People resonate with stories they have grown up listening to. These tales of wonderment tug at their heartstrings more than anything else. And, that’s how popular culture takes shape!
Millennials, as an audience, experienced a variety of elements that contributed to the culture around them. They saw the emergence of Rock Music, Super Hero Shows and Movies, and gatherings such as Concerts, Open Mics or Comic-Con. For them, festivals in their modern form addressed social issues that were never spoken of. Gen Z was immersed in these references since the time they could talk and considers them ‘Damn Cool!’
That’s why, when brands talk, one language that appeals to their audience is that of pop culture!
Let’s take Target as a brand, for instance. Their campaign inspired by Star Wars helped them capture the attention of an enormous fandom. Anyone even remotely interested in the Sci-fi drama would have been delighted to take a look at their products. Such a campaign enables the brand to ensure that the proverbial horse at least comes to the water, although drinking it or not (purchasing the product) is a choice that lies with them.
Where many campaigns come and go unnoticed, pop culture gives brands a chance to be a part of the conversation. They engage in a phenomenon that helps them find common ground with their audience. It’s similar to finding common interests with friends. Such common interests help brands to understand their buyers' personas and to bond with their audience.
To exploit pop culture’s full potential, brands need to find what their target audience perceives as 'relevant'.
People who enjoy trends like superhero movies, cartoons etc. would respond dearly to a campaign like Walmart’s Grocery pick up. Mystery Machine, Dumb and Dumber car, Ghostbusters’ vehicle, and the Batmobile were some of the cars that featured in their TVC to pick up groceries and perfectly delivered the wow-factor. This factor alone drew in the audience in droves by making them reminisce about the good old days. The TVC also has a surprise factor for the audience, where they get to wonder which vehicle they would see next. This kept them engrossed in the campaign and intrigued them towards using the service.
Going the other way round and becoming a part of the popular show can have quite the impact. Netflix’s Stranger Things 3 is a show people went gaga for. They resonated with the retro theme and characters that took them back to the simpler times. Watching 75 different brands return to their retro form placed in the show became a cherry on the top. Coca Cola got the most of this opportunity, as it recreated the release of its “New Coke” that was actually launched in 1985, and strategically placed it throughout the show.
Another beautiful part of our present culture is the acceptance of different communities and supporting the ones standing for social causes. Many brands have, at times, campaigned to support social causes with their audience. Back in 2016, at a Pride Parade, Burger King sold pride whoppers, which were nothing but regular whoppers wrapped up in a multi-coloured paper. On the back of it, a message said – ‘we are all the same inside’ - an emotion that resonated with each and every person present there, tired of being discriminated. At the Burger King outlet, they felt safe and welcomed, a move that assured those people were connected to the brand forever.
A known brand is usually a culturally relevant brand. It understands people’s culture and works hard to contribute to it. Festivities in this sense are a cultural high point and bring out all emotions. Big Bazaar’s Diwali campaign, 'Har Tyohar Mein Big Bazaar', precisely captures these emotions. People travelling home in a train during the festival are shown celebrating with strangers using the products found at Big Bazaar outlets. It makes the audience think about the good times they spent with their families, and about the time they were away. They can connect with the brand because the story is emotionally relatable.
If a brand is able to create relatable stories, their audience will keep coming back for more. This creates loyalty and goodwill, as the brand is established like an entity separate from its commodity. The brand needs to remind its target audience that it enjoys the same things they do and cares for the same causes that they do. Pop culture provides opportunities to establish this rapport, because conversations sparked here last a lifetime.