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Cultural moments happen in an instant and sometimes without notice, they dominate the news feed more days on end (just think of the Will Smith and Chris Rock incident). The feed refreshes constantly, the group DM’s are red hot and the memes don’t stop - all of this combined creates a spectacle that is impossible to ignore.

High engagement moments like these are generally brought on by an event in real-time or a new trend making its way to the masses. Best case, these moments create massive amounts of conversation that helps people to unite over a common interest. Which is why brands are so eager to align their advertising with these viral cultural moments.

Knowing what the role of your brand will be during these events is crucial to the success of your social media presence. We’re going to show you how to take advantage of these moments in this guide.

Let your brand values allow you to align with cultural moments.

The core values of your brand should always be at the forefront of your marketing efforts. What sounds simple is often easier said than done.

Better understanding if a social media movement aligns with your brand values is going to require a little bit of a research on your part.

Think about these questions as you put your research cap on;

  • What caused this spike in conversation? A viral cultural event can take even the most common topic and push it into the limelight. But this doesn’t always mean that the moment is a positive one. Before creating social content around a moment, dig into what’s causing the conversation. If the inception of the event was caused by a scandal or negativity then you may want to steer clear of it.
  • Who is talking about it? Have a look at who is discussing the event, it could be a person, a brand or even a media outlet. Do these have any overlap with your audience? Or are any of your competitors in the mix?
  • What kind of conversation are happening? Viral cultural moments can spark a variety of reactions. Condense the conversation to identify how your brand can best contribute.
  • How are people feeling about it? Cultural moments often come with a lot of nuance. On the surface level it might seem like a lot of fun and joking around, but just underneath you may find some harder topics. If the conversation seems to be something that’s out of your depth, then you may prefer to stay out of it.

Work your way through these questions and identify any gaps between the moment and your brand. Don’t be afraid to sit out of a cultural advertising opportunity if you feel like you’re forcing it, there’s nothing that hurts your brand more than inauthenticity.

How to find the cultural moment that matters most to your audience.

Viral cultural moments may align with your brand, but your audience might not be talking about it, if you decide to push this conversation to your audience you may find it falls flat.

With how fast the news moves since the 24 hour news cycles became commonplace, there have been some huge changes to what counts as a cultural moment. Previously, a single event could captivate audiences for weeks. Now, small-scale cultural moments happen all the time. Before you craft the perfect trend-jacking post, be sure to assess the moment for audience fit.

Brands who got cultural advertising right.

Lets look at some brands were able to leverage a cultural moment to their advantage.

Calm x Naomi Osaka

The moment: In June 2021, Japanese tennis superstar Naomi Osaka decided to skip a post-match press conference at the French Open, in response to her mental health struggles. The organisation fined Osaka $15,000 for skipping out on her duties which caused a massive outcry from fans and mental health advocates alike.

In support of Osaka’s decision, the meditation app, Calm, pledged $15,000 to a French organisation that promotes mental health well-being through sports and physical activity. On top of that, they offered to cover any fines that other players at the tournament were likely to incur if they opted out of any media requirements to prioritise their mental health.

calm x Naomi Osaka screenshot
Source: Twitter
Aldi UK x Wordle

The moment: During the pandemic, a game called Wordle rose to massive heights, going from a simple game to pass the time to a viral cultural phenomenon. The month of January 2022 saw an increase of 9,971% in mentions from December 2021, reaching numbers upwards of 8 million.

Naturally, this kind of exposure doesn't stay dormant for long with brands jumping on the hype train by mimicking the grid of the game but editing it to fit their brand and audience to create conversation. The New York Times acquired Wordle, and this is when Aldi UK decided to throw their hat into the ring.

Aldi UK released a simple, yet effective tweet saying that Wordle should have sold to them instead of the NY Times.

Aldi x wordle screenshot
Source: Twitter

Aldi UK's Twitter feed is full of humour ranging from sarcasm to memes to jokes on current events. They could have joined in with every other brand and put up an edited version of the game with keywords relating to their brand, but instead they went a different direction to everyone else. This stood out amongst the massive wave of Wordle memes and jokes made by brands around the world.

Sometimes simple is still the best.

Semrush x Squid Game

The moment: September of 2021 saw one of the most viral TV shows in history with Netflix releasing Squid Game to raucous positivity from critics and fans alike. It was the biggest launch title in Netflix history reaching 111 million global accounts in its first 17 days on the platform. The series dominated the airwaves and social media platforms, with a tidal wave of memes hitting the internet from every corner.

Brands saw an opportunity to jump on the viral content from the show but were hit with the dilemma of talking about a TV show about the pitfalls of capitalism. The chance of sounding out of touch was extremely high here.

semrush x squid game screenshot
Source: Twitter

Semrush managed to find a way to jump into the conversation in a way that was humorous, by focusing on a scene from the show rather than talking about the show as a whole. They were able to steer clear of the overall themes of the show with a simple meme and their cultural advertising effort stays playful and topical.

Always be ready to strike when the iron is hot.

Cultural advertising opportunities can pose a challenge, but with data-backed insights, any social media manager can make use of a viral cultural moment to push their brand into the spotlight. All you need is the right processes and tools in place.

Twitter is a great place to find these viral moments, just search for what's trending and begin your journey there.