Integrating Pop Culture into Marketing

Posted by: Mathew Thomas


There is little else that so effectively allows you to tap into a wider audience than pop culture marketing. Day-to-day we see campaigns circulated to a broad spectrum of consumers, spanning a huge range of social platforms and media.

The term ‘popular culture’ refers to the ideas, attitudes, perspectives and images that become part of our everyday lives. We see it everywhere: in film, fashion, music and across the internet. It’s in our conversations and in our homes.

The use of social media continues to escalate, and with it its impact on pop culture. As brands seek new ways of reaching new customers and building relationships, we see them take advantage of trends as they happen, leveraging cultural phenomena to market their products and services. And wisely so.

In some ways similar to newsjacking (where ideas and views are ‘injected’ into breaking news in order to gain media coverage and positive attention via mainstream media), brands and companies are able promote their services and products using references to TV shows, memes and events as they occur.

Star Wars Day – #MayThe4thBeWithYou

May 4th has officially become Star Wars Day. Now annually celebrated, it’s a day where Star Wars fans across the world unite and announce their love for the saga. It’s also a prime example of pop culture marketing in action.

Not always featuring as you might expect, one of the earliest known uses of the phrase ‘ May the Fourth be with you’ was in 1979, allegedly printed in a newspaper when Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister on May 4th (Guardian).

Decades later, this particular pop culture phenomenon has well and truly caught on, with the use of social media facilitating its integration into modern society. Yesterday saw brands and fans alike take to social media to wish their fellow Star Wars lovers a happy May 4th on a scale as big as the saga itself.

So who joined in?

A huge range of brands got involved, Adidas promoting Star Wars clothing on social media, and Classic FM devoting their ‘Saturday Night at the Movies’ slot to the franchise. No strangers to adventures in space, astronauts tweeted from the International Space Station: “Just watching @starwars In Space. No big deal. #MayThe4thBeWithYou.”

Some more favourites

In making use of pop culture references, intuitive brands like these can find innovative ways to establish a connection, linking back to their products and services.

Integrating popular culture references into your marketing can be a smart move, but can also have its pitfalls.

Who should be doing it?

Using pop culture references in your marketing is something to be mindful of as getting caught up in events like Star Wars Day may seem fun whilst in the confines of your office, but it won’t necessarily be beneficial for your brand if it’s not relevant. It’s important to consider your audience and your brand values before jumping on any bandwagon.

You know your target market. Are they interested in Game of Thrones, or the election, or the royal baby? And if they are, are the topics consistent with your brand and the relationship you have with your customers?

Pop culture marketing campaigns should be run the same way as any other, so before you start tweeting, do your research and keep your aims clear.

What are the benefits?

Audiences naturally shy away from being marketed to, so utilising pop culture and a little humour can help to break through that wall, lending more humanity to a campaign. For businesses with a lot of hard facts and figures to present, pop culture can be used to give the reader something to connect with by making the content more entertaining.

Over all, by far the biggest benefit of pop culture marketing is the breadth of audience you have the potential to reach, and by utilising the worldwide spread of social media there’s no stopping you in terms of how far your campaign could go.

Sourcing opportunities

Approaches to planning can vary, whether it’s through an intricately thought out, fully operational marketing content calendar or choosing to be reactive, taking opportunities as they happen.

Utilising a content calendar means you can plan your pop culture content into your schedule and be prepared to get creative in the run up to events. The benefit of working this way is of course the additional amount of time you can devote to producing material.

Of course not all pop culture events are planned, and there are massive opportunties out there to take advantage of should you catch them at the right time. Working in a reactive way means you can feed your audience fresh content based on trending topics. Just look at today’s social media activity around last night’s Met Gala.

Conclusion

Whether implementing a fully structured game plan or instead working on reactive, in-the-moment campaigns, a huge range of brands can take the opportunity to increase brand awareness through pop culture.

With the trailer for Star Wars VII being released just a few weeks ago, this year’s Star Wars Day was bigger than ever. It served as the perfect example of the way pop culture marketing allows marketers to engage in a wider conversation, bringing people together.

Posting new and original content is the key to standing out from the crowd, and by doing this, you not only reach out to a new audience, but you offer them something current, relevant and exciting.

#MayThe4thBeWithYou, always.

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