Cultural Intelligence for Marketers: A Book Review by Bob Morris

Cultural Intelligence for Marketers: Building an Inclusive Marketing Strategy
Anastasia Kārkliņa Gabriel
Kogan Page (March 2024)

How to understand and leverage the power of culture in brand marketing

In Future Shock (1970), Alvin Toffler made this prediction: ” The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. If you don’t have a strategy, you’re part of someone else’s strategy.”

Presumably Anastasia Kārkliņa Gabriel agrees with Toffler. In Cultural Intelligence for Marketers, she explains how and why marketers — indeed all senior-l vel executives — must learn, unlearn, and relearn what they need to know about building an inclusive, socially responsible, and culturally intelligent marketing strategy…then execute it with high-impact.

These are among the passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the nature and scope of  Gabriel’s coverage:

o Introduction: A New Paradigm for Culturally Fluent Brands (Pages 1-18)
o The Imperative of Cultural Literacy: A New Competitive Edge (23-28)
o Brands as Cultural Agents: A New Marketing Paradigm (28-33)
o Culture, Strategy, and Innovation (36-39)
o Unlocking the 4Cs: Tools for Advanced Cultural Insight (47-56)

o Decoding Culture for Competitive Advantage (71-74)
o How Culture Works: Key Concepts to Know (74-78)
o Strategic Cultural Foresight: The RDE Framework (97-100)
o Representations in Marketing as Cultural Meaning-Making (124-128)
o Back to the Basics: What Is Intersectionality? (138-141)

o Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them (144-146)
o What Is Brand Accountability? (158-162)
o Key Lessons for Brand Accountability (169-171)
o Conduct a Brand Audit (182-189)
o How to Activate Cultural Territories (197-201)

o Brand Integrity Amidst Cultural Change (205-207)
o The Ideology-Representation Nexus: A Matrox for Brand Integrity (207-209)
o Unlocking Strategic Foresight: Preferred Futures (214-221)
o Cultural Intelligence for Marketers: Key Lessons to Remember (227-234)
o Final Words: Cyclical Struggles, Endurance, and the Future of Inclusive Marketing (239-243)

Readers will also appreciate having the transcripts of one-on-one conversations that involve Gabriel and eight marketing thought leaders: Harold Kassarjian, Rachel Lowenstein, Reema Mitra, Ambika Pai, Vanessa Toro, Tameka Linnell, Lola Bakare, and Coco Videra.  Other reader-friendly devices include mini-case studies, checklists, activity exercises, and tables.

Anastasia Kārkliņa Gabriel has probably produced the single best primary source for information, insights, and counsel that all senior-level executives (especially CEOs) need to respond effectively both to perils and opportunities in a business world that is more volatile, more uncertain, more complex, and more ambiguous now than it was at any prior time that I can recall.

* * *

In school, college, and then graduate school, I learned more and learned it faster when I discussed material in a group with 3-5 others taking the same course. I also recorded key Q&As on 3×5 file cards (based on course material, whatever the subject) with a Q on one side and the A on the other, held together by a thick rubber band. I carried them with me and reviewed the content whenever I had a few minutes to kill.

Here are two other suggestions to keep in mind while reading Cultural Intelligence for Marketers: Highlight key passages, and, record — perhaps in a lined notebook kept near at hand — your comments, questions, action steps (preferably with deadlines), page references, and lessons you have learned as well as your responses to key points posed within the narrative. Also record your responses to specific questions and issues posed, especially at the conclusion of chapters.

These two simple tactics — highlighting and documenting — will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent reviews of key material later.

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