Generating attention: a breakdown of pop culture hacking

With entries open for The 2019 Pressies, we take a look at pop culture hacking with TBWA’s Angelina Farry and Ben Wheeler, 2degrees chief brand and insights officer.

StopPress: What is pop culture hacking?

Angeline Farry: Pop culture hacking is way for brands to become more meaningful and relevant by leveraging popular culture. It involves closely watching conversations trending on social media and the news then finding relevant ways to insert brands into these conversations — it’s essentially hijacking media moments to leverage brand engagement via channels including social media and PR.

Is culture hacking something brands should be doing internally, externally, or both?

Both, agencies and brands should be aware of it and try to spot opportunities or ‘triggers’, which are things that stimulate an idea or a hack. These can be customer triggers, cultural triggers, a data trigger or something done by a competitor. At TBWA we use Disruption Live® to keep our brands responsive and relevant. The team uses a tech stack to review inputs, spots things of interest and identify cultural triggers to execute against. The more people thinking about the best way to insert their brand into popular culture, the better it is for the process.

Why is it important for brands to do this?
A: It’s all about driving brand engagement and cut-through, which is increasingly hard to achieve in a scrolling, swiping communications environment. It’s a way for brands to generate PR and attention by being involved in trending consumer conversations, rather than battling them for airtime.

Do the same hacks work for every company?

No, the best way to do it is to tailor it to a client’s specific brand requirements. We review cultural triggers and ideas against things like a client’s brand ambition, target audience, product offerings and desired business outcomes. Different triggers work for different brands.

How can they do this?

Businesses can either partner with an agency who has a pop-culture hacking tool built into their methodology or they can create an in-house team that partners with an agency to execute.

What’s one thing marketers can do right now to start culture hacking?

They can keep on top of what’s trending and topical conversations. Trendsmap.com is a great way of seeing what is trending right now and you can also set up a content aggregation app, like feedly to bring all relevant news and inputs straight to your mobile.

Do you have a good example of a brand culture hacking?

2degress has a brand platform called ‘Fighting for Fair’, built on offering its customers value and fairness in ways the other telcos don’t. The final of the Cricket World Cup had Kiwis up in arms. The overthrows, the Super Over, the deciding of the game on boundaries, it was arguably the most unfair thing ever and a such the perfect playground for 2degrees.

2degrees entered the conversation by creating the ‘It was a Tie, Tie’. A tie that spoke to the result and how many people were feeling about. A number were made and so far, the tie has seen limited use on our social channels, where it went down a storm, and via relevant online influences. We’re in the process of planning something special for when the England cricket team return in November.

Pop Culture hacking from a marketer’s perspective: Ben Wheeler, 2degrees chief brand and insights officer

StopPress: What is pop culture hacking?

Ben Wheeler: It’s a way of integrating your brand into unexpected and topical conversations you can’t plan for. You can map out the rest of your comms plan well in advance, so all parties have time to gather insights, map and make but pop culture hacking is something you need to commit to and manage in a reactive way.

Is pop culture hacking something brands should be doing internally, externally, or both?

To play in this space whatever you do needs to be aligned to your brand strategy and relevant to your positioning. The ‘It was a Tie, Tie’ piece worked well for 2degrees as it linked in beautifully with our Fighting For Fair brand positioning.

Pop culture hacking is something that all brands can do, however, it’s often easier to partner with an agency to build and scale an idea. Good ideas can come from anywhere, so you should have your whole team thinking about ways in which your brand can become more culturally relevant.

Why is it important for brands to do this?

It makes consumers feel like you’re a responsive, real, living brand who’s involved in their conversations. It allows brands to inject themselves into what’s relevant and trending. Burger King is a master of this technique. They pick up on breaking news or local trends and leverage these to create PR and noise for the Whopper Burger, like the  Whopper No Show.

What have you learned when it comes to culture hacking?

You need to be nimble and brave. If you’re going to ride a cultural wave you need to be fast enough to catch it, then brave enough to ride it.

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