Often ignored in traditional market research, cultural insight is important because it is derived from the social environment that embraces both consumers and brands. A cultural approach looks beyond the functional and focusses on phenomena and assumptions that are frequently taken for granted. Cultural insight is rooted in meaning and understanding the symbolic representations that exist within society and consumption. Semiotics can tap into the culture that shapes consumers and ethnography offers a rich methodological lens for unlocking cultural insight.


Cultural insight refers to all insight stemming from the context of culture: the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society.

Key Insights

1. ‘Leading-edge’ consumers can give a competitive edge in cultural understanding

Brands aspiring to cultural relevance can get ahead of their competition by engaging the ‘leading edge’ – a curated set of people with different perspectives to mainstream, core consumers or certain lifestyles relevant to the research objectives. By doing so, brands can break out of the tunnel vision created by focusing on a representative sample and see things from a new angle. Engagement with the leading edge should be seen more as activation than research and enable them to contribute their ideas through a creative, collaborative process. Creating a longer-term community also works well. An example of this approach is Ikea’s Life at Home project.