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The Planning-ness Grant

The Planning-ness Grant is the way Planning-ness gives back to the creative thinker community.

A minimum of one grant of $10,000 will be awarded each year to an individual or small group for the express purpose of undertaking research or other project that stretches the thinking of or benefits creative thinkers everywhere. Those who are awarded the grant will be required to make their study available to the planning community and share their findings at a future Planning-ness event.

The application deadline for the 2014 grant is September 5th

Apply today

Past winners

Our 2013 grant winners are Monica Gojman, Adrian Barrow and Mark Truss for their proposal to create a Cultural Muscle Index. You can read their full submission below and will be able to hear about the results of their work at Planning-ness 2014.


Describe the grant project including any topic or hypothesis you will be researching?

In a world surrounded by a cacophony of brand voices screaming to grab our attention, how does one manage to cut through the clutter? Not surprisingly, most of the brands today turn to colossal amounts of media spend, mass media advertising, and retail promotions as solutions to quiet the noise. Indeed, the rational side of marketing communications has trained us to strive for category preference by consistently toning our “category muscle.”  In reality though, the real muscle brands should be focusing on exercising -is their cultural one. Once brands transcend category boundaries, they become a social currency and symbol of a consumer’s cultural identity. By doing this, brands are not simply embracing the physical but interjecting themselves into the minds and the hearts of people, ultimately landing at the core of their social interactions. The strength of these Superbrands comes from what we’ve coined their “cultural muscle”: a direct and immediate relevance to people’s cultural lives. From their conversations, to their passions, to the ideas that attract them, to the content they consume –


We believe that culture is the underlying thread to the narrative of successful brands.


However, despite the myriads of examples of brands exerting their cultural muscles, there has yet to be a metric or measure of its existence. We have yet to document empirical proof to support our hypothesis of cultural muscle being ultimately correlated with a brand’s success (through mental availability, pricing leverage, etc). Hence, through this Planning-ness grant, we would like to embark on the exciting journey of developing a Cultural Muscle Index. This Index will ultimately test the strength of our hypothesis and stand alone as the reigning metric to rival “brand equity” and “category preference” in the realm of marketing communications.


Why will this project add value to the Planning-ness community?

The development of a Cultural Muscle Index would easily transcend JWT and align perfectly with the core values of the Planning-ness community. This project should appeal to anyone within the marketing communications industry who has ever dared to dream of quantifying the value of cultural traction when it comes to brands. Our goal is to insert a new dimension into the role of Planning by crafting a tangible-yet-relevant cultural toolkit that can be shared and implemented through various networks in the field. Though there has been previous research on measuring brand attributes and shared cultural values of citizens, we want to connect the dots between these two and find out how to measure popular culture as it impacts existing cultural sensibilities.



How will you go about undertaking this project?

In order to conduct this research project we would need to begin with extensive desk research on the subject of culture. We would combine this with a thorough understanding of thought leadership papers and consultations with experts on the field. Also, we would be able to conduct an interrogation of cultural values data study and report (through something like RoperReports). Finally, we would tailor a customized quantitative research study in 5 main markets: USA, Mexico, China, India, France (which could potentially expand) and that would feed into the bulk of our analysis.


For a period of 6 to 9 months, we would primarily utilize the grant money to conduct our various stages of research and gain access to the top resources at our disposal. We have decided to divide the research into three stages:


  1. Month 1-3: Devoted to an immersive process of desk research, consultation, and culture thought leadership.
  2. Month 4-5: Designed for deep cultural immersion and the teasing out of cultural values data taken from reports and studies.
  3. Month 6-9: Proprietary quantitative research study conducted across five global markets. While this study will have started from the beginning, we will use this time to analyze, interpret and craft the data into the final product of our research.  The extra month for this stage will also allow us to present the Cultural Muscle Index in unique ways through presentations and audio-visuals that are easily digestible for a broad Planning audience.



What does the final product look like? (How will you share this project with the Planning-ness community?)

The final product will be a Cultural Muscle Index tool or process available for the use of all planners in the Planning-ness community. This tool will allow anyone in the network to connect brand attributes to shared values of citizens to the impact popular culture has on existing cultural sensibilities. Thus, this would ultimately maximize a brand’s marketing efforts by leveraging culture. We will be able to share our results and interpretation with the Planning-ness community in the form of a white paper, a presentation and in some audio-visual form available online as well.

The 2013 Planning-ness Grant Winner

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