Next Thursday marks the fourth installment of our ‘Populating Culture’ themed season where we’ll be joined by the likes of Facebook, Twitch and Entale to discuss the topical and often controversial issue of cultural bubbles. What the hell are cultural bubbles and what role do brands play in them? This blog takes a closer look….
When the World Wide Web first became available to the general public in 1991 people globally were confronted with an infinite wealth of knowledge, resource, and connection. However, with the subsequent dawn of social media, the horizon-broadening potential of the internet has arguably begun to swing back in the opposite direction. Algorithms designed to keep users engaged on social platforms have quickly learnt that the most effective way of achieving their goal is simply to serve an audience more of what it wants. Newsfeeds that overwhelmingly showcase content designed to chime with our pre-existing views are symptomatic of this. Various commentators have sought to highlight the inherent danger of these digital echo chambers which jettison dissenting views and inadvertently support the formation of self-contained ‘cultural bubbles’.
Image Credit: Richard Heeks
So what role do brands play?
According to Professor Byron Sharp in his book ‘How Brands Grow’ the key to brand growth is to appeal to mass audiences, not to target niche segments. While precision advertising undoubtedly has its place, companies ultimately need unified audiences in order to grow their businesses. Thus it often falls to brands and marketers to try and pop cultural bubbles in order to bring people together. In doing so, brands have to strike a difficult balance – they must address relevant issues without getting too political. We’ve pulled together a few examples of brands that have successfully managed to walk this tightrope.
Heineken – Open your World
In 2017 Heineken launched the brand campaign ‘Open Your World’ in the hopes of ‘inspiring people to focus on the things that unite us rather than divide us’. Joining forces with the not-for-profit organisation The Human Library, the beer brand conducted a social experiment ‘Worlds Apart’ which saw strangers with wildly divergent beliefs unite over a bottle of Heineken.The campaign also included a study let by Goldsmiths University on the Science of Common Ground; an employee ‘Mix It Up’ campaign and a Facebook Chatbot that connected people from diverse backgrounds.
Image Source: MercuryNews
Nescafé – Instant Connections
Back in 2015, in a less overtly political move, Nescafe took to the streets of Berlin to encourage pedestrians to engage with one another instead of their electronic devices – with the help of just a cup of coffee. The brand set up hidden coffee machines, disguised as traffic light control buttons, in the city centre. When a pedestrian pressed the button on one of these machines – which read ‘press together’- at the same time as the person on the opposite side of the road, the machine would open up to reveal a hidden vending machine and pour them both a warm cup of Nescafé coffee.
Image Source: Nestle
Kind Snacks – Pop Your Bubble
Finally, in the most obvious brand response to the growing trend of online Cultural Bubbles, American health foods brand Kind Snacks teamed up with their very own Kind Foundation to create a tool which helps people see new perspectives in their social media feeds. ‘Pop your Bubble’ is a Facebook app that’s designed to get people interacting with others who have different opinions on politics and society. To promote the new app, the brand launched an ad that saw a variety of different Americans confronting and consequently ‘popping’ their own cultural bubbles.
Image Source: KindFoundation
Keen to learn more? Join us in reception on Thursday 7th June to get our expert panel’s view on the phenomenon of ‘Cultural Bubbles’. Until then, stay curious!