Best of Digital Summit 2020: Pop Marketer Joe Cox on Getting Pop-Culture Buzz on Any Budget

December 21, 2020

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We’re celebrating and spotlighting some of our favorite, highest rated sessions from our Digital Summit at Home events from 2020. In this recap, we feature Pop Marketer Joe Cox (@joenormal), who has been  a regular fixture in our Digital Summit events in 2020. Beginning at our Digital Summit at Home in October 2020, Joe started delivering a new version of his pop (culture) marketing session, How to Get Pop-Culture Buzz on a Shoestring Budget, which has been a popular talk each month (Oct-Dec), to help us close out 2020.


How can brands tap into pop culture successfully in their marketing efforts? According to Joe Cox, aka The Pop Marketer, it might be easier than they might think. Joe has made a career working with brands and marketers to leverage pop culture to gain – and retain – consumer attention and have fun while doing it. In this session, Cox argues that brands don’t need enormous teams and multi-million-dollar budgets to find a foothold in the pop culture arena. 

Content vs. Advertising (4:30)

Prior to the rise of the Internet, content, and advertising were two separate things. The content, such as a TV show, was “given” to a viewer as long as they were willing to be subjected by ads during the show. The Internet flipped that notion on its head by offering free content as far as the eye can see. Now, promotional content is part of the actual content in many forms, opening new doors of possibility to brand marketers.

Cox breaks down three ways that digital marketers can tap into the potential of pop culture in the digital age:

What Happens When Pop Culture Comes to You? (6:40)

Marketers are notorious for wanting to control the message on their own terms. However, very few have a plan in place to take advantage of a “lightning strike” when pop culture embraces your brand and opportunity lands on the doorstep. Recent examples, such as Ocean Spray’s embrace of and response to the viral TikTok video featuring Fleetwood Mac and their product, highlight the immense benefits of having an action plan in place to react in real-time to such fortunate events.

PRO TIP: Develop a plan for how your brand will multiply opportunities created by pop culture happenings, including identifying key decision-makers and forming a response strategy, to be able to move quickly and reap the rewards of unplanned publicity. Pop Culture moves FAST, and so many marketers in order to take advantage.

Focus Pocus (14:45)

There are countless tools and methods that can often leave marketers scratching their heads about where to begin. Cox argues that brands need to focus on the things that can move the needle for their brand by determining what advantages they have and what they are good at, instead of trying to do what everyone else is doing.

This may mean ignoring things that are seemingly working for every other brand, as long as it allows brands to focus on their strengths as it relates to the pop culture landscape. This could mean anything from leveraging holidays that are symbiotic with the brand or creating a timely splash through brand association.

PRO TIP: Maintain a laser focus on what makes your brand unique and identify pop culture moments that you can take advantage of in the most meaningful ways.

Silence Your Inner Critic (22:20)

Pop marketing is a way of thinking that marketers can use to put a dent in culture. Small brands will never outspend market leaders and therefore must outthink them. Pop culture is a treasure trove of content ideas that can be leveraged by brands to get noticed and talked about. Instead of just consuming media, analyze what makes the content special to help spark ideas that can be applied to your own brand. 

PRO TIP: Actively consume pop culture to allow your brain to connect with the content and really see it through the eyes of others, in turn, to express your brand ideas in a way that others will relate to it.

Pop culture is everywhere, and the opportunities for brands are endless. Through planning, creating focus, and taking time to understand pop culture and how it works, marketers can ready themselves for the right moment to take advantage of their own brands without taking a direct hit to the bottom line.

To hear from experts like Joe and hundreds of others that teach at Digital Summit, check out our 2021 calendar of virtual and in-person events.

Kick off 2021 with a bang and join us on January 27 for Digital Summit Go!, a FREE 1-day online event featuring 12 of our best speakers. Hear 12 rapid fire talks on Content, Social, Email, and SEO with tons of actionable takeaways to help your marketing soar in the new year. Did we mention that it’s FREE? 🙂

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