Spark Foundry's Esther Franklin on the Importance of Cultural Fluency

By Publicis Media InSites Archives
Cover image for  article: Spark Foundry's Esther Franklin on the Importance of Cultural Fluency

Many would argue that English, Spanish and Mandarin are the languages du jour -- the must haves critical to success in a global economy.  While they are important, there is one overlooked competency increasingly required for growth and impact in a transitioning, modern world:  cultural fluency.

Success for many, in business and in life, is dependent upon driving impact broadly by touching people individually.  One of the foundational elements involved is the ability to communicate authentically with the people you want to impact.  At its core, this means speaking natively.  In 2018 the most spoken languages in the world include Punjabi, Japanese, Russian, Bengali, Portuguese, Arabic, Hindi, English, Spanish and Mandarin.   As a result, parents, business leaders and ambitious people everywhere are jumping on board to learn one or more of these languages in their quest for success.  Multi-language fluency is valued.  

While communicating natively and authentically is fundamental, stopping there misses an opportunity.   Demographic shifts have been creating disruption worldwide.  As different groups of people move into new surroundings, they bring their own views of the world and brand preferences.  In these environments, the role cultures and identities play on influencing consumer behavior is heightened.  Marketers that demonstrate the ability to leverage influences and customs to shape people’s identities will realize growth.

Today's World Is Culturally Bold

One of the greatest impacts of globalization and technology is cultural proximity.  Cultural norms, traditions and experiences, once isolated by boundaries now eradicated by technology, are easily accessible.  In an experience economy, this is nirvana: providing expanded opportunity for people to immerse themselves in other cultures and then adopt bits and pieces as their own.

At the same time, destabilization, the new world norm, drives people to search for relevance and meaning.  As certainties that once brought comfort and guidance become more uncertain, people turn to cultural traditions hardwired into their identity for grounding and guidance.

The Ability to “Speak” Cultural Fluency Enables Brands to Thrive in a Culturally Bold World

Speaking cultural fluency requires a shift from knowing about demographic and population shifts to leveraging the heightened role culture and identity playbecause of them in brand behavior and consumption preferences.  It’s about navigating toward a North Star rooted in cultural relevance and motivating behavioral shifts that can boost growth, as well as about intent, focus and expertise in cultural connectivity, cultural dexterity and cultural embracement.

Cultural Connectivity

Understanding the difference between:

  • Previous generations being defined by race and ethnicity is no longer acceptable
  • Today’s generations incorporate heritage and tradition as part of their own unique identity

Yes, the modern world has moved beyond a simplistic view rooted in perception and stereotype, but that doesn’t mean cultural hardwiring has been rendered null and void.  People hold tight to their heritage and traditions while pushing for depictions of their nuanced, whole selves.  At the same time, today’s populations are more sophisticated about business -- driving contributions made by their cultural collective and more demanding that they be acknowledged and correctly attributed to their efforts.

Cultural Dexterity

Celebrating people’s elevated deftness in maneuvering across cultures.

In everyday life, people are interacting inside and outside of their cultural core.  In urban areas, this takes on a literal dimension; in less populated areas it is fueled by expanded access to content and media portrayals.  The net effect is that people are becoming more accustomed to the cultural encounters brought about by everyday life occurrences and they welcome experiences that reflect this reality.

Cultural Embracement

Being influenced by and adopting elements of culture that’s not one’s own.

In an I focused world, cultural embracement is an important contributor to the curation of one’s unique identification.  We understand that the world around us is dynamic and transitioning, yet don’t seem to grasp in the same way that people’s identities are constantly shifting as well.  In the process, people are evaluating and reaching out to those products and services that can meet their evolving needs.

There’s never been a riper time to become adept at cultural fluency.  I’m already onboard.  Where are you?

Photo credit:  Kyle Glenn/Unsplash

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