3 min read

How to Market in a Pop Culture Vacuum

How to Market in a Pop Culture Vacuum

The COVID-19 pandemic brought on a pop culture vacuum. Live concerts were canceled, weddings postponed and even the unthinkable: baseball and football were axed. This created an unprecedented shift in how marketers and business owners approach their customers. 

In a world where references to pop stars and sports icons are integral to the “casual conversation” of social media or email marketing, many come up empty. In short: what are we supposed to talk about? How to strike up a conversation when the only thing that seems to be happening in the world is. . . waiting? And wondering?

As the entire globe responded to the crisis, many digital marketing professionals were living a complete upside-down life. TV shows and live interviews were off the table. Even Ellen ran reruns. 

Guest appearances, book signings, meet-and-greets, networking events: all a no-go. So, both marketers and PR pros were out of their element. 

Challenging? Yes. An opportunity? Absolutely. 

And some brands went for it in a big way.

Responding to the New Normal

This disruption has resulted in some of the most effective and creative messaging and connecting in decades. If the only thing people have to talk about is “Tiger King,” it became very clear very fast that brands needed to tell their own stories. Here are some edifying illustrations of how that happened.

  • Nike: We are a Team. The renowned sports brand leveraged sports metaphors to encourage people to social distance and connect without coming together.
  • Ford: Built to Lend a Hand and Built For Right Now. The American automaker harkened back to its roots providing military equipment for WWII and reaffirmed its commitment to togetherness.
  • Ikea: Stable Worlds. Ikea took this opportunity to illustrate stories of how the world inside a home can be full of playing, music, dancing and more.
  • Adobe: Creative Cloud for K-12. The software giant Adobe responded to the crisis by making its popular suite available to educational institutions.

Brands like 3M and even fashion brands rerouted manpower and resources to creating personal protective equipment and face masks. The collective effort resulted in touching, humanizing and powerful narratives that could well transform brand loyalty for years to come.

Messaging and Connections

Even as brands wove their compelling tales, marketers and copywriters have been hard at work, leaning in close even while working remote. Businesses have been on pause or in limbo but digital marketing and remote content development are alive and well. 

Core methods may have adjusted but there is a rapt online audience to present content to on a daily basis. Clever brands recognize the potential and power of doing this. Some have a particular eye to the long game. 

With unemployment rates skyrocketing and fewer “shared experiences” than ever, it would be tone deaf to barrage viewers or listeners with ads about expensive vacations or nostalgic little league games. Instead, there are alternatives to the norm that can still keep people engaged and meet their needs in a meaningful way. Here are some examples.

Content Hubs

More than ever, people are looking for useful content. Every business has an opportunity here. Both goods and services come with plenty of instructions and advice. Smart companies are creating info hubs related to their area of expertise. 

For example, how to work from home with kids; product reviews on air sanitizing air purifiers; go-to blogs for mental wellness. This is a very creative chance to improve a website’s organic traffic and provide useful material to increase customer engagement.

Webinars and Digital Events

Almost every event the past fewer summers were canceled. Parades, fireworks, even beaches are closed. For businesses, this also means that corporate conferences and seminars are not happening. 

These can be replaced and, if done well, provide the same or similar amount of value to attendees. If you hold the standard high and carefully craft great webinars, this can be an excellent promotional opportunity and way to engage staff, clients and customers.

Online Groups

Facebook groups are one powerful way to use the platform for engagement. Numerous kinds of online groups can keep a brand and message before people who are otherwise disconnected. These are important. They provide emotional support, information, a place to vent, a place to breathe, a place to ask questions. 

Depending on the nature of your business, you can create one or many types of online groups where people can come to you to find answers and network effectively.

In Word and Action

As you can see, the stories brands told happened both in words and action. And that is a key takeaway. Brand messaging, told by marketers, is working in a fresh way. This is a powerful opportunity for a collaboration that will stand the test of time, just like the strong and enduring people who lead the way.

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