Embracing the Culture Era: How Brands Can Thrive in the World of Subcultures

In a world where social media is constantly evolving, it's becoming increasingly clear that the traditional approach to marketing is no longer sufficient. At SXSW, I attended a thought-provoking talk entitled "Social Media is Dead, Long Live Culture Media," which shed light on the new era of marketing: the culture era. In this post, we'll dive deep into what the culture era means for brands and how they can tap into the magic of subcultures to build loyal communities of believers.

The Rise of Culture Media

The culture era is defined by co-creation and community. It's no longer about broadcasting messages to a passive audience; it's about engaging with audiences on a deeper level and understanding what truly interests them. TikTok, the platform that has taken the world by storm, is a perfect example of this shift. With its endless universe of content galaxies, TikTok allows users to explore and engage with niche subcultures that resonate with their interests.

The Magic in the Margins

In the culture era, demographics are dead. It's no longer about targeting specific age groups or genders; it's about identifying and engaging with communities that share common interests. The magic, as they say, is in the margins. Niche subcultures, once overlooked by mainstream media, are now where the real inspiration and engagement lie. From #BookTok, which has resurged the popularity of reading, to the growing community of sober-curious individuals, subcultures are driving trends and shaping the future of marketing.

Six Ways to Tap into Subcultures:

So, how can brands tap into the magic of subcultures? Here are six strategies to help you navigate the culture era:

1. Develop Cultural Intelligence

TikTok is more than just a platform for entertainment; it's a search engine for cultural trends. By using TikTok to stay informed about what's trending in your niche, you can develop a deep understanding of your target audience and create content that resonates with them.

2. Loosen Your Brand Guidelines

In the culture era, brands need to be more flexible and adaptable. Take a cue from McDonalds who changed their logo when a content creator suggested they should focus on the O not the M, which shows how brands can playfully engage with their audiences using the language and style of their target community. Don't be afraid to let your brand evolve and take on new forms.

3. Embrace Co-Creation

The Goldfish crackers example below highlights the importance of user-generated content and co-creation. By allowing your audience to be part of the creative process, you can build a stronger connection with them and create content that truly resonates.

4. Create Interactive Content

The Door Dash Superbowl example shows how creating content that prompts and responds to audience engagement can lead to viral success. Focus on creating content that encourages interaction and conversation, rather than just broadcasting messages.

5. Build a Community of Believers:

Instead of just aiming for fans, aim to create believers. The Stanley example show how even older age groups can become your most loyal and engaged audience when you create products and content that align with their interests and values.

6. Prioritize Entertainment

Above all, your content should be entertaining. Take inspiration from the Heinz tomato blood example to create content that's both engaging and memorable. In the culture era, entertainment is key to capturing and holding your audience's attention.


The world of marketing is undergoing a significant shift, and brands that fail to adapt risk being left behind. The culture era demands a new approach, one that prioritizes community, co-creation, and authenticity. By tapping into the magic of subcultures and creating content that entertains and engages, brands can build loyal communities of believers who will champion their products and values.

However, navigating this new landscape requires a willingness to let go of traditional notions of control and embrace a more collaborative approach to marketing. It means being open to feedback, adapting to new trends, and allowing your brand to evolve in response to your audience's interests and needs.

The future of marketing lies in the margins, in the niche subcultures that are driving trends and shaping the cultural conversation. By developing cultural intelligence, loosening brand guidelines, embracing co-creation, creating interactive content, building communities of believers, and prioritizing entertainment, brands can thrive in the culture era and build lasting connections with their audiences.

So, if you want your brand to succeed in this new era of marketing, it's time to embrace the magic of subcultures and start creating content that truly resonates with your audience.