What does it take to be a ‘cultured brand’?  

It’s not easy building a timeless, cult-like loyalty explains GREY Dubai’s Elias Karam

A cultured brand is one that ‘gets it’ – think Apple or Disney. But what does it take to be a cultured brand? In advertising, we often use relevance as a proxy for culture, but that does not do justice to what the most successful brands have done.

Being a cultured brand is more than a nice quality to have, it’s one that pays dividends. Our global study between brands with the highest cultural value and ordinary brands showcases that the top 10 per cent of cultural value brands find 2.6x revenue growth and 1.7x revenue – than brands that aren’t culturally relevant.

On the highest level, to build a cultured brand, we need to anchor ourselves in a human truth, one that has become more salient across the trends we see.

Whatever truth we want to anchor ourselves in, it must be one that fits with our brand.

Most network agencies have their own frameworks to help uncover that and use it to direct the brand into a space that is culturally impactful. At Grey, we have our Famously Effective Strategy Framework that looks at the different elements of society and consumers to uncover an insight that our brand can tap into.

Human truth

One of the biggest mistakes when it comes to this level of culture is constantly changing the human truth across campaigns.

While a core insight can have more minor insights that we can leverage across different campaigns, the core should stay timelessly true as it takes years of communication to truly anchor the brand in that level of culture. Great examples are Dove and KitKat.

Once we’ve grounded our brand in a human truth, we need to then look into culture on a more granular level, looking into interests and lifestyle to identify where our brand can anchor itself.

Gaming is all the rage now, but not every brand can build the right culture equity in that space, and often that’s because their audiences are not gamers or their core human truth does not have a space in that affinity.

To build a cultured brand on this level, we need to take an interest in their passions and make it our own. That means seeing if we could envision ourselves being a football fan or a yoga lover.


This means not doing a one-off football campaign and then disappearing for eternity, but rather, frequent bursts showcasing your own passion for it.

Through social listening and trends tools across platforms such as Google and TikTok, brands can get  a real-time insight into what their audience is interested in and integrate it into their always-on campaigns.

A great case study for this is Wendy’s, whose Twitter game is always on the lookout for what topics are trending and for adding a witty spin to it.

Given the multi-dimensional considerations to build a cultured brand, it’s no surprise that not every brand gets it right. Yet with the right strategic direction, powered with epic creatives, every brand has the potential to become cultured and make a real connection with their customers.

By Elias Karam, Strategy Director at GREY Dubai