Riding the wave of cultural moments: Tapping into collisions for competitive advantage

Laura Mulcahy
By Laura Mulcahy | 10 July 2023
Colleen Ryan Laura Mulcahy.

Laura Mulcahy, Director of Cultural Strategy, TRA and Colleen Ryan, Managing Partner, TRA

‘Moments’ are much loved by marketers. Finding the moments that matter to individuals offers a clear business opportunity.

Timeliness is critical to Moment Marketing. Businesses must target the consumer at the moment the consumer is already looking for them – consciously or unconsciously. Take a business offering home loans for first-home buyers for example: the moment that matters is when people are looking to buy take their first step onto the property ladder. Engage your audience at that moment that matters to win their attention.

But moments are often bigger than the individual. We don’t live in a vacuum, and we are constantly creating shared meaning in our collective consciousness. Cultural moments occur when something shifts in that wider consciousness.

These moments range from a major seismic event like COVID-19 to a barely perceptible shift in the way we live, connect, work and play. Cultural transmission happens at an unconscious level, igniting latent passions, making us lean into something that previously we had little interest in, or influencing a buying decision.

For marketers, keeping a keen eye on the wax and wane of cultural shifts is essential in knowing how to capitalise on key moments to make the most impact. It stands to reason if you can pick up the early cultural signals you are better prepared to frame your brand in the cultural moment that will influence people’s behaviour and decisions.

Where it really gets useful, though, is where the cultural moment is a collision of multiple cultural signals. The interface where they collide is where real opportunity lies.

Let’s look at a few cultural shifts in Australia and how they collided to create a major cultural moment.

During the pandemic Australia - a major surfing nation - saw a surge in surfing, with many people who didn’t fit the normal traditional ‘surfer dude’ type taking up the sport– including a specific interest among women.

Meanwhile, the pandemic also caused a surge in interest in our natural environment beaches and oceans for example. Much of the environmental discourse among consumers focused on climate change or plastic pollution of the sea and reefs. Concern for these environmental issues lay with women in particular.

The war against the use of non-recyclable plastics, visible mainly through initiatives in packaging, also gained momentum. This recycling movement had an impact on the fashion industry putting unsustainable materials and practices under the spotlight.

Where could the collision of surfing, connection with the environment, anti-plastic sentiment, and fashion sustainability lead us?

To Kelly Slater. Arguably the world’s most famous surfer, Slater recently launched a new product (KLLY.com) precisely where these cultural moments collide. Slater designed a thong (a flip flop or jandal to Kiwis) made from recycled sources and a sustainable base made from algae.

He seized the moment and captured the collision of cultural moments to market a new product.

There are several other Australians businesses who positioned themselves at the centre of this collision. One example is Queensland-based business Surfing Green, with a mission “to inspire the use of sustainable surfing products to protect the ocean we love.”

Similarly, Adelaide business And or With produces sustainably produced surf clothing and claims to “source our textiles from suppliers who are independently certified as responsible and ethical employers.” Additionally, Australian-made Salt Gypsy operates a by-women, for-women model, speaking directly to women surfers: “Salt Gypsy is a women's surf lifestyle company celebrating female surf athleticism and style”.

It’s good to see Australian companies riding the wave (sorry, not sorry) of these cultural movements. You may not be in the surfing business but looking at how others have leveraged a collision of cultural moments is not a bad way to start your own process.

Look at Peloton, a brand under pressure, trying to read the signals for future growth. The collision of a resurgence in travel, growth in cycling, continuing interest in wellness and especially aerobic health due to COVID, plus burgeoning trends around living longer, has created an opportunity for the launch of Peloton bikes into hotels. Peloton is now in over 30 hotels in Australia.

Any marketer, whatever their category, can find their sweet spot of cultural collision.

Tuning your antennae to the signals that indicate cultural moments is the first step, while seeing the patterns and where they collide is where the real competitive advantage lies.

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