‘Culture Mapping’: The Future For Social Brands

Not so long ago I read Kevin Kelly’s book What Technology Wants. In it, Kelly talks about his concept ‘the Technium’ - the global, massively interconnected system of technology.


Kelly outlines and explores technology as a living system, akin to the human biological system. Among the many areas he touches on one in particular caught my attention, that of the singularity of life. "There is a tilt to evolution's seemingly chaotic charring that rediscovers the same forms and keeps raring at the same solutions,” writes Kelly. 
“It's almost as if life has an imperative. It "wants' to materialize certain patterns. The incredible complexity of life disguises its singularity."


So where am I going with this? The idea of interconnected systems that reveal patterns interested me, particularly in the context of trying to understand the attributes of a social brand. Social brands, those defined by involvement, seem to understand emerging patterns in society and culture; they know that the world is no longer flat thanks to the nature of networks.
But most importantly they understand that they are part of a shifting narrative that is taking place on the grand scale, and that if they are to maintain their relevance they must master the context of the story that's unfolding.


This is in sharp contrast to managed brands. By managed I mean those defined by control, those who insist on managing themselves out of human context. They are obsessed with gathering data and 'insights' and using the latest with technology to engage us in a relationship that is always one-way, ignoring what’s taking place and the context of people’s lives.


So how do brands navigate this new world? Well, they need a map and a cartographer who can understand the complexities of the networked world and position them within those storylines.
Some months ago I came across the work of Tim Stock, co-founder and managing director of ScenarioDNA, a cultural insights and research think-tank that uses a hybrid toolkit of semiotics, anthropology and analytics to uncover insights missed by most research.


They have developed a patent pending methodology of Culture Mapping that plots cultural codes of meaning and tracks the migration and dimension of these signals over time. Essentially they help companies to develop creative and design platforms that are synchronized with culture and trends.


In Ireland, Emmet O'Brian from Quiddity has a similar offering that offers organisations a unique “analytic mentality” informed by a background covering discourse analysis, economics, narrative analysis, politics, social theory and semiotics. 

The complexities of the networked age make it more and more difficult for brands to be heard and yet managed brands are still rely on technology to sift through 'big data' sets in a desperate effort to understand how many people like them and what people are saying about them, while ignoring the narratives that are taking place around them.


If brands are to be successful in this new, networked age they need to understand the cultural context in which they operate, sifting through the structured and unstructured data to find the patterns and contexts that matter. That’s the way forward.