Based on his observations of these "cultured" corporates, American author Grant McCracken is proposing a new "C-suite" title: the chief culture officer (CCO). Such an executive would be mainly responsible for keeping the company abreast of changes in consumer behaviour and cultural shifts.
McCracken, a business writer and anthropologist, is mindful that readers will likely wonder how this can even be justified as a full-time job, much less one at the higher end of any firm's salary range. But he says that if done competently, the job will more than pay for itself.
To bolster his case, McCracken cites numerous examples of corporations that have employed the cultural shtick successfully, and those that haven't. Winners include Apple, Procter & Gamble, and Facebook. And his CCO-like icons are Apple's Steve Jobs, former Coca-Cola executive Mary Minnick, ex-Unilever honcho Silvia Lagnado, and the late Geoffrey Frost, who rejuvenated Motorola.
McCracken asserts that most companies do a crummy job of sensing and capitalising on cultural currents. That is because they concentrate on "fast culture", the kind tracked by "cool-hunting", whether it is the latest Nordic design or this week's hottest iPad app.
This means companies miss out on "slow culture", the variety that makes up the fabric of consumers' lives. To illustrate this, McCracken explains how Procter & Gamble eschewed the use of focus groups to examine why consumers preferred one toothpaste brand over another. Instead, its own researchers looked at how people lived their lives, and how their choice of toothpaste brand fitted into that complex matrix.
Another case study is just as enlightening. Silvia Lagnado, formerly global brand director for Unilever's Dove soap products