Culture and Gen Z and a new kind of marketing strategy

Published: May 28, 2023

min read

Culture is at the center of marketing these days – and it can go either way depending on the way it is handled. There is sustainability, diversity and inclusion that need to be in the mix but when this cultural play does not pan out or goes the wrong way, there are huge consequences.

Despite the economic downturn that is shrinking marketing budgets, for a brand to succeed, it is very important for them to appear young, show up in ways that matter to their customers, and be culturally relevant and socially forward.

A LA-based agency Cashmere, is showing brands how to elevate a social presence in a new, modern and contemporary way. They are the ones that helped develop Budweiser’s “Raise the Crown”, a new global music platform that celebrates the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. Dave and Buster’s have signed Cashmere on to help raise their brand profile as well as help them with the bowling, laser tag and other event spaces they acquired with Cashmere’s expertise.

Marriott Bonvoy is thriving on strong tailwinds post Covid, seeing a huge resurgence in travel. They have signed up with Cashmere who will work with the hospitality giant to connect with their audiences, particularly the younger demographic on apps like TikTok and Instagram.

Cashmere merged with Media.Monks which has helped the agency tap into the rich data that came with Media.Monks and scale it’s efforts.

The Parent company - S4 Captial saw net revenue up 7% on a like-for-like basis in the first quarter and is targeting 8-12% growth for the full year.

Culture and Marketing today

What makes this agency so unique is that they are able to unlock the potential of each brand that they handle by tapping into cultural conversations. And they seem to use strong yet ‘less scripted forums’. They focus on earned media and social impact over traditional media and media plays that could be expensive and time-consuming to execute.

And brands and marketers themselves choose creative and media agencies as their AOR of choice rather than choose to continue traditional agency relationships.

The reason? The need to connect and engage Gen Z meaningfully!

The choice of platforms is where the next generation is! Apps like TiKTok and Instagram – instead of going the traditional route. The perspective that brands need to go where the audience is, and in our contemporary scenario, go where the next gen is – where the younger crowd hangs out – where Gen Z is, and connected with them meaningfully and consistently is what needs to drive marketing strategies of today.

And many brands do realize that – but it is really important to know where you need to spend the meager media dollars. Earned media does not seem to be the route to take when it comes to connecting with young audiences. If you want to engage the young crowd, you need to be on TikTok rather than cable TV. Remember how Netflix came on the scene and sent Blockbuster packing?

That does not mean you don’t do anything traditional at all. You don’t completely stop doing linear TV or network commercials. You just can’t rely only on those channels alone. That is not the way culture is headed.

Since the pandemic, channels like digital, social and streaming cannot be discounted at all, if a brand wants to succeed. You have to go where the culture is.

But then again ‘Culture’ is not an easy route. Remember what happened with Bud Light and Dylan Mulvaney? Sales have slumped for the beer giant after all the furor and outcry! And just a couple of days ago, Target took down some store displays for LGBT Pride Month because some of their employees were threatened! And these are not just isolated incidents.

Many brands have had to face backlashes over ‘cultural’ marketing efforts that are seen as tagged with an agenda. But this also means that brands and marketers must be in the know of what is cultural in the world today.

There was a group that was your audience and your customers. But that is changing. One small wrong move and your people will let you know. In some ways that is a good thing. You know immediately – but it also means that a wrong move can spark a bad outrage and backlash.

Several social platforms are a mess – look at Twitter! Or Meta’s dreams of the metaverse! Or even the threat of a ban of TikTok.

Maybe a new social platform will pop up and change the face of everything we think is young and has culture.

It is volatile. It is crazy! But that is where the future is!


Pete Johnson

Pete is a MarTech expert guru with a knack for getting diverse MarTech solutions work for brands. He has a wealth of experience in working with a plethora of MarTech platforms that dive Personalized Omnichannel Experiences. When he's not at work, you can find him playing basketball or listening to jazz.


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