In Communications, Pop Culture is After All, Popular
“Popular. It’s all about popular.”
Galinda in the musical Wicked makes this point abundantly clear. And if you’re paying attention, that’s Galinda with a “Ga.”
As a marketer and communicator, I confess that I think Galinda is 100% correct. This is why I, for the better part of my 25-year career, have shamelessly used pop culture references as my primary “go-to device” for internal and sometimes external business communications.
By definition -- and there are many definitions for pop culture -- the term itself represents a collection of thoughts, ideas, attitudes, perspectives, images, etc., that are known to the mainstream population at a given point in time. In other words: solid points of reference which serve as a common denominator for communicating ideas. Among the most common pop culture categories are entertainment, celebrities, sports, news, politics, fashion and technology.
The use of pop culture enables a common language between an otherwise diverse group of people. And this is just what most businesses employ -- a diverse group of people. Diverse by generation, by gender, by background, by religion, by political ideology. Companies typically have employees who cover a broad spectrum of backgrounds, often linked only by their talent and knowledge for the industry in which they work. So how do you get this diverse population on the same page?
Communicating to and seeking to inspire such a broad group of individuals is always a challenge. And it can’t be all business 24/7, or that message gets tuned out. This is why I routinely seek to bring pop culture references into our messaging mix.
Music has always been my go-to choice, although the Kardashians can work just as well! And I while I mean no offense to Kim and Khloe, I’ve always been someone who associates music to an age, a time, a place, a friend. It’s that power of musical association I’m routinely trying to exploit.
This is partly why each year Assurance has an annual theme, based on a song, that reflects our over-arching business objectives for the year. Sometimes it’s a memorably good song, like Dream On by Aerosmith. Often times it’s a notably horrible song that gets stuck in your head, such as Mr. Roboto. Either way, it’s a common denominator that everyone can connect to in some fashion.
In 2019, Assurance employees are rallying behind the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up.” We have a number of business objectives we are looking to start or re-start, so the song serves as a great reminder to all employees of the things we’re seeking to accomplish. Besides, the song itself is ageless and still being used in pop culture today. Many of our 20-somethings claimed to not know it at first, but as soon as they heard the opening guitar lick, they were like, “Ohhhhhhh, THAT song!”
And just think, how fun is it to start a big business meeting with one of the most recognized guitar riffs in music?
- My Leadership Advice: Stay Connected
- How to Effectively Communicate with Employees
- The Ties That Bind
ABOUT THE AUTHOR