The summer of 2019 has been a Pop Culture bonanza. It began with “Game of Thrones” dominating our TVs and “Avengers: Endgame” storming into the cinemas. As it winds down, Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” is riding a record-setting run at the top of the all-genre singles list, “Game of Thrones” disappointed (almost?) everybody, and “Endgame” became the highest-grossing movie of all time.
Pop culture changes – continually. As Grandpa Simpson once said, “I used to be with it, but then they changed what ‘it’ was. And now, what I’m with isn’t ‘it,’ and what’s ‘it’ seems weird and scary to me.”
“The Simpsons” is a perfect illustration: once the top of the national zeitgeist, now it’s, “Is that show still on?”
This makes glomming on to the latest trend a bit of a high wire act. In April, it was all well and good to use a popular “Game of Thrones” phrase relating to a new product release. However, by the time the finale hit, you probably did not want your product associated with the accompanying internet flame war that surrounded the series.
That’s why, if you want to incorporate some pop-cultural references in your marketing, digital signage is the ideal medium. This signage is as fluid as popular culture. One day your messaging will allude to taking your “horse to the old town road” and, when the inevitable backlash hits, a few keystrokes allow you to mosey on to the next thing. The key to using Pop Culture References is to ride the crest of the zeitgeist because those waves quick break and you need to be nimble to avoid dismissive eye-rolls.
One note about making pop culture references in your advertising: almost all images are copyrighted. This means you cannot use them in an ad without permission. Short phrases are generally free to use as it is not possible to copyright titles, names, slogans, or short phrases. That doesn’t mean you won’t hear from a megacorporation’s lawyers – HBO has tried to obliterate the phrase “Winter Is Coming” from the internet – but you likely have the law on your side. However, that is not the case when it comes to images. So, always doublecheck the copyright status of an image before using it.
Movies offer endless opportunities for you to incorporate pop culture into your Digital Signage. Often the best source of a catchy phrase is from the movie poster. For example, earlier this year, the phrase “Avenge the Fallen” entered the cultural lexicon due to a series of posters for the movie “Endgame.”
The great thing about movies is that they keep coming, and there is always a huge marketing push for the big ones. Movie studios thrive on tentpoles. This winter will see the release of a new Star Wars film, a live-action Cats, and several Oscar contenders. Plus, there are always a few smaller films to break out. If you are interested in using some movie lingo, pay attention to the films that are getting a big marketing push and the weekly box office tallies.
Latching onto a popular television show is more difficult than a movie because there is so much of it. By the end of the year, there will be approximately 50,000 streaming platforms, meaning most TV shows now play to a niche audience. “Game of Thrones” is gone and with it, perhaps, the last watercooler show.
Interestingly, shows that are now widely known may not have that large of an audience. You may not watch “Stranger Things,” but you have heard of it. Those buzzy shows are things you can utilize in your signage.
Music is another medium that can be difficult to use because tastes vary widely. Still, if you know your audience, you should have some idea of their musical preferences.
Of course, there will always be breakouts that are impossible to avoid. It’s hard to imagine there’s a person in America who hasn’t heard at least a snippet of “Old Town Road.” (It’s used in the latest “Rambo” trailer, of all things.) By July, the songs of the summer are basically decided (it’s now tracked by Billboard). Songs that trend so significantly are highly referenceable.
Does the following sentence mean anything to you? “Ninja has permanently left Twitch and is now streaming on Microsoft’s competitor platform, Mixer.” If not, you may want to hand off the video game references to someone else.
Video games and esports are big business. In fact, according to consulting firm Ovum’s Esports Revenue Forecast: 2018–23 esports revenue will hit $1.18 billion this year. In four years, that amount is expected to nearly double and reach $2.2 billion.
The young, digitally-savvy esports crowd is an audience with disposable income that currently sits at 450 million people but is expected to reach nearly 650 million by 2022. It’s worthwhile to make a connection with this group; however, if you don’t speak their language, they will tune you out.
A little research should help you out. If you live in or near a big city, there may be an esports team near you. For example, the Overwatch League currently sits at 20 teams: 11 in America, two in Canada, five in Asia, and two in Europe and the regional connection is a big part of these team’s identity. Another possibility is a big esports event. These do not need to be nearby to capitalize on its popularity, such as the premier Fortnite World Cup event that just occurred in New York.
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Politics is a touchy subject – not just in America, worldwide, but also really in America. So, while you may have strong political opinions, if you want to reach as broad an audience as possible, it is best to keep them separate from your business. Going political may galvanize the audience that shares your political leanings, but you risk alienating those that don’t.
If you do want to include politics in your signage, the easiest way is to take an informative angle. Have a news scroll as part of your layout. The changing information will draw attention to the screen and toward your branding. Try to find a source that’s considered neutral.
A meme (rhymes with “team”) is a photo or short video usually with a caption that quickly spreads through the culture due to social media. You can thank memes for “Never Gonna Give You Up” remaining in the cultural conscious. They are usually funny or have some shock-value. Most memes have a short shelf life, but a few catch on and hang around for a month or two. Memes have also been known to go away only to reappear a couple of years later.
Memes draw heavily on other pop culture. The “Avenge the Fallen” advertising campaign for “Endgame” spread even faster due to people creating memes that used the phrase.
Word of warning though. Before you go suggesting a DIY hack using ramen, show that you made queso, or remind Denise that she was at your wedding, do a little research. Because information travels so fast, it is not uncommon for a once innocent meme to be appropriated by a group that twists its use into an offensive and racist connotation.
Mediums for Your Message
Here are some options for digital signage that are as fun as pop culture references they’re presenting.
Digital Display Blocks
Go a step beyond the rectangle with Digital Display Blocks. These modular 16”x12”x10.25” blocks can be stacked or hung on walls without any special rigging. In fact, they can be integrated into just about any structure or environment.
The blocks provide unlimited design options possible, including:
- Any geometric shape or shapes
The blocks can also be seated at different depths to create a 3D look and feel. Each block can showcase individual videos, or a single video can play across multiple blocks. A touchscreen overlay can also be included so guests can interact with the display.
LED Touchscreen Product Display Box
Products come to life with LED touchscreen product display boxes. What, at first, appears to be a standard product display box has “glass” that is a transparent LCD screen. These displays can be customized to the size you need, and the content shown is entirely up to you.
You choose how the video display interacts with your products (and viewers). You can either have a viewable content that plays around the products in the display, or you can have interactive content with touchscreen navigation. The LED screen works in landscape and portrait orientation and has a bright display, vibrant colors, and crisp image quality.
Chiosco Touchscreen Kiosk
These Chiosco Touchscreen Kiosks are ideal for engaging a crowd. The screen can display multiple product or service demos, showcase a looping presentation, or offer direct access to a website.
They can be positioned anywhere, and the stylish, functional structure can be fully branded. These kiosks are as good at attracting attention as your content is at keeping it.
Throwing in an occasional pop culture reference is a fun, effective way to keep your digital signage fresh and relevant. However, you need to remain relevant, too, or you risk your message becoming stale. To learn more about our digital signage and display options, give The Trade Group a call at 800-343-2005.
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