Consumers are multihyphenates. With a new strategy, agencies can become them, too

By Ed Horne, President



The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

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December 13, 2023 | 5 min read

This month, agency leaders from The Drum Network are imagining what the agency of the future looks like. Here, 160over90’s Ed Horne envisages a shift in cultural strategy to reflect the multivariate needs of modern consumers.

Some brightly-colored textiles

Modern consumers are multihyphenates, writes Ed Horne - so brands and agencies should be too. / Raúl Cacho Oses via Unsplash

The word ‘multihyphenate’ gets thrown around in entertainment, usually to describe a celebrity who expands into a new vertical by way of a brand partnership or other sideways move. Brands gravitate to this approach, seeing these figures as a vehicle to push out their messaging to new audiences; this practice has inundated the marketing landscape as more brands seek to tap into culture.

But when brands and agencies think about culture, they can lose sight of the fact that we should think of consumers as multihyphenates, too, developing work that appeals to their passion points that run across and intersect within the cultural spectrum.

The multihyphenate moment: From disruption to addition

Viewing consumers as multihyphenates gets us one step closer to successfully winning over their hearts and minds. But how do you get there?

With attention spans continually getting shorter while spread across an ever-growing number of platforms, we often hear how we must ‘disrupt’ to reach our target audiences. But if we put ourselves in the consumers’ shoes, do we really want to have our experiences disrupted by marketing tactics?

That word, ‘disruption’, suggests a disturbance, or an interruption. What if it was less about the idea of disruption and we instead took a more additive approach? What if we started embracing and enhancing what customers and consumers are already experiencing, where they already are? This can only happen if you first do the necessary groundwork to understand why consumers are where they are and what connects them to their communities.

This has become our North Star at 160over90. As a cultural marketing agency, we treat the business of reaching consumers through brands as we would working with a modern-day multifaceted entertainer who is fluent across disciplines. The result is work that pushes boundaries further across channels, creating shared moments where people feel something real.

The future of strategy in culture

It pays to look at client asks through the lens of a multihyphenate. ‘Culture’ itself is not just one thing; it’s everything that makes us feel connected. Plural, sprawling and all-encompassing, this frame of mind should move us to combine and clash ideas together. The goal is to find ideas that will stick; that, when brought to life, leave you forever changed; that convert followers into fanatics.

This requires a democratized take on true cultural acumen. What’s ‘cool’ in culture is subjective. Gen X to Z to Alpha all have their own individual inspirations and ‘come as you are’ je ne sais quoi. In turn, this calls for a strong commitment to being brave and open; to creating campaigns that recognize cultures (and sub-cultures) and go all-in on them.

At 160over90, to get to that point, we have reimagined the role of our team of strategists. Moving away from the traditional hand-off from strategy to creative teams, our new model supports the idea that strategists remain deeply connected throughout the creative process. The result is a stronger, more integrated team that gives brands what they don’t even know they need. As true partners to creatives, strategists can exist in the deep end, immersed within all verticals across culture to make the unexpected connections that push brands to be wherever culture is moving towards.

This is a marriage of expertise and empathy that starts within agencies’ own walls. As we mold the agency of the future, we must build teams with our own multihyphenates who contribute to culture and who harness their own obsessions. Here, I’m happy to say, that my colleagues are designing fashion lines, curating art shows, and writing novels – alongside their agency titles. This diversity of thought strengthens our agency and the brands we create work for. Sharing and celebrating what moves us lets us move others.


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160over90, part of the Endeavor network, is an award-winning cultural marketing agency that elevates brands by creating ideas for the world to obsess over and shared...

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