Brands are beginning to question whether knowing their consumer is enough. In a world of constant change, being culturally relevant and future-focussed is increasingly important. Culturally-connected brands can be nimble and operate in real time. When your brand is part of culture, not sitting on the surface, you stand a better chance of being noticed and loved.

But how exactly do you connect with something as amorphous as ‘culture’? And how do you know when you’re doing it right?   For the last four years we’ve been measuring how successfully brands are connecting with the zeitgeist.

We asked 62,950 people in 10 countries in our Cultural Traction™ 2013 Report. We measured each brand’s VIBE – that’s how Visionary, Inspiring, Bold and Exciting they are – to see how well they’re tapping into cultural trends. The change in a brand’s VIBE over time is its Cultural Traction™. If traction is decreasing, the brand is falling out of step and faces trouble, if it’s increasing the brand has its finger on the right pulse and may be destined for greater things.

In this year’s Top 10 – somewhat unsurprisingly – tech titans Google and Apple dominate.  Google seems more Inspiring and Exciting, Apple more Visionary and Bold. They’re joined by other industry innovators, Samsung, Microsoft and eBay, as well as BMW and Audi. Surprise entries are IKEA and Coca-Cola, proving you don’t have to make machines to join the cultural conversation.

So what makes a winner? At the heart of our top 10 brands is the belief and opportunity to drive the human race forward. Google gives us access to endless potential and innovates constantly. Apple is the original brand to give us access to the future (although its traction has been slowing over the last two years). Ikea opens our minds to possibilities and approaches the future with real optimism and Coke, well they’re all about optimism. It seems that in tricky times we’re looking for direction, vision, confidence and hope.

And the losers? Lurking at the bottom are booze brands who, despite their size, are losing cultural relevance. How we connect with people has fundamentally changed over the last decade, and alcohol brands need to work harder to keep up.  At the bottom are mainly FMCG brands, but Twitter and Yahoo are also languishing, failing to join other tech brands on the podium.

So, what do brands that are out-of-step with culture have in common? Brands in the bottom 10 encourage us to live life to the full, but exist only in the moment. They want us to have fun, but are without direction – hedonists with nowhere to go after the party. Brands that connect with culture are visionary, opinionated, give direction and create change. Brands in the bottom are fun without substance.

One thing seems certain – brands who ignore the world around them do so at their peril.

Written by Izzy Pugh, Director, Added Value UK

Published with permission from Contagious Magazine: http://www.contagiousmagazine.com/

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