Here are two real-life examples:

Example 1: Powerade Pause is Power Challenge

Powerade was faced with tough competition from the industry giant Gatorade, which had embraced the message of performance and pushing people to their limits. During this period, notable athletes like tennis player Naomi Osaka and gymnast Simone Biles were experiencing public crises due to the immense pressure they were under.

Cultural Currency Framework:
1.Map the Cultural Mainstream: Focus on the prevalent “push, push, push” mentality in sports.

2.Find Ideological Opportunity: Embrace a more human-centric approach in a society overly fixated on achieving goals.

3.Recognize Social Disruption: Address the rebellion against the overwhelming pressure to perform.

4.Define Brand’s Cultural Role: Rewrite the rules of winning to promote a healthier and more balanced perspective.

Example 2: Barilla Playlist Timer Challenge

Italian cuisine had traditionally been deeply rooted in tradition, but a new wave of Italian talents was emerging in gastronomy, music, and fashion. Simultaneously, the pandemic led many people to start cooking at home, and achieving the perfect “al dente” pasta was a challenge.

Cultural Currency Framework:

1.Map the Cultural Mainstream: Highlight the passion and tradition associated with great Italian food.

2.Find Ideological Opportunity: Reinvent Italian cuisine’s genius to appeal to contemporary tastes.

3.Recognize Social Disruption: Embrace the evolving flavor of “new Italianity” in a pandemic context.

4.Define Brand’s Cultural Role: Elevate everyday cooking experiences through ingenious expressions of Italian culture.

Brands find their strength not in product promotion, but in shaping culture itself. As seen in Powerade’s human-centric approach and Barilla’s fusion of tradition and innovation, the key lesson is clear: “When you consistently engage with culture, you become a part of it.”


1.Bruno Bertelli: the Chief Creative Officer of Publicis Groupe Italy and the Global CEO of Le Pub. His remarkable achievements in the creative world earned him the title of the most awarded Chief Creative Officer globally in 2020, a prestigious recognition by The Drum.




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