Popular culture dominates our society and in turn, has had a lasting effect on advertising. Companies are taking to social media to keep up with current events, trends and memes and utilizing them to their advantage. So much that social media has grown 67% over the last 10 years. However, not every pop culture reference by brands is successful and can even lead to backlash from their online audience.
So what does it take to effectively reference the ever-changing trends in the social media world?
1. Your timing needs to be spot on
Timing is essential for brands, especially on social media. Taking advantage of the timeliness of a certain event or trending topic can create opportunities for companies to get their name out and establish their character as a brand. The right timing can allow for brands to stay on top of trends and get in on the conversation, creating a more meaningful connection between the company and the consumer.
We can see this in action with Oreo’s tweet during the Super Bowl power outage in 2013.
Acting upon the incident, Oreo quickly tweeted out “Power out? No problem” with a picture of the iconic cookie in a dimly lit room, captioned: “you can still dunk in the dark”. This jump on the unplanned event allows for the tweet to go viral and the brand to be at the forefront of the trend.
So how can you make sure that you are alerted if someone mentions you, follows you, or something happens at an event you are following?
2. You need to be relevant
In order to have a voice in the social media world, the posts must be relevant to the events occurring at that specific time. Referencing viral videos, images or memes can help a brand associate themselves with what is considered “cool” and “trendy”. This can lead to a more positive outlook on the brand and can lead to further engagement with your audience. If a company blends their product and relevant culture together, it can create an advertisement that resonates well with its audience. 1+1 = Success
Let’s take Clorox as an example. They took advantage of the viral video “Damn Daniel”, which featured a teenage boy being filmed by his friend who repeated the phrase, “damn Daniel” and the iconic line, “back at it again with the white Vans”. Clorox jumped on the trend and tweeted at Daniel himself saying, “Whatever happens to those white shoes @Daniel_laraa, just know that we’ve got your back. #DamnDaniel #BackAtItAgain”. The post was instantly recognized by audiences and the brand was associated with a trending topic.
3. You must be sensitive
Occasionally, brands can miss the mark with a certain post and accidentally create content that comes off as insensitive or offensive. In order to avoid negative backlash on a social media post, marketing teams must take the public’s reaction into consideration. They must research any current social issues they wish to incorporate before creating the advertisement. If properly researched and executed clearly, taking a stance on an issue surrounding current events can be an effective move for a company to make.
One example of this is Jello’s tweet after the legalization of gay marriage. The post included an image of rainbow-colored Jello squares, captioned, “J-E-L-L-O is for everyone. So is L-O-V-E. #DecisionDay #Pride”. While taking a stance on a social or political issue can be a risk for brands, it can also bring reward. By taking on this sensitive topic, Jello successfully associated their brand with a current event and allowed for their character as a company to be shown.
4. There needs to be humor
Poking fun at certain people or trends have been successful for companies in the past. Incorporating humor and a product can make social media posts seem less automated and more personal to the audience. It can also allow the audience to associate the company with something funny and possibly develop a strong following. Whether it’s sarcasm or a witty pun, humor on social media has been an effective technique for businesses.
One brand known for their famously hilarious tweets is Wendy’s. Whether they are roasting other Twitter users or making fun of competing brands, Wendy’s use of humor on social media has proven to be effective. The company’s quick wit and sarcastic commentary help it stand out among others and create a personal connection with their audience. We can see this especially when they refer to pop culture. Back in May of 2018, they made a joke poking fun at McDonald’s using a reference from the latest Avenger’s movie, saying “TFW yo beef’s still frozen” accompanied with a picture of a Big Mac fading away, as the characters did in the movie.
5. Originality - This is a big one!
While it may seem easy to just hop on a current trend, it is important to be original when it comes to creating your content. Making the same joke or similar commentary about pop culture won’t help your company stand out. In order to ensure a positive response from audiences, it is important to put your own spin on things.
Let’s take a look at MoonPie. This company uses unique, and sometimes strange, tweets to make remarks about current events and associate their brand with trending topics. When NASA tweeted saying they won’t be active on Twitter due to the government shutdown, MoonPie responded: “Hi I’ll be happy to take all of your moon-related inquiries in the meantime”. This quirky and humorous tweet makes it easy for MoonPie to associate themselves with trending topics and standout amongst other brands.
Keeping these 5 behaviors in mind while posting your companies social media has proven to be a successful tactic for brands, with 65.8% of U.S. companies using Twitter for marketing. Utilizing these techniques, combined with pop culture references, can allow companies to create an effective and well-received social media post. It can also help create more meaningful connections between a brand and it’s audience by giving the account a more human-like voice. So when making your next social media post about a trending topic or current event, take these into consideration first.