The Importance Of Culture When Innovating

Girls in STEM Mentor jan Choudhury

by | 28 Feb, 2020 | Untapped Thinking

Working with clients in the food and drink sector recently reminded us of the value to deeply understand the culture of a category within its country or region. This type of understanding must delve back into history, look at how the culture evolves over time and also consider how trends will shape learning in the future.  

Why is Culture Important?

Culture drives human behaviours and desires. It’s the why behind the what. At Untapped we’re known for repeatedly asking why, but our consumers can’t always tell us why they do something or have a particular opinion. Extracting unarticulated needs and beliefs using projective and creative qualitative research tools is vital. But this still won’t reveal how those beliefs got there in the first place and what motivates people. Once we understand cultural nuances, we can:

  1. Design these into innovative products and services.  The product and pack cues can reflect culture relevance, e.g. flavours, ingredients, formats and textures in foods and colours, fonts, the imagery on pack.
  2. Ensure brands tell more relevant and emotional human stories that resonate with their users. These can help brands to connect with consumers in a local market or provide the narrative as brands link across cultures.

How to Unearth Culture?

Cultural experts and semioticians analyse the dynamics that are shaping a category and influencing human needs and desires for the future.  

Identifying how products and brands map in today’s and tomorrow’s culture together with their codes and cues determine how people navigate a category. We also find that exploring adjacent categories and trends can provoke new thinking within an innovation space. This analysis is most actionable when it digs back into history, looking at the cultural influences that shaped how people think and behave today.  

Taking food as an example – even within neighbouring European countries with multi-cultural dietary preferences – we see essential nuances that explain why tastes and eating habits differ.

And Here Are Some Great Examples …

Nestle combined a sustainable packaging trend with a cultural insight to replace their plastic packaging with paper and instructions on how to fold it into origami on KitKat

A red and white sign

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Eastern Mediterranean Fava beans being used as the new humus as a tasty, nutritious plant-based snack, with brand-specific cultural nuances to appeal to local markets.

Final Thoughts …

When innovating products and ideas for the future, it’s not enough to base this on human insight and future trends. Successful brands need to tell more relevant, human and emotional stories with their consumers at the heart of this decision making. Without understanding the need for cultural nuances, this will not be possible.

If you would like to talk to us about unearthing cultural insight, we’d love to hear from you.

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