The Currency of Culture

By Julia Dixon

Brands have historically achieved cultural value through storytelling. But content overload, splintered attention spans, and an increasingly participatory online landscape have given rise to a dominant, more powerful cultural currency: Exchange. Whether it’s the swap of ideas, content, questions, crypto, or other Web3 initiatives — people want to be part of the story brands are telling.

The desire for exchange is evident in recent platform data. While hardly new to the space, Reddit was the second fastest growing social network in 2021. Open discussions around shared interests within highly-engaged communities are the core of the platform. Discord similarly facilitates casual, free-flowing conversations about gaming, music, memes, and everyday life. The platform had 140 million monthly active users in 2021, a  40% increase from the previous year.

TikTok, arguably the most culturally relevant platform at present, has encouraged brands to engage with its users’ self-sorted CommunityToks, claiming 78% of users agree the best brands on TikTok are those that exchange ideas and work together with users. And across all platforms, the importance of user exchange within comment sections is getting noticed – sometimes with comments getting more likes than the original content.  

…brands that develop communities and encourage customer exchange saw increased revenue by 70%.

On the brand side, companies like PelotonGlossier, or Disney might come to mind when it comes to fostering communities. But below are some other players thinking about cultural exchange differently.  

Decentraland is a leading online virtual world governed by a DAO, a community-led entity with no central authority. Anyone who owns the platform’s token, known as MANA, can take part in platform decision-making. In 2021, Decentraland grew its user base by 3,300% and reached a peak market cap of $12 billion. The platform is quickly becoming popular with global brands including Morgan Stanley, Coca-Cola, and Adidas. Many believe that even non-metaverse companies will soon have to adopt similarly democratic frameworks, with Vogue Business stating, “brands that don’t develop DAO-like aspects will atrophy away.”

One brand-specific example — semi-permanent tattoo company Inkbox is elevating artists and art lovers through their community of over 1.5 million. Artists can submit their own designs, collaborate with other artists to create sleeves, and share the results on social by tagging @Inkbox, #inkfam, #Inkboxlove, or #tattoosfornow to participate in the ultimate art exchange. Inkbox also understood the market they were entering when facilitating this artistic swap. Knowing that tattoo culture can seem closed, standoffish, and hostile, the Inkbox community is intentionally creative, uplifting, and inclusive.  

According to one  customer engagement report, brands that develop communities and encourage customer exchange saw increased revenue by 70%. The hunger for these types of spaces isn’t surprising given the decline of traditional institutions that historically held this kind of social relevance. To fill the gap, people are looking elsewhere to find that sense of community and feel their ideas are being heard. 

This article was originally posted on Media Genius.

Julia Dixon


Senior Cultural Strategist, Weber Shandwick

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