Culturematic by Grant McCracken

Culturematic by Grant McCracken | 2012, Harvard Business Review Press (book cover from

I’m a huge fan of popular culture and I’m always hungry for texts that shed light on it. McCracken’s Culturematic fed that hunger–it’s about good ideas and how these good ideas are executed, and paints a picture of Western culture. It’s a must-read for those in the marketing and entertainment industry, as most of the examples are from said industries. But it shouldn’t be limited to them, as it provides a handful pieces of advice for creating breakthrough ideas, which should happen in every field. It teaches the reader through examples and the takeaway from those examples.

A few favorites of mine are included in the book as excellent examples of “Culturematics”, like Saturday Night Live’s Digital Shorts and Dan Harmon’s Channel 101. It’s pretty interesting to know the story behind these things. There’s so many insights in the book that can inspire anyone; for one, the book quotes Canva evangelist Guy Kawasaki, who says that “the nobodies are the new somebodies.” (p. 203)

Despite these, though, McCracken tends to be repetitive, to sound so excited all the time. While this is intended to drive a point, it gets tiring. There’s just so many things that describe a Culturematic that it’s hard to pin down what it really is. Moreover, it gets so concentrated on Western Culturematics; it would’ve been interesting to see some Culturematics, say, from Asia, to be featured in the book. The premise is interesting, nonetheless.