Pop Goes the Culture


Pop culture is a powerful ally in marketing, but all too often we try to tug on the most common cultural thread that we can grasp, only to find that our carefully woven marketing plans unravel when wrapped around the lowest common denominator of resident. While this type of broad shotgun approach has been shown to work, it is hardly what could be considered a targeted approach. Tightening in our marketing sights will help us achieve a higher rate of success – this isn’t a case of a good idea versus a bad idea, but rather a good idea versus a better idea!

To target with pop culture you have to understand the demographic that you’re attempting to appeal to. As an example, I’ll use an area around Redmond, WA, which is home to the Nintendo School for game design and graphic arts, DigiPen. In the area surrounding DigiPen, there are several communities that are all battling for the same resident market share – these DigiPen students. So let’s start with assessing what we know about the demographic that we’re trying to attract:

• Gen Y
• Fairly hardcore nerds, since you won’t make it at DigiPen if you aren’t one
• Students, which means roommate situations most likely, so space will be an issue – not just personal space, but also storage space.

Because I have a little insight in to this demographic, if I were choosing to use pop culture in my marketing, I would choose The Doctor as my ally. Doctor Who might be the BBC’s baby, but the cult following that it’s gained here across the pond in the last 5 years is nothing short of stunning. The fans are zealous about their attachment to The Doctor and his companions, and there is something special that sparks in a meeting the moment you realize that, as a Whovian, you have just met another Whovian.

Armed with this knowledge, I’d propose an “It’s bigger on the inside” marketing campaign – the tagline most frequently used to describe the blue police box (a.k.a The T.A.R.D.I.S.) that The Doctor travels in through time and space, and a tagline that could easily describe the spacious layouts that your community offers. You could easily buy a TARDIS door cover for your model unit or even go the extra mile and have it painted like the blue police box. Put your staff in bowties, red fez hats, or long striped scarves for an extra touch of whimsy, or put a TARDIS out in your parking lot to spark some interest in those who drive by. With the help of The Doctor, you can have a memorable campaign that resonates with exactly the demographic that you’re trying to attract… all WITHOUT violating the fair housing laws!

This is the process of thought that I would use for a client in that area, but the process of analyzing what best baits the hook to catch the microdemographic that you’re seeking is the same for any area. List what you know about the folks you want to attract and then look for a piece of pop culture that pulls on them, and use it in the most creative way that you can think of, because when your comps realize what you’ve done, they’ll be looking for some way to copy your genius!