As Taco Bell gets Cashmere onboard as its first Culture Agency of Record, we explore what it such a step means in the ad world.
The ad world has evolved over the years from a time when creative agencies created a brand's everything to today when a specialised agency can be hired for a specific task. This shift has caused a diversification so great, today a brand can even hire an agency to shape its image in sync with the culture they exist in. "We understand your audience because we are your audience," says Cashmere, an agency that Taco Bell has recently hired as their first Culture Agency of Record.
Essentially, a culture agency's job is to keep tabs on upcoming popular and relevant trends to help brands stay connected with their target groups — to prepare them before the trends play out. To speak metaphorically, they need to know which way the winds are blowing and prepare marketing and contingency plans that can help their client stay afloat and make the most of it with contextual messaging.
Perhaps the most important part of their job is to ensure a space for their client in the culture they wish to be a part of — which requires a certain amount of understanding of how to build inclusive spaces as well. The work of such agencies is almost a cultural shift in itself. One can hardly be 'woke' on social media while treating their employees and partners horribly. Participating in conversations online comes at a price — if you seem superficial, you will be bashed publicly, and how!
Cashmere promises to help brands connect with "influential millennials by delivering authentic campaign messaging, cultural value, and compelling content." They work on understanding where the demographic resides, how they consume and share ideas, and what inspires them. Then, this information is fused into the messaging being put out to make it effective — in the digital and real worlds.
Similar culture/multicultural agencies include Dentsu Aegis Network's Gravity (which has now been merged into dentsu X), Nimbus Inc., Alma, The Community, and MediaMorphosis.
The Taco Bell announcement states, "The evolution and shift in culture caused by new social and technology platforms, along with generations coming of age, particularly in the past year, has driven blue-chip companies to engage partners fluent in social nuance."
"We are philosophically aligned in our belief that when there is greater harmony between communities and brands, progress can be more fully realised. It is a dream to come together and supercharge our capabilities," says Ted Chung, Founder and Chairman, Cashmere.
In the US, a huge shift did happen because of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Companies were forced to look inwards and work towards inclusivity in their marketing and hiring. Brands like Aunt Jemima and Fair & Lovely were among those who had to rebrand in order to stay with the times.
In a digital world that's constantly evolving every minute, where trends start, pick up and die in a day, there is a lot that can be achieved if an agency were to try and predict a path that would suit their interests best. Of course, it would not just be about marketing but include the whole spectrum — from recruitment and fair pay to building an inclusive space that does justice to the culture these agencies are brought in to build.
The hiring of a culture agency can also be expected to help shape the work-life culture that exists at various companies, including creative and digital agencies — it is an overhaul kind of a transformation after all.