Opportunistic advertising isn’t a new phenomenon. However, pop culture has never been as widely transmitted as it is today. Thanks to the constant presence and persuasiveness of social media and the internet, consumers are now far more receptive to public interests. Brands are taking advantage of the ever-growing collection of pop culture trends, and using them to market products and services.

The most recent instance of this strategy being employed was after the launch of the record-breaking app Pokémon GO. Pokémon GO provided unique opportunities for companies to market themselves in a unique way that was timely and relevant. Although the app launched without in-game advertising or sponsorship prospects, many major brands caught on, and joined the conversation in ways that related the Pokémon phenomenon back to their products or services.

Although Pokémon GO is the pop culture fad of the moment, there have been similar trends in the past that brands have capitalized on. here are some of my favorite examples that demonstrate brands leveraging pop culture themes for campaigns and marketing strategies.


The passing of the same-sex marriage bill was a landmark event in the UK in 2013, welcomed by the public and many politicians. UK-based travel brand Virgin Holidays, a member of the Virgin family, managed to align itself as a supporter of gay marriage, celebrating the success of the bill, and getting their name out their all at the same time. The simple, but extremely effective creative below shows how well they managed to execute the messaging, and seamlessly created a conversation around their brand.


The ad was originally set to be released the following morning after the bill was passed, but the company decided to share the image on its social channels after re-evaluating and concluding there would be a greater impact if shared immediately. A public outpour of support quickly followed, which led to a two-year campaign highlighting the brand’s backing of equal marriage.


Lipton launched the global campaign, “Be More Tea,” back in 2014, which included the Muppets. Using the playful and thoughtful Kermit as their spokesperson, “Be More Tea” set out to encourage people to get off auto pilot, according to VP Brand Development for Unilever Refreshments Alessandra Bellini. The Muppets were not used in the campaign everywhere in the world, but only in countries (like the U.S.) where they resonate best, which is why it’s one of my favorite cultural marketing campaigns. For regional companies, your campaigns can vary based on the area you are catering to, and only spend your advertising dollars in locations where it matters most. Check out the one-minute TV ad that aired during the 2014 Academy Awards:


Oreo is known for incorporating cultural conversations and events into their social channels in a very fun and creative way. Not only does this keep the brand relevant and illustrate their authenticity, but it sparks conversation among its customers. The Oreo brand clearly understands what’s important to its customers, and speaks to that, which is why it’s one of my favorite brands that incorporate cultural trends into their marketing. They use their iconic product to highlight different current events in a way that keeps their brand in front of their audience, without getting lost in a social feed filled with posts from news outlets.

brand strategy - oreo 2


Customers are overwhelmed with promotional content around the holidays, but the brands that stand out the most and resonate with the public are those that don’t overly advertise the brand’s products. One of my favorite examples of a well-done creative piece related to a holiday is a dazzling Vine created by Lowe’s for the Fourth of July back in 2013. Its cute, eye-catching, and entertaining. It sparks a curiosity in the viewer, causing them to wonder how the video was created, and what products were actually used. Its a spectacular example of showcasing your product line in a unique and timely way.


50 Shades of Grey

The R-rated film, one of Hollywood’s most provocative studio offerings in years, had the world a-buzz leading up to its release. From social campaigns to out-of-home executions, it seemed that every brand was finding ways to relate the controversial film to their business. One of my favorite PR stunts from the time was the ‘leaked’ memo released by B&Q, a UK-based home improvement store. The memo, released to the Daily Telegraph, instructed staff of the stores to familiarize themselves with the storyline in case customers wanted to purchase items such a rope and duct tape.

brand strategy - 50 shades
The tongue in cheek campaign was an instant hit, with over 75 major publications picking up the story within the first 12 hours. Humor is almost always a hit with consumer audiences, and when a company does it right, it creates a conversation surrounding their business that can dramatically improve their brand awareness, as well as their sales.

Cultural marketing is one of many popular marketing approaches. However, it requires quick-thinking and a talented team to pull off a successful but tasteful capaign. With the Olympics right around the corner, I’m predicting a wave of themed campaigns. By following similar strategies, your brand can grab the attention of extra eyes, and join the social conversation. By merging your brand with pop culture, current events, and marketing trends, the public will begin to relate your brand with defining factors of their life – just as pop culture does.