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Cultural insight

Cultural insight refers to all insight stemming from the context of culture: the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society which can shape individuals’ thoughts and feelings. Often ignored in traditional market research, cultural insight is important because it is derived from the social environment that embraces both consumers and brands. Research techniques such as semiotics and ethnography offer rich opportunities for unlocking cultural insight.

Key Reading

Important papers from across the Warc database

This article discusses how the global beverage brand manages to stay culturally relevant, despite its long heritage. It shows how, while Coca-Cola has embraced a "better world" brand positioning for the last 100 years, it has needed to regularly refresh its marketing communications to suit the prevailing mood of the time.
This article suggests that cultural innovation is a superior approach to functional improvement.
How culture, routinely ignored by "traditional" market research, can be an inspiring source of insights.
This paper gives guidance on how to use the 'inside-out' research approach of semiotics.

Case Study

This case study explains how PRODISS, a French union for people working in entertainment industries, used an event and social media campaign that built solidarity to encourage people to return to concerts after a terrorist attack in Paris.

Case Study

This case study explains how Sakker El Dekkene (Stop the Shop), a Lebanese NGO, used a stunt to encourage people to report corruption.

Case Study

This case study explains how Lurpak, a premium butter brand, repositioned itself to drive sales in the UK, by connecting with consumers through their love of food.

Case Study

This case study explains how Lifebuoy, the soap brand, extended its 'Help a Child Reach 5' initiative to more countries with the help of donors by releasing an emotional film online.

Case Study

This case study shows how Pedigree, a dog products brand, promoted its social platform and increased brand equity in Russia by focusing on the social misconception towards people with Down Syndrome.

Case Study

This case study explains how Hennessy, the cognac brand, connected with young African-American and Hispanic men by focussing on their ambition and drive, using a multi-year campaign in the US.
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This article summarises the insights from key papers on the topic of bricolage (how different materials are used in the creative process of understanding) and semiotics (the study of signs and symbols); they are both techniques used by qualitative researchers to deliver cultural insight.


This Speaker’s Box looks at how authoritarian and populist regimes have made use of consumerism, focusing on Nazi Germany and the People’s Republic of China.


This article explores the relationship of Asia's millennials to motherhood, and how these new perceptions affect their relationships with brands.

Research Paper

This report explores how Latin American companies are addressing product challenges in the region, and how they are responding to increasing consumer consciousness.


This article outlines six facets of home that offer a framework through which brands can fit into people's home life and add value to their lives, a rich seam as the creation and maintenance of the home spur countless purchase decisions every day.


This article explores the current sources informing how brands and agencies can use cultural insight, the ideas, customs and behaviour of particular people.
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  1. Article

    This annual report by J Walter Thompson Intelligence investigates the trends and emerging consumer behaviours set to shape marketing globally in 2017.

  2. Article

    This article explores common challenges facing Western tech brands in India, and provides insight into how Samsung and Vivo successfully localized to grow market share.

  3. Article

    This paper looks at the Chinese millennial, studying the values and attitudes of the generation that will form the 'most important consumer society in the world'.

  4. Article

    This article reveals how Nike, the sportswear brand, successfully adapted its core brand proposition of 'Just Do It' to very diverse cultures.

  5. Article

    This case study describes how Under Armour, the sports apparel brand, turned around the perception of its masculine sportswear brand into a symbol of female athletic aspiration in the US.

  6. Article

    This important paper presents the case that marketing evolves through a number of stages, and that what may appear to be cultural differences between countries, hindering global marketing, may not be cultural at all but rather due to a country being at a different stage of marketing development.
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