Innovation and growth from exploring the wider cultural context

Hello, and welcome to week 16 of 2024. Over the past four weeks I discussed four pillars market research can help support business growth – new market entry, product innovation, customer experience and brand growth. This week, I ponder the intersection between cultural insight and business prosperity.

Originally posted via my weekly LinkedIn newsletter with bonus content >

In today’s interconnected world, no business operates in isolation.

Understanding and adapting to the diverse cultural landscape is essential for survival and growth, both locally and globally. From evolving behavioural trends to emerging needs, pressures and aspirations, pandemics, cost of living and general cultural nuances is key to unlocking growth and innovation. Research plays a critical role in understanding the real people who make up our cities and communities, the local cultural fabric, and business opportunities.

This may be exploring the general population to best understand their lives and pain points, or to explore overlooked niche segments based on demographics (e.g. youth, older, gender), cultural background, behavioural or other factors.

Innovation comes from exploring the wider cultural context for opportunities for growth and improvement, rather than being stuck inside bubbles of same, same, category, privilege, isolation or bias.

Much of the research conducted by Square Holes over close to two decades is of the general population. However, a critical role in this analysis and interpretation is in identifying segment differences, demographic, behavioural or otherwise, to identify marketing, product innovation, path to purchase and other opportunities. Or, simply to have greater empathy with real people. Guiding leadership toward an enlightened future of a lesser homogenous population.

Cultural insight is not just about different cultures, it is about empathy with real people beyond the category. No brand is an island, and how businesses create brands that fit with the cultural context will enhance relevance (and sales). Customer service better aligning to how people live, barriers to purchase, breaking the category status quo. New products (and services) better aligned to simple unmet needs.

Our work for alcohol group Lion Co centred on understanding how young people from across Asia, India and the Middle East socialise and celebrate with family and friends, towards creating new opportunities for cultural empathy, improved marketing and new product development to enable growth. Our qualitative / ethnographic research explored new product development opportunities in a multicultural Australia beyond the oversaturated competition. The outcome was also informing an internal cultural diversity policy. Change happens from within.

And our research in first nations communities helped understand complexities and opportunities to provide better government and community support and make social progress. Or deep research in sectors such as education illustrating socio-economic and other divides and precise case studies and priories for leaders to make policy, budget, infrastructure investment and other critical changes to close the gaps that should not exist in such a wealthy country.

Our multi-decade research throughout Australia, including urban, rural, and remote areas has illustrated consistencies and differences. We have studied Indigenous populations, diverse cultures and immigrant communities, and individuals from different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. While our research journey began in Adelaide South Australia (still our HQ), we have since traversed Africa, Asia, North and South America, Europe, and Oceania, exploring cultural differences, new market entry and opportunities.

Square Holes’ work for Cooper’s Home Brew explored the collision of pandemic hobby boom, cost of living pressures, changing alcohol attitudes and behaviours and a desire to better understand diverse market segments drivers and barriers.

Our research for leading consumer metal detector brand Minelab explored in parallel the UK and UK markets for consistencies, differences, the core traditional market and emerging and wider growth opportunities overlooked by the category.

Square Holes’ research for decade for Award-winning overlanding equipment developer and manufacturer Redarc has guided market expansion beyond grey nomads to early adopters and new entrants, and changing cultural trends.

We love our role in helping leaders to think beyond their cultural bubbles and implicit biases by exploring diverse community segments, values, and perspectives to understand cultural patterns, moods, and drivers. Celebrating our consistencies and differences!

Cultural understanding goes beyond business, it’s about building bridges and celebrating diversity. For example, Square Holes’ research since 2020 tracking loneliness‘ to more than 14 years researching the future of film with the Adelaide Film Festival, to working to shift the cultural narrative such as ‘New State of Mind‘ in recent years.

Square Holes’ research extends beyond borders to create a more inclusive and culturally rich society. In a world where diversity is our strength, cultural intelligence is the key to unlocking our full potential. Let’s embrace the richness of our cultural tapestry and chart a course towards a brighter future for Australia and beyond.

Have a great Friday and weekend,


(Master image via Chat GPT)

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