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18 January 2024

How pop culture could shape your next campaign supernova 

Audiense on how Disney, Taylor Swift and ColourPop create iconic moments that deliver maximum marketing impact

Swifties, Barbenheimer, and the return of the Furby. Trends come and go, but nostalgia is forever. Popular culture has long influenced how brands approach their marketing campaigns, after all, why would you not want to tap into the trend everybody is talking about?

But 2023 has been a stand-out year for campaigns that cleverly tap into the public consciousness and jump on iconic moments for maximum impact. Well-timed partnerships — be that with agencies, influencers, or other brands — can launch your campaign into the stratosphere.

Let’s take the Barbie movie for example. Greta Gerwig’s comedy is on track to become one of the highest grossing films of all time. It debuted with box office sales at $162 million in the US alone and since then, Barbie has generated approximately $1.38 billion worldwide.

This incredible turnout can be attributed to its amazing marketing strategy, one that leaned heavily on brand partnerships. In the end, they partnered with over 100 brands, making it nearly impossible to go anywhere without seeing magenta pink. And yes, this clearly helped promote the movie, but it was also an incredible wave of attention for all the brands involved.

How can you create your very own campaign supernova in 2024? In a world where authentic engagement is becoming increasingly important, consumer insights are the most powerful tool in your campaign toolkit. And that doesn’t just mean your traditional focus groups and surveys. If you want to develop a real relationship with customers old and new, you need to go deeper.

Going beyond the buyer persona 

Brand success relies on crafting messages that resonate with your audience. But you can’t communicate effectively unless you truly understand them — and we’re not talking about creating generic Gen Z Sam or Millennial Mary buyer personas.

Going beyond the buyer persona, and a one-size-fits-all marketing approach, is the key to brand success. By breaking your total potential audience down into bite-size, actionable segments, you can strategically tailor your campaign to ensure every customer feels seen.

What does this actually look like in practice? Disney is the epitome of marketing excellence and in 2023, it’s been celebrating two major milestones alongside multiple product launches. This year is the 100th year since the company was founded, and 50 years since its first park opened.

With a global audience and a brand that spans generations, from the classic Mickey Mouse lovers to Elsa enthusiasts and Winnie the Pooh collectors, Disney makes tailoring its campaigns look effortless.

From #runDisney events in its parks that allow fitness enthusiasts to collect exclusive branded medals of their favourite Disney characters, to exclusive merch and experiences available in specific Disney parks, it knows how to tap into pester power for children and adults alike. But it also pays attention to older generations with broader interests, as demonstrated by its annual Epcot Flower and Garden Festival, which it promotes extensively on Facebook, the 50+ adult playground.

Creating (Taylor)ed experiences 

Taylor Swift is another stellar example of carefully curated, deeply targeted, marketing based on real insight.

She was named TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year 2023 and her Eras tour has been unavoidable across multiple social media apps. In 2022, Audiense took a deep dive into the audience of Taylor Swift's Red (Taylor's Version), exploring her love of clues, Easter eggs, and her general marketing approach to the re-releases of her work. Since then, she’s released Speak Now (Taylor's Version) and 1989 (Taylor's Version), infusing her work with vault tracks that have been driving her fans wild.

The recent 1989 (Taylor's Version) release was particularly iconic, which involved creating a virtual vault for fans to crack in order to access four new songs from the forthcoming re-release. The marketing mastery behind it was what really caught our attention.

When people Googled her name, a vault appeared on-screen, asking fans to solve a puzzle. But there was a catch. 33 million people had to solve the puzzle to open the vault. According to Google, Swifties were able to crack the vault in less than 24 hours. And for Swift, that meant a major surge in search engine traffic that put 1989 on everybody’s radar.  

Swift has managed to transform what is essentially recycling old content into an empowering, feminist act. When life gives you lemons, in the form of your former manager selling your masters, make show-stopping lemonade that wins you nine awards at the VMAs 2023. But the major lesson here? Swift knows how to cater to her core audience and ignite their passion to go even further.

Getting the vibe right 

So, what if you don’t have a beloved music icon leading the charge? Collaboration becomes your new best friend. Whether that takes the form of influencers or brands, partnering up with the right people can be a game-changer for brands looking to harness pop culture to carve out market share.

The astonishing success of the Barbie campaign may have you wondering how you can find your next Barbie movie. Let’s be real for a moment here, Barbie may have managed to secure over 100 partnerships, but let’s face it, it also had a $145 million marketing budget to play with. It’s very easy for marketing teams to burn themselves (and their budget) out by trying to do everything, everywhere, all at once.

The key to any successful brand collaboration is the audience affinity. Does your brand resonate with the audience of that movie, show, actor, artist, influencer etc, and more importantly, how can you tell? Influencer marketing campaigns can be hugely beneficial for brands, if you can get the synergy right.

For example, indie beauty brand ColourPop is known for its affordable but quality beauty products. It also relies on the power of social media to help reach its ideal audience, using it in two ways. First, to identify potential brands to work with. Then, to find high-impact influencers.

Let’s start with the brand partnerships. ColourPop has tapped into the pop culture lovers among its target audience by releasing several collections in partnership with Disney. From Disney Princesses to Hocus Pocus, Star Wars and even Aristocats, ColourPop pays attention to which pop culture moments are resonating with its customers. And it pays. And it works, with the Disney collaborations alone generating a 15x ROI on advertising spend.

What about influencers? ColourPop were one of the first beauty brands to board the TikTok hype train, the most notable example being its collaboration with TikTok influencer Snitchery, dubbed the Queen of Cosplay. With over four million followers at her disposable, Colourpop worked with Snitchery to create a ‘Villain Era’ collection, featuring true black lipsticks, holographic lip-glosses and rich, chromatic eyeshadows. A vibe, for sure.

Clearly, collaboration is the key to success. ColourPop opted for celebrities and influencers, but sometimes collaboration can take the form of two high-profile brands coming together, as demonstrated by Barbie and Mattel. Think outside the box with your collaborations to create something unique that will appeal directly to your target audience, but make sure the vibes match with your brand.

This article was downloaded from the Contagious intelligence platform. If you are not yet a member and would like access to 11,000+ campaigns, trends and interviews, email [email protected] or visit contagious.com to learn more.