Mapping the four types of cultural output
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Kulturindustrie (the culture industry) aims to capture and structure what’s happening in our culture right now, from brand products to places to art and design. It tells us where the zeitgeist is going and what we collectively gravitate to. The purpose of the the culture industry map is to direct brands in their product design, merchandising and marketing communication. Some brands, like Balenciaga or J.W. Anderson, specialize in creating wearable culture. In this scenario, wearable culture enforces a brand’s archetype (for Balenciaga, that’s an Outlaw) and provides brand consistency. Others use culture as a brand-building strategy. As a brand strategy, culture is fool-proof, as it can’t be criticized. Because the culture is extremely socially shareable, it is a calculated brand effort towards awareness and brand recognition. Aesthetically, culture gives a brand a popularity shortcut (e.g. weird girl aesthetics, giant fit chinos). In terms of audience management, culture creates a human connection - due to its ambiguity, provocation, and openness to interpretation, the culture is the opposite of transactional. Culture makes us pay attention.
To succeed, a brand needs to have a wearable “culture object” like J.Crew’s Giant Fit Chinos, or to put forward communications, experience or idea that riffs off culture, like LOEWE, Marc Jacobs or Casa Cipriani.
The Culture Industry map has four quadrants, created by two axes. The horizontal axe spans from reality to fantasy, depending on the level of deployed imagination. The vertical axe goes from positive to negative culture, marking the mood, energy and the heat around a product, place or an idea. Culture means that the time, place and the collective mood is perfect for product, place or an idea. In combination, the two axes explain popularity of something.
Q1 is defined by strong imagination that draws elements from fantasy, combined with positive vibes. This is the domain of “what if” (what if we created a trash bag made of leather, what if chino pants came in giant sizes, what if acid drops serum came in the shape of the feeding bottle, what if a bag was made in the shape of a pigeon).
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