The power of a culture mashup


When creating and marketing brands, we face the challenge of creating something familiar but not forgettable. You want to leverage category benefits, but you also need to stand out in the crowd. A brand that relies on recognizable clichés is easily dismissed. A brand that is too bizarre is hard to process, categorize, and relate to.

Brands that mix two known cultures can create a persona that is both interesting and easily understood. Technology + Artistic expression = Apple. Or in other words, with Apple, you are a cool, artistic, techno-geek.

These culture mashup work well when they come from different categories. A former student in the class, Christopher Olvis, re-branded Voodoo Bakery to be a doughnut shop that has the attitude of a tattoo parlor. Lot’s of black accented with funky retro colors. Wild creative expressions. Bakers that are alternative lifestyle artists. The results were pretty terrific. He took it to a weird place, but a place that I could understand.

Part of what makes this work so well is the tension created by the contrasting cultures. The brain makes neural connections that have never existed, but doesn’t have to start creating concepts from scratch. So you keep the familiarity, but add the interest.

Culture mashups can create great video content. A team of suburban dads cross-pollinated with a hip-hop crew gives you “A Dad’s Life” http://vimeo.com/12714406.  Or the great commercials made by Gerry Graff for Combos http://youtu.be/Swf_dYyhyaM.

Whether it’s fusion cuisine or mixed marriages, they’re made more interesting by creating a cultural stew.

JIM JOHNSON

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