Become a Part of Culture, Rather Than a Reflection of It

How brands can use short-form content and music to inspire growth

The fastest way for brands to unlock growth is to tap into culture. Period.

It’s also the most efficient way to reach the 18-34 demographic who seek culture, define themselves by culture and, most importantly, have the disposable income to buy culture.

Integral to culture is music, which has always been its soundtrack.

I saw this first-hand during my time at Pepsi, a brand that has become synonymous with music thanks to its ability to partner with artists early in their careers. I’ll always remember that for a digital campaign tied to the inauguration of President Barack Obama, the team worked with a little-known but highly talented MySpace influencer named Lady Gaga. I’d love to tell you what we paid at the time, but I regret we didn’t sign her for life at those prices. Needless to say, we gained disproportionate value by aligning Pepsi with an up-and-coming cultural force.

The way music, culture and brand-influence intertwine has been radically altered by the emergence of short-form content platforms. Today, these platforms are like the artists of days past.

Since the emergence of Vine in 2013, short-form content has quickly evolved into a unique form of artist expression. It’s a medium that truly reflects our always-on, always-connected and mobile culture.

The way music, culture and brand-influence intertwine has been radically altered by the emergence of short-form content platforms.

The world hasn’t seen a revolution like this since MTV pioneered the music video. The MTV Generation would tune in to watch their favorite artist lip-sync along to the latest hit in an overly produced visual masterpiece. Today, the audience can put themselves into the video with viral user-generated dances often becoming more synonymous with a song than the artists’ official video.

Short-form content has also become the primary way people discover and consume new music. The earlier you can build a meaningful relationship with these platforms and creatives, the greater value you can bring to everyone involved.

This instinct is what made Pepsi so successful in the long-term. By developing the muscle memory to authentically partner with artists, it provided new opportunities for creatives and memorable moments for its audiences.

Now creators are not only imitating their favorite artists, but they are also co-creating with their favorite musicians. The result is that the platforms that are providing the outlet for this new form of creativity become authentic spaces for culture to thrive. Authenticity drives organic engagement, which in turn creates culture and for brands, this culture is the shorthand to growth.

On witnessing the global impact of this new method of cultural expression, I recently joined video-app Triller as the chief growth officer. Although there are a handful of players in this space, what attracted me to Triller was its simple ethos to help creatives monetize their creativity.

Users of the app probably don’t realize that Triller emerged from the music industry. It was designed to help the artists and creators who are core to defining culture and ensure that their work was valued in the right way.

This required radical new ways of thinking about content and developing technology that would ensure the artist gets credit for what they create. For brands, tapping into a space that is at the very pinnacle and beginning of culture while ensuring creatives can thrive is a time-tested strategy for growth.

Bonin Bough is currently chief growth officer at Triller. Known as the host of CNBC’s Cleveland Hustles and the author of Txt Me (646) 759-1837, Bonin was one of the youngest C-suite executives at a Fortune 50 company. He worked for Mondelez and PepsiCo before starting Bonin Ventures, a growth accelerator.