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As hinted in my last piece on the role of Diagnostic KPIs, creating rather than merely participating in, cultural moments is something many brands – and agencies – undervalue or miss out on entirely. And it’s too bad. But what does this mean exactly, and how can brands create instead of participate? Let’s find out!

Give Me One Cultural Moment In Time

Cultural moments are emotional experiences for consumers – and each word there is important. emotional and experiences. We’ll take the latter first:

Experiences – Consumerism is viewed as wasteful and archaic by many millennials focused on experiences over “stuff” – 78% of them, to be precise. And this is nothing new. This is paying for Spotify instead of buying music and taking Uber instead of owning a car – but it’s also participating meaningfully IRL (in real life) and sharing these experiences online.

Emotional – Your job is to help them feel okay about buying things (because we still want them to buy products and services, of course), by creating an experience that is so emotionally on-point, they just cannot miss out. You need to help them find meaning and create a sense of urgency at the same time.

You need to be the trend rather than chase the trend. And yes, it’s entirely possible to do so.

Capturing the Consumer Shift

Brands are intuitively moving along this path with consumers, but they’re unsure of how to harness the energy they’re seeing and it’s frustrating. This is partly because it’s not really a marketing tactic, but more of a paradigm shift; and mostly because they’ve been given bad advice.

When working with emerging and established brands, it’s common to learn that they’ve been chasing trends at the behest of their last agency. It’s often the reason why they’re searching for a new agency, though they may not realize it.

The difference between creating something that puts consumer sentiment first and makes an authentic, emotional impact versus finding trends and hopping on board, or just doing something kitschy or flashy – is illustrated perfectly by the difference between Ellen’s selfie at the Oscars and the latest, cringeworthy Today Show attempt at being trendy.

If something is neither memorable nor relevant and does little for the brand, or worse – makes your audience think you’re annoying – don’t do it.

Everyone remembers Ellen at the Oscars. She created a cultural moment there. And the Samsung phone she was using was none the worse for the wear thanks to it either!

Culture is the conduit for reaching and connecting with consumers. We’re creating culture instead of just finding moments to latch on to. It’s a powerful differentiator from brands that are able to pull it off.

And when you think of what this means for experiential marketing or for building loyalty with brands this gets very interesting. I’ll be sharing a study in a few months that will explore all of this (connect with me to learn more), but for now, let’s talk a bit about what to do and how to measure results.

Strategy Before Measurement

We need strategy to come before measurement, and this is a hard thing for some people to get their heads around. You have to be able to show impact and show it in measurable ways, but the challenge should be on the measurement team of an organization to figure this out. And, conversely, limitations of measurement shouldn’t limit the strategy or the approach that goes to market.

To put it another way: Come up with the right approach to reach consumers and then figure out what’s the right way to show impact in terms of reaching that audience or whatever the business objective is. And if you haven’t discovered how to appropriately measure this “right way” yet, commit to sorting it out as you go. Don’t neglect to pursue solid insight intel just because you’re treading into new waters. Risk taking is important, and this is informed risk taking, so you’ve already hedged your bets.

Have a clear roadmap in mind that includes strategy, business objectives, and ultimately, diagnostic KPIs, with a solid focus on the insight aggregated from sentiment analysis. It’s thinking work. And it can come in two different formats – a segmented slice of a known audience or a broad exploration of an entire industry.

Keeping It Simple: Surgically Segmented or Branching Out

There are a few approaches you can take when you’re talking about targeting your consumer – and one is simply to keep it simple. “I want to reach anyone who owns a smartphone,” for example. That’s a broad approach or anyone who owns a particular brand of smartphone.

Or you can target those expressing interest in the Super Bowl, but you’re only wanting to find those with certain gender, age, interests, professions, ethnicity, bio terms, language, location and so many more potential niche attributes to slice and dice. Your insight can get as granular or as wide open as you like – or as your marketing objectives dictate.

We can get very surgical with data and targeting particularly with paid media as well, of course. But this isn’t really about your brand and it doesn’t offer long-term impact. It’s not “branding.” And if we want to show impact of direct response with a single marketing channel with paid media, we just take a targeted email list and we’ll upload it, run paid media ads and call it a day. That is easy to do and CMOs get that and they’ll pay for that. The impact you’ll see from that is very effective, but it’s incremental. You’re only going to reach people who are already in your universe.

What I’m suggesting here requires a different set of skills – and a different toolbox! And when it come with sentiment drivers around attributes, emotions, behaviors and things – and tons of other actionable, real-time insight besides, you can trust that it’s worth it.

If you take a broader approach, that’s where you can move the needle in terms of branding. It is harder to do, certainly. And there are more misses when you start out, but once you master it, the potential is exciting. You can change legacy perceptions in the marketplace and reinvent your brand. Even the most complicated process can be broken down into simple steps. And it all starts with audience and sentiment understanding.

Shaping cultural moments isn’t easy, but it’s entirely possible. The process hinges on targeted audience understanding and being at the forefront of what’s happening in a given category right now. And neither would happen if they weren’t powered by the audience intelligence we gather using NetBase.

My next piece will share the maturity model for social intelligence understanding, to help you see where you are on the continuum vs where you could/should be. Watch for it!

Michael Fein, SVP, Strategy, Insights, and Analytics at PMK•BNC

A business builder with an eye for identifying opportunities. He consults on consumer insight-driven marketing, analytics and optimization across online and offline channels for brand building and direct response marketing.