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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 describes how credit-card company MasterCard used interactive technology to help shopping mall customers in the UAE overcome their compassion fatigue and donate food to refugee camps.

Case Study

This case study details how Head & Shoulders, an anti-dandruff shampoo brand, grew its shares in Israel by associating with the religious festival of Passover.

Case Study

This paper describes a global research project for PayPal, the online payment service, which sought to contemporise the brand and align it with people's attitudes to money.

Case Study

This case study describes how Aldi, the German discount supermarket, 'rewrote' the Australian Christmas rulebook by moving beyond the festive association and demonstrating that there was no such thing as a 'typical' Christmas.

Case Study

This case study shows how the Australian Department for Social Services increased awareness and drove action among citizens by demonstrating how verbal disrespect toward women was intimately linked to domestic violence.

Case Study

This case study describes how non-profit organisation the Thai Health Promotion Foundation created AbsorbPlate, an innovative design inspired by the texture of sponge, that made Thai food less greasy, and helped tackle Thailand's obesity problem.
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Research Paper

This paper describes how Ferrero, an Italian chocolatier, utilized a hybridized research approach to understand how children's behaviours are impacted during Ramadan in Saudi Arabia.


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.


This article explores the challenges and opportunities that Latin American brands are facing as they adapt to social, political and technological changes in the region.


This event report details some expected trends in 2017 and how they will affect the marketing landscape, from the dangers of filter bubbles to the rise of live streaming.
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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 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'.

  3. Article

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

  4. Article

    This report examines the trends in marketing strategy in Asia, with lessons for marketers drawn from an analysis of the entries to the Warc Prize for Asian Strategy 2015.

  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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