Whilst chatting with my cousin in India via Facebook, it struck me how social media sites are helping to merge cultural boundaries. At the expense of sounding like someone who never switches off, this got me thinking about its effects on marketing and creativity.
Let’s step back 20 years or so. In the 80s, conversations (over the ‘phone) with relatives struggled to progress beyond the general ‘How are you and the family?’ and of course Cricket. Now it’s the Premiership, music, movies – to be honest, it’s not too different to talking with friends in the UK.
Today if you walk through major cities in India you’ll see loads of familiar faces – from Mr. Ronald McDonald to David Beckham; along the way you can take in the likes of Nike, Debenhams and even Marks and Spencer.
Commonality is no bad thing. It helps us feel comfortable and confident enough to explore more diverse aspects of a culture, providing new fuel for our creative minds.
Strategy benefits too. We step further into a very different landscape and see how other people and organisations approach consumers. This provides ready contrasts and comparisons to ponder and incorporate into our own approaches.
In many ways some of the world’s most successful brands have always been cultural sponges, squeezing interesting new flavours into their strategy.
Today, social media sites are fantastic tools for experiencing fresh new perspectives. But how often do we really step away from our ‘safe’ vantage points when using social media? Are we doing enough to find out about other cultures and their dynamics? Or do we simply add neighbours to Farmville, get nostalgic about our school days and watch the same types of films on YouTube?
By limiting our viewing, we run the risk of missing out on genuinely original, entertaining material. And on a professional basis, that’s where the gold really is.
To a certain degree the movement of western brands and the rise of international brand carriers makes it seem like the East is simply moving westward. If it’s coming to us, why bother going to them?
In creative and strategic terms, there’ll be little need to try something different if you know you can do the same thing and get pretty much the same results. But that is a slow painful road that will ultimately deliver diminishing returns, not to mention become really boring. But that’s never stopped our industry in the past.
So go on take a little diversion; hit Youtube and take a look at some of the exciting material that’s coming out of agencies in India and the Asian subcontinent. Yes there’s rubbish – there’s rubbish everywhere – but equally there’s some really exciting and different stuff worth diving into. Have a gander at the art and stunning films being created, for example.
And when you find something that really tickles your fancy, why not pass it on to your friends? It would be the social thing to do.