3 Abstract Aspects of Digital Culture

As digital culture continues to exert its dominance over business and commerce, millennials and other digital-oriented consumers will wield increasing influence over marketers’ success. Plenty of businesses are actively executing on this reality, to the point that “millennial” has become one of the top buzzwords in business, especially in marketing.

Often, marketers speak about millennials and their value in absolute terms, with specific channels or tactics that marketers can use to better engage these elusive young consumers. This is nothing outside the realm of norm, as marketers need actionable insight at every possible turn. However, the abstract concepts of social media and digital etiquette are often lost in this line of business pragmatism.

Here, I’ve isolated three attributes of digital culture that brands can market against to drive relevance with digital audiences.

Memes

When it comes to the Web, memes are the ultimate tribute. They’re a celebration of people, products, or corporations; fun that often comes at the expense of the meme’s subject. Indeed, memes can often spawn from a place of negativity. No marketer wants their brand to be the butt of a viral Internet joke. However, marketers must understand the subtle differences between memeification and an untempered roast.

While many memes poke fun, they also function as a tangible representation of shared ideas and perceptions. Generally speaking, people don’t meme people or products they don’t care about or aren’t invested in, except, perhaps to meme their apathetic stance on said people or products. Even in the latter case, marketers can derive insight into their customers, their opinions, and their interests by monitoring the memes they share. In the best case, marketers can take cues from a growing celebrity trend and intentionally provoke the Internet meme machine, ala Drake or Dos Equis.

Social consciousness

There was a time where brands, like journalists, were wholly prohibited from expressing bias on social issues. Brands especially ran the risk of alienating groups of customers at the opposite end of whatever polarizing stance they took on an issue. This has somewhat eroded in the digital age. Consumers find validation in the art and entertainment that enforces their world view. The same is true of brands.

Many brands in the food business, for example, market through an anti-GMO, anti-pesticide, cage-free lens; a lens through which many young consumers now view their food in a post Food Inc. world. LGBT Pride Day, and other LGBT events, represent a similar trend, with businesses across multiple industries augmenting branded content with rainbow colored creative in support of the gay community. Most recently, brands around the country changed logos and colors in a show of solidarity with the people of Paris in the wake of terror attacks. Marketers, however, must take care to avoid subversion when tapping into the vein of social conscious.

Candor and transparency

It takes a certain degree of vulnerability to thrive in today’s digital culture. We see evidence of this each day through social media. For much of the history of modern business, brands have stood behind a curtain of sorts; operating as separate, non-human entities from the consumers they target. This is still the case, as it should be to a degree. But, part of what enables a brand to exhibit a social consciousness, or a personality in general, is in the brand’s transparency and open communication.

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