Culture is King. Content is merely its mirror

Joe Gowdridge, Creative Lead at Wunderman Thompson UK, on culture influencing content

by India Fizer , AdForum

Wunderman Thompson UK
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London, United Kingdom
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Joe Gowdridge
Creative Lead Wunderman Thompson UK

Now more than ever, people want to be engaged with the brands that they shop with and feel a genuine connection to the brand's principles. Creative Lead at Wunderman Thompson UK, Joe Gowdridge, explains how culture is the real driver of content and the importance in choosing the right medium for the message.


Content is the bridge between you and your audience. How do you anticipate and then integrate the right topics for your audience while maintaining a consistent brand voice?

Maintaining brand voice takes control and consistency across different channels, as well as empathy and attention to detail. But with the right sensitivity, most brands should be able to talk about the topics they want to, it’s just about finding the right way in. Anticipating what your audience wants or expects is more about being plugged in, observing what’s happening in society more broadly, the conversations that are taking place within and between different communities. For me, any type of marketing or advertising – whether that be traditional OOH, TV, print, below the line, social, advertorial, whatever – is really a window into the culture of the community that content is being presented in. It reflects back what people are already talking about, thinking, and feeling. Or at least it should. When it doesn’t, it grates, alienates audiences, and has the opposite effect you want it to. So, while the most lofty-minded marketeers might tell you that they are influencing culture, I see it the other way. Culture is King. Content is merely its mirror. And content creators are the serfs stealing a cheeky glance.


What role does branding play in content marketing?

As I see it, they are one and the same. Creating content is about telling stories. And that’s what a brand is: a story. So content marketing is a great way for brands to extend their own story and get people talking. In fact, it’s the perfect medium. Through the more traditional storytelling formats of content marketing, brands can reach into topics and communities in a way that feels much more authentic. A 5-minute video interview with Chloe Kelly on aspiring to be an England footballer feels much more important and honest than a print ad saying ‘Well done Lionesses’. That’s not to say there isn’t a place for the latter, but content allows you to go deeper. The delicate art is in aligning that content with a brand’s principles so that it feels like a relationship built on a genuine connection, rather than a marriage of convenience. Get it right and it can reinforce existing brand principles and deepen audience affinity. Get it wrong and the story probably won’t have a happy ending.


Not everything can be advertised the same way, which can require a different approach across clients. How does content affect the way something is marketed and how do you pivot to treat this?

Every brief is a puzzle that needs to be tackled from its own unique starting point, taking a holistic view of the brand you’re working with. But there’s no one way to crack a brief and the different types of content at your disposal allow you to approach the task in different ways. It’s good to remember that the format of delivery speaks just as loudly to your audience as the subject matter of the content itself. So, by choosing a particular format – whether that be video, long-form, audio, an AR experience, or something else – you’re communicating something implicitly to the audience, as well as explicitly through the content. These nuances require proper strategy, informed understanding of the audience you’re talking to, and a little bit of gut instinct.


Without giving away your secrets, what are some things that are integral to your internal checklist when creating content?

Sneak preview into my self-centered internal dialogue…

Does it make me excited? Do I genuinely think it’s interesting?

Do I want to watch or look at it again?

Do I want to reread it? And rereread it? And rerereread it?

Do I momentarily think I might actually be brilliant?

Does my partner say ‘I like that’ when I share it in the evening?

Is it doing or saying something new?


How do you strategize for the way audiences will want to interact with content in virtual realities, Web 3.0, and the metaverse? To what extent do you involve influencers and consumers in creating the brand narrative?

There’s a lot of talk about technologies like Metaverse, tokenisation and XR, but it’s important to note that they’re not one and the same. They all have their own rules and parameters that will make content creation within each one a specific art form. One thing that does unite them though is that they’re all built on the idea of self-empowered community, and brands must remember that when they engage with them. Brands, after all, have spent years, sometimes decades, fostering and building their own communities. But while Metaversal technologies offer the tantalizing potential for brands to connect with people in new ways and to offer new and exciting experiences, what’s most important is that they’re doing so in meaningful ways that truly deepen brand position and advance the communities they’re talking to. Go in with something half-baked and ‘for-the-sake-of-it’ and you’re more likely to alienate those same communities you’re trying to woo and impress with your bleeding-edge credentials.

For more on what we’re doing at Wunderman Thompson to help brands engage with these technologies in meaningful ways, check out WT Intelligence and our latest report New Realities: Into the Metaverse and beyond