Pop culture is inescapable. We can try to get away from it and swear it off but somehow it still finds a way to sneak into our mind and system. Eventually, anything pop culture becomes part of our daily life. Before we know it, we are listening to that K-Pop band or watching that local series we swore we’d never try because we said we don’t want to do what everyone is doing.
Whether we like it or not, pop culture is an inherent part of our lives. Pop culture is music, film, TV, fashion, literature and social media trends that are loved and supported by the masses, mostly the younger generation, and often for what they consider to be a deeply personal reason. But despite its ubiquity, or maybe because of it, pop culture can often be deemed as superficial. Followers of pop culture are sometimes seen as tasteless or tacky for simply following popular trends and for being so passionate about who or what they follow.
All the same, pop culture remains a strong influence in Filipinos’ lives. Beyond being eye-pleasing (in the case of pop fashion) and entertaining, pop culture is highly relatable. This last one is the main reason many people follow their pop culture choices so zealously.
In a way, pop culture has the same impact as the Roman empire (wink, wink) — it’s that powerful, influential and widespread. It is a reflection of practices, ideas and beliefs that people wholeheartedly subscribe to and passionately share with their peers.
Take the “Barbie” movie for example. This is just one of the major pop culture events this 2023. Outside of the marketing efforts, the reason the movie became so popular, especially among women, is because female viewers see it as a celebration of womanhood and their empowerment. It also touches people’s nostalgia and brings out their sentimental side. It inspires viewers to be creative, confident and extra social: It had fans dressing up in elaborate outfits and costumes, sharing their personal reflections online and interacting with others by saying “Hi Barbie!” or “Hi Ken!”
Needless to say, anything pop culture is not just “anything trending” but rather anything that resonates and reflects something deeper and creates something bigger than what it actually is.
What is it about pop culture?
One reason behind pop culture’s popularity and impact is the sense of freedom that it evokes.
“Reality is often disappointing,” says the Marvel supervillain Thanos. This statement is a fact that we all know too well. Each day, we face challenges and sometimes these hurdles can leave us feeling downcast, even drained. But we turn to our player and listen to pop songs that elicit the hidden popstar in us or simply make us sing along and we feel our dark mood being lifted. The Star Wars series still ignites our inner child despite the movie being old.
Singing along with hit songs, copying trending dance moves, watching current films … these go beyond being attuned with the times. These cheer us up and motivate us, accompany us during tough times, remind us that life isn’t all that bad as long as we have things that make us feel alive, hopeful and happy even for a moment. Not everything always has to be deep; sometimes all we need is a good enough boost.
Pop culture helps us see things in a creative, limitless point of view. Through pop culture we can explore new worlds, stretch our imagination, unleash the hidden creative in us and think of great new ideas. Remember the time when thousands — maybe even millions — of people closely followed an eight-season series about kingdoms, dragons and ice zombies? Pop culture opens us up to other worlds, allowing us to suspend our disbelief for the time being and experience what creative imagination can bring to life. What about cosplay? Donning that costume isn’t just about being all glammed up. It’s living that other life, being in that other world, exploring possibilities and what else people can become.
Pop culture brings people together. Popular TV shows, movies, songs or books often lead to the creation of new terms, slangs or signs that only people of that bubble or fandom will understand. Think of conventions or online spaces where people who have never met each other gather together. They may not know each other personally, but their shared experiences let them communicate as if they have known each other for decades.
Pop culture provides people with an avenue to share thoughts and opinions, opening opportunities for making new connections and friends. In our digital world today, those new terms, slangs or signs that arise because of popular shows, movies, songs or books can cease to be exclusive to their respective fandom and instead become accessible to other people because of the internet and social media. Besides being a source of fun and adding to people’s vocabulary and expanding the language, these broaden the community of people even further.
Let’s not forget pop culture’s impact on the economy. Pop culture generates billions in revenue every year. In fact, summer 2023 in the US has been dubbed #BillionGirlSummer because of Taylor Swift’s the “Eras Tour” and Beyonce’s the “Renaissance Tour,” both of which amassed millions of dollars this year alone.
Fans of both artists have been traveling across towns, following tour dates, booking flights and hotels, filling restaurants and bars, helping the tourism industry in the US jump back from pandemic losses. Philadelphia has reported that when Swift came to town, its hotels saw their strongest growth in bookings since the pandemic began. In Singapore, tourism recovery is anticipated with Swift’s six-day concert at the National Stadium in March next year. Singapore is the only stop in Southeast Asia for Swift’s Asian leg tour, and tickets sold out in just eight hours.
Because people just can’t get enough of the buzz of showbiz, fashion, pop music, video games, etcetera, adding pop culture to anything will have fans supporting it almost without a second thought. Aside from helping industries recover, this clamor can lead to significant other societal impacts like fueling job creation in sectors such as digital media production, advertising, merchandise manufacturing and event management.
Making strong connections through pop culture and PR
Now let’s add PR into the mix. If pop culture can benefit people individually, it can certainly be advantageous to businesses and brands.
Combining PR and pop culture will build strong bridges for businesses and their audience, helping the former know, understand and connect with people better, which can lead to better results.
Think trendjacks for content strategy. Social media trends pop up one after another, whether as a new TikTok challenge, a Gen Z slang or news about a popular celebrity. Riding on pop culture trends and adding them to PR strategies or campaigns make such activities more fun, timely and relatable. Some PR content or activities use trendjacks to provide more information about the business or brand in a way that people will easily understand and relate to.
Just a caveat: Too much pop culture may not be too good for PR content. For example, relying too much on a craze or fad risks mispresenting a business or brand as just that, short-lived.
Going back to PR and pop culture, incorporating pop culture ideas in PR strategies gives the audiences the impression that the brand is not detached from what is happening around it. Pop culture brings a brand even closer to its audiences because knowing that a brand “plays along” with trends reduces any feelings of intimidation from the public and smashes ideas that the brand is a snob. More importantly, pop culture is one of the best ways to catch people’s attention and generate engagement and support from fans.
Leveraging pop culture will also help position a business or brand as one that is socially aware and involved. Pop culture may be usually fun and entertaining, but that does not preclude the fact it reflects social issues and situations. Music, movies, TV shows, art and literature often include more serious topics in their narratives that mirror realities in our society. Pop art, for instance, was born as a response to how art back then was so detached from the people and everyday living. Some of the popular rap songs decry political, economic and social concerns. Even books and movies such as “The Hunger Games” touch on poverty and social classes in the story’s dystopian world. Incorporating these pop culture ideas in a company’s content or PR strategy raises the chance of showcasing brand value and making positive contributions to society, enabling the business to gain the trust of its audiences.
PR with pop culture thrown in can also take the form of direct engagement with fans. Think fan services. With pop culture creating big and passionate fan bases, events related to popular pop culture trends will no doubt win the support of fans.
From fan services, businesses and brands can move to the big gun: Collaborate with celebrities. If not celebrities, influencers. What else will capture the attention of fans and followers than their favorite artists themselves? Tap high-profile personalities with a large number of fans to create awareness about products or services. As a matter of fact, a study conducted by Rakuten Insight found that 70 percent of surveyed Filipinos said they have bought a product endorsed or promoted by their favorite influencers.
Don’t be afraid to dip your toes or add a little pop culture flair to your PR strategies. It does not compromise the quality of your strategy but rather elevates it. By engaging in pop culture phenomena, you give the impression that your business or brand is in tune with what’s currently happening. It makes you more relatable and builds strong, lasting bridges with your audiences.