Join the Conversation: Brands Leveraging Pop Culture Trends

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Brian Kearney, Digital PR Specialist, Blue Fountain Media

Pop culture events and trends present a huge opportunity for your brand to be immersed in real-time conversations with its audience, and enable you to better define and establish the brand’s voice or personality. There are many different ways to incorporate pop culture trends, trending hashtags, or a fad of the moment, and when executed correctly, it can do wonders for your brand.

When implemented tactfully, you have the potential to reach and engage with not only your target audience, but spark a conversation amongst millions of people around the globe.

The most recent case of this was with the launch of the record-breaking mobile app, Pokémon Go. One week into the apps release, and it already had more daily active users than any other game on the market. This viral phenomenon sparked a vast movement where brands joined in on the fun. Brands like Amazon used the app to promote its products on Twitter, while the digital marketing and website design agency Blue Fountain Media incorporated the Pokémon Go app into a campaign for an auto repair client, Service King. The #DontCatchAndDrive campaign used Pokénon-inspired messaging across social media and digital advertising activations.

Let’s take a look at a few memorable moments in time, good and bad, when brands joined in on viral pop culture trends or events of the moment.

The Good

Damn, Daniel

You’ve all seen the internet video “Damn, Daniel,” unless you live under a rock. Capitalizing off of Daniel’s signature style and white Van sneakers, clothing brands like Clorox and Axe pounced on the opportunity to join the sensation that took over the internet for some time, and did so brilliantly.

This example showed us timing is everything when it comes to joining in on fads, because they will only last for so long before dying out. The shoe brand Vans did eventually join the conversation, but Clorox and Axe take the win for this example. Their creative ads were not only genius, but incredibly timely.

Oreo

Reacting and taking advantage of unplanned events can put your brand at the forefront of trends. A prime example of this situation was the power outage during the Super Bowl in 2013. Armed with a team of brilliant minds during the event, Oreo was able to capitalize on the power outage within minutes of it happening, all with a Tweet, which went viral. The Oreo brand not only gained recognition from the public, but even the Wall Street Journal commended them on the “real-time culture-hacking.” The best part? They didn’t have to pay millions of dollars for an ad spot to get noticed during the Super Bowl.

The Bad

Lenovo

Sharknado was the biggest TV movie hit of 2013, with 5,000 Tweets per minute. Brands took note, and when Sharknado 2 premiered, everyone from Victoria’s Secret to Ritz Crackers jumped at the opportunity to join the social media phenomenon. However, the  brand Lenovo delivered an embarrassing, and complete fail of a Tweet. Not only did the image accompanying the Tweet appear as if it were done by an intern on his last day at the company, but the copy made no sense whatsoever, using the completely irrelevant hashtag, #Sharknado2TheSecondOne. The Tweet left a lot of people confused, and arguably caused some damage to their image, leaving their audience to think — what were they thinking?

FAFSA

Back in 2014, the Federal Student Aid Twitter account crossed a big line of insensitivity using a meme from the movie, Bridesmaids. The Tweet copy read “If this is you, then you better fill out your FAFSA: fafsa.gov” accompanied by the meme of Kristen Wiig in the Bridesmaids movie scene where she states, “Help me. I’m poor.” This Tweet was incredibly insensitive, and was done in very poor judgement, especially with college tuition rates being a hot button issue for the general population. The Tweet offended the general education community at large, and FAFSA caught backlash from everyone including students, college principals, and even top-tier media.

Take the time to do your research when you’re thinking of incorporating your brand into a pop culture trend. It can be a very successful marketing technique, but it can also be incredibly detrimental. Consider your audience, and put yourself in their shoes when participating – will they find this funny/witty? Is it insensitive? These may seem like simple and obvious things to consider, but judging by the “bad” examples above, they’re clearly not thought of often enough.