Why subcultures could be the key to your most successful ever content marketing strategy


A digital marketer’s work has not stopped evolving since the dawn of the Internet. The next digital marketing shift sees third-party cookies going stale in 2024 while the battle for retaining consumer attention grows increasingly challenging with Entrepreneur sharing the average attention span of Gen Zs is 8 seconds while Millennials give a more generous average of 12 seconds.

The monoculture is dead — moments used to capture everyone’s attention have been replaced with events and trends that play out in different corners of the digital world. So, how then can brands continue to achieve cut-through and capture audiences’ attention?

Enter: the wonderful world of subcultures.

But first, what is subculture?

Academics define subculture as “a distinct cultural group that exists as an identifiable segment within a larger, more complex society”.

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When it comes to digital content, subcultures lend themselves to specific topics that coexist within broad genres. Simply put, subcultures are micro segments that exist within a macro category.

How are subcultures changing the content marketing game?

As audiences mature and evolve, so too do their digital behaviours and content consumption. In fact, a Google executive shared that 40% of Gen Zs prefer to use TikTok and Instagram over Google for their search and discovery needs.

When it comes to brands engaging Gen Zs across their social search feeds, a recent study by Smartly.io reveals 30% of users are motivated by the novelty of a brand’s product while 45% say the brand has to appear trustworthy and transparent.

Tapping into a subculture that aligns with your brand is one of the more effective ways to increase a brand’s discoverability, promote its novelty, build trust with audiences, and drive conversations.

Here are 3 ways brands can leverage subcultures in their content marketing strategies.

  • Create a content series around a consumer subculture

The beauty of subcultures is that their communities are loyal, active, and deeply engaged in a particular interest. When a brand creates relevant content that feeds into these obsessions, the likelihood of capturing and retaining an audience’s attention is far greater than with broader content pieces.

One brand that aroused the curiosities of the female sexual empowerment subculture is Vush’s collaboration with Abbie Chatfield.

Beyond co-designing a vibrator, Vush tapped into the subculture of women cheering women on and featured the product’s ambassador Chatfield in various podcasts that discuss female sexuality, wellness, and empowerment.

The content hit the spot for both Vush and Chatfield, sparking genuine conversations about sexual wellness and pleasure and connecting Vush to a customer segment that wanted to engage with their product, as reflected by a big jump in sales.

  • Leverage social channels to feed consumer subcultures

When it comes to Gen Zs discovering, following and engaging with new brands on social media, 82% of users say how a brand shows up on each platform needs to be authentic, relevant, and aligned with their values according to data shared by Sprout Social.

For beauty retailer MECCA, the brand created a dedicated Facebook Group to champion authenticity and enable its loyal customers to relate better with new and existing consumers.

Not only did MECCA connect close to 87,000+ highly engaged fans in one forum who openly advocate for the brand’s products, rewards program, and share the latest in beauty subculture on the regular, but the brand also now has a wealth of consumer insights to help them stay ahead of the competition.

  • Create campaigns to target consumer subcultures

Gen Zs crave novelty and personalisation as 64% of younger consumers expect more personalised social media experiences based on previous brand interactions.

KFC leaned into their consumers’ social behaviours by monitoring social media activities to identify subcultures such as meme enthusiasts, novelty appreciators, and food ravers to give birth to KFC’s first fine-dining restaurant.

Collaborating with Sydney chef, Nelly Robinson, KFC transformed fine-dining restaurant Nel, into a 3-day pop-up where diners could take their finger-licking experience to a whole new level. The brand’s pay-off was as delicious as it sounds with over 200,000 fans vying for a limited seat of only 180 tickets while gaining substantial organic media coverage.

How to identify the right subcultures for your brand

While your first instinct might be to start googling, the fact is you probably have the data insights to define your digital subculture within your brand’s assets.

Here are 3 ways brands can identify their subculture niches.

A common mistake marketers make is looking at what’s happening to the business or the world rather than focusing on their consumers’ direct concerns.

Brands can achieve this by uncovering what people are commenting on their social media posts, running Q&A sessions with their community, and leveraging social listening tools to identify conversations opening up amongst users.

You may have good qualitative data, in which case, looking at it with new eyes can help reveal the answers to what your subcultures are.

Playing to the idea of novelty, brands who have been quick to jump on trends and tap into subcultures have seen increased return on investment just from the social buzz and digital PR it generates.

Consider Gucci x North Face’s recent collaboration — the former operates in high fashion while the latter in the outdoors. Pair that with a TikToker, Francis Bourgeois, whose fame comes from trainspotting, and you’ve got a unique recipe for marketing success.

While the subculture of trainspotting may be far from Gucci’s target audience, this unexpected endorsement from Francis permeated through its niche bubble to capture the attention of millions globally. This brand collaboration and talent alignment encapsulates the concept of subculture perfectly.

  • Engage people at the subculture forefront

Fortunately, there are people whose sole job is to not only be across the latest in subcultures, but also to help shape it. Whether it be a brand strategist, creative director or content director, brands can engage these cultural gurus for insights and ideas so marketing teams can focus on other facets of the business.

Strengthen your content marketing strategy by tapping into subcultures

By finding the right subcultures, you’ll quickly identify new ways to frame your product, service or brand to engage audiences in more powerful and meaningful ways. Most importantly, you can also uncover new content marketing opportunities and revenue streams. So, what are you waiting for? Embrace the world of subcultures and see how your content marketing strategy can evolve for the better.

Jia Yoong Lee, content director at Online Marketing Gurus



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