▷ Cultural Branding: the brand as a cultural agent 2020 -

Nowadays, as consumers, we are constantly surrounded by brands which, beyond fulfilling their primary functions, convey a whole system of symbols and values ​​that we use to build our own identity. These brands, capable of producing such an effect, reach the supreme rank of iconic brand, a concept developed by the researcher Holt in the 2000s and whose work supports this article …

More than just producing benefits for consumers, brands produce meanings through the construction of particular stories, called identity myths, which consumers will use to overcome their identity desires and anxieties. Marketing is thus mobilized to allow these myths to be created in line with the cultural context of the brand and to convey in particular through advertisements.

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So long regarded as mere accessories accompanying a product, brands have taken on a whole new meaning by forging a story intended to anchor in the imagination of consumers and help them build and express their identities.

Thus, to create these identity myths, they must suggest imaginary worlds, far from the world in which we live in our daily lives, and reflect an identity from which the target of consumers aspires. For example, the iconic brand Coca-Cola and its slogan “Open Happiness” seeks to create the myth that, even in times of crisis, happiness is always at hand, hence the advertising campaigns that revolve around that idea. Myths, created by brands, are thus built to overcome this kind of tension. Thus, by consuming the brand, consumers consume above all the myth, to take the example of Coca-Cola, by drinking this drink, consumers experience the momentary happiness.

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Having a mythical quality is therefore essential to raise a brand to the level of an icon provided that an adaptation to the cultural context is made and that identity myths are established in populist worlds. For example, the populist world of Marlboro is that of the Western Frontier, Corona and the Mexican beaches, Harley and the outlaw biker or Nike and the African American ghetto. These populist worlds give credibility to brands because they are based on popular beliefs.

To propel these myths into the imagination of consumers, media advertisements must be carefully considered. There is no shortage of examples, Corona beer has built its success by appropriating the myth of the Mexican spring break, and getting out of daily routines, and therefore by staging festive Mexican beaches in its advertising campaigns. . However, with the rise of competitors and the evolution of consumer values, Corona has changed its myth by becoming the symbol of relaxation on a secluded and peaceful Mexican beach, more in tune with the cultural context of consumers and the tensions of the society. In addition, beyond an advertising campaign, word of mouth is also an important factor in propagating the myth, hence the need to master it well and to have control of it, especially through social networks. , in order to avoid a diversion of the myth.


Another example, the Mountain Dew brand has reinvented itself several times following major cultural changes in American society by embodying the hillbilly, redneck and slacker myths in turn. An equally important element for success is to spread credible myths in keeping with the essence of the brand. This is for example the case of the Volkswagen brand, and its Beetle vehicle, which, in a society where mass culture prevails, has created a world where consumers are intelligent and masters of their decisions in terms of aesthetics. where the society’s subtly mocking ad campaigns.

Thus, in the event of a cultural and societal disruption, brands must reinvent their myth, readjust their target and move from myth to myth to persist, create a strong emotional attachment with consumers and strengthen their loyalty. Success therefore ultimately depends on the choice of myth, of the populist world, of the adequacy with the cultural context and the tensions of society, of communication codes, of the ability to transform into a “genealogist” of the brand and to develop storytelling skills.

For the sake of updating, beyond the advertising campaigns disseminated in the “classic” media, social networks, notably Facebook and Twitter, play a very important role in modern cultural branding in terms of the dissemination and propagation of stories and brand identity myths, hence the need to carry out thoughtful and effective social media campaigns respecting the few aspects discussed above.

Source: Holt D.B (2004), How brands become icons: the principles of cultural branding, Boston, Harvard Business Press.

Image credits: Dustin Edward Arnold, Coca-Cola Enterprises, Anheuser-Busch InBev.