Marketing Matters

The Invaluable Marriage of Pop Culture and Food Marketing

Creating a sense of familiarity and relatability establishes a consumer connection.

by Melinda Goodman

In a world where attention spans are shrinking and choices are expanding, the marriage of pop culture and food marketing has become a recipe for success. From catchy jingles to viral TikTok food trends, the influence of pop culture on the food industry is undeniable. It’s a symbiotic relationship transforming marketing strategies, shaping consumer preferences, and driving innovation.

The Power of Relatability

One fundamental aspect of pop culture is its ability to resonate with diverse audiences across multiple generations. Food marketers have long recognized the value of tapping into the collective consciousness through shared experiences, and pop culture provides the perfect platform. Whether it’s referencing a popular TV show, leveraging memes, or capitalizing on social media trends, marketers can create a sense of familiarity and relatability that establishes a connection with consumers.

Consider the rise of “food influencers” on platforms like Instagram and YouTube who have turned their passion for food into a form of entertainment, gaining massive followings by sharing their culinary adventures. These collaborations help food brands reach a wider audience and align themselves with the influencers’ personalities and lifestyles, making their products more appealing to consumers who identify with these influencers.

Trend Riding and Viral Sensations

Pop culture moves at a rapid pace, and successful food marketers must be agile enough to ride those waves. We all want the next avocado toast moment that moves from trend to staple, but sometimes, taking chances can result in viral moments or something a little lackluster. It’s more important to take the risk as there is no harm in not going viral other than the time it took to create the content you would have spent on a safe idea or campaign anyway. Recently, marketers who took a chance on pink saw green thanks to the viral buzz of all things Barbie. Beyond Barbie-licensed products, foods capitalized on the pink bling by creating everything from pink burger sauce to pink donuts and even the popular Barbie Café Experiences. 

Social media platforms play a pivotal role in the rapid dissemination of all trends, including food trends. Platforms like TikTok have quickly viralized food challenges, recipes and hacks. A simple hashtag challenge can turn a humble food item into an overnight sensation, driving consumers to seek and try the latest culinary craze. Savvy food marketers leverage these trends by aligning with them, ensuring their offerings stay relevant and in demand.

Nostalgia Marketing: A Trip Down Memory Lane

Nostalgia is a powerful force that often influences consumer behavior. Food marketers harness the sentimental value associated with certain eras, characters or memorable commercials to create a sense of longing for the past, such as Chiquita tapping into the nostalgia of their original jingle. By accessing consumers’ emotions, brands can evoke positive feelings that their target audience associates with their brand.

Classic advertising campaigns, such as the Coca-Cola polar bears and the McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ It” jingle, demonstrate how brands use nostalgia to reinforce their image. They create a sense of familiarity and warmth, reminding consumers of cherished moments from their past. In doing so, these brands position themselves as more than just product purveyors; they become part of the consumer’s personal history, fostering deeper connections, brand loyalty and trust.

Culinary Crossroads: Flavor and Culture Fusion 

Pop culture is inherently diverse and dynamic, reflecting the ever-changing tastes and interests of society as a whole, but also unique cultural subsets and demographics. In the realm of food marketing, this diversity has paved the way for culinary innovation and the fusion of flavors and cultures. The increasing globalization of pop culture has introduced consumers to a variety of cuisines and ingredients, fostering curiosity for new and exotic flavors that wouldn’t exist without this intentional content that connects people.

Food marketers capitalize on this openness to diversity by incorporating global influences into their products. Fusion cuisines, once considered experimental, are now celebrated as a testament to the interconnectedness of the world. Brands that embrace this cultural fusion not only cater to an increasingly diverse consumer base but also position themselves as trendsetters in the culinary landscape.

A Seat at the Pop Culture Table

In the fast-paced world of food marketing, the ability to adapt, resonate, and innovate at a rapid pace is essential for success when incorporating pop culture trends. By embracing the trends of pop culture, food marketers not only capture attention but also create meaningful connections with their audience. As trends continue to emerge and evolve, those who understand the value of a seat at the pop culture table will find themselves not only surviving but thriving in the ever-evolving food industry. So, whether it’s a catchy jingle or a trending TikTok recipe, food marketers are discovering that the key to success lies in staying on the trend edge of what’s hot and what’s not. 

  • Melinda Goodman is the president of Full Tilt Marketing.