Betting on Subcultures With Your Content Marketing: Think Macro, Deliver Micro

This article graciously contributed by Devon T. Smith, Sr. Content Strategist, VCCP New York

Content is the vehicle through which your business communicates with target audiences. The goal of that communication is to establish an authentic brand-to-consumer connection. In order for that connection to be forged, the messaging communicated through your content must truly resonate.

As marketers, we know that a good content strategy requires a keen eye on the type of subject matter that appeals to the values of your target audience. It’s long been a marketing best practice to create data-driven consumer profiles outlining the values and behaviors of consumer audience segments.

Consumer audiences are more multicultural and multifaceted than ever. Multiethnic consumers comprise almost 40% of the total U.S. population. Women influence 85% of consumer household purchases. Meanwhile, 50% of Millennials are unaffiliated with political parties, 35% are not religious, and the rate at which people change jobs has doubled in the last 20 years.

All pointing to the fact that consumer identity is less reliant on politics, religion, and occupation. 

This shift in societal norms, identity, and purchasing power undoubtedly permeate throughout industries, impacting the marketing tactics of businesses — large and small.

In this climate, how can businesses approach content marketing in a way that reaches the goal of audience engagement? By knowing the value of thinking macro and delivering micro.

Brands with an intimate understanding of how to speak to audience subcultures at a micro level are able to build positive brand perception at a macro level. By betting on subculture and being responsive vs reactive  – businesses can execute effective content marketing.  

Let’s break down some deeper ideas about this.

Betting on Subculture

Consumers want to shop with brands that share their values. In fact, they’re four to six times more likely to purchase, protect, and champion purpose-driven companies. While 72% feel it’s more important than ever that companies reflect their values, and 64% buy based on beliefs.

This means that brands are tasked with doing the job of displaying alignment with values important to their consumers.

However, that alignment must come from understanding that industry-specific consumer culture exists on a broad level, but keeping in mind that within that broad cultural context exists nuanced consumer priorities that require distinct attention. 

How is this applied in practice? By doing the research necessary to develop a clear picture of the subcultural groups that exist within the overall consumer group, and creating content initiatives that apply to these subcultural groups. This can be executed by creating: 

  • One or more content series targeted at consumer subculture 
  • Running social media channels that are specifically geared toward consumer subcultures 
  • Creating personalized niche campaigns with messaging targeted toward distinct consumer subcultures 

An outstanding example of this is Red Bull. Red Bull’s macro audience is the active individual with a love for extreme sports, but the world of extreme sports has micro-communities that exist within it.

Red Bull built content verticals that speak to those communities individually, with distribution channels to match: 


Respond, Don’t React 

We’re in a climate where the growing multicultural audience expects brands to take a public stance on socio-political issues.

A study by Sprout Social revealed that 66% of consumers say it’s important for brands to take public stands on social and political issues. Even if you’re a small business owner you may feel so inclined to show awareness and even support for certain issues through your organic content efforts.

However, the wrong move could result in backlash that worst-case scenario can go viral – even in your local community. It’s important to be responsive in these moments, not reactionary. 

“Reactionary content marketing happens when brands generate content in relation to breaking news, trends, topics, or viral moments. All of which can be as small as a hashtag or as big as international news.” – Einstein Marketing

In an effort to appear ever-present even in real-time brands typically generate reactionary content, which in a sense does show awareness and presence. Still, it’s counterproductive when it comes to building cultural authority.

Authoritative brands generate responsive content by leveraging complete information to deliver a well-thought, original perspective.

How does this look in practice? To protect your brand while showing consideration and awareness for subcultures within your audience group, your should: 

1. Understand the difference between a trending moment and an opportunity to engage 

Just because a topic is commanding the timeline, doesn’t mean it represents an opportunity to show awareness or take a stance. Before creating content even as simple as a social media graphic, be patient enough to learn whether or not a socio-political issue is momentary vs timeline dominant 

2. Be tactful 

Don’t be so hasty to take a public stance that your messaging comes off uninformed and distasteful.

Remember when Pepsi pushed out the campaign that suggested a cold can of soda could calm civil unrest over police brutality? Intent to purchase amongst Millennials fell to its lowest point in 8 years as a result. Don’t be that guy.  

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Your company is not just a business. It’s a publisher with websites, blogs, newsletters, social media channels, and more — all of which are leveraged using content.

Successful content marketing to a consumer audience that is diverse and/or shifting in cultural norms requires effort to understand each subculture and respond rather than react as a practice.

Be thorough, patient, direct, and nuanced with how you connect and perhaps even more importantly how you take a stance in relation to your target audience. 


DS EDITORS NOTE: Catch Devon and his session The Content Strategy Playbook: 4 Principles for Content Marketing Success at our upcoming Digital Summit at Home event happening Mar 29-31. 30+ sessions and workshops tailored just for marketers from small and medium businesses.


Devon T. Smith is a digital marketing strategist, multimedia producer, and speaker. He has built a successful track record of digital content and communications strategy for brands ranging across various industries such as T-Mobile for Business, Shell, Magento, eBay Enterprise, and more. A respected voice at the intersection of culture and marketing, Dev is published on platforms such as Adweek, Black Enterprise, Revolt TV, and Tidal. Through his work, Dev has led and collaborated with bi-coastal and global teams establishing an average of 117% increase in content engagement, 170% increase in audience growth, and 103% increase in website conversion – reaching a linear and digital audience of over 50m viewers.