How to use pop culture to make your business stand out

Budding entrepreneurs gained a sweet introduction to business from this two-day Willy Wonka themed enterprise bootcamp at Manchester Metropolitan University. They completed creative tasks including the Great Glass Elevator Challenge and the Invention Factory while being coached by Wonka's 'Chocolatiers', including successful entrepreneurs and experts from MMU Centre for Enterprise.

The event triumphed in getting people through the door and learning about starting a business because it appealed to something we all love. There aren't many people who don't know the story of Willy Wonka.

What can your business learn from the Willy Wonka World Bootcamp?

There are unifying things in this world. There are shows, books and songs that create a warm, fuzzy feeling in your audience. People connect strongly with things they saw, read or heard a long time ago, and that connection can make them want to turn up to, spend money on or sign up to whatever you’re doing.

On a one by one basis, that’s not that useful. You’re not going to build a marketing campaign around 90s classic TV show Roseanne because a couple of your fans remember watching it on a cold Sunday evening.

But, when you’re aiming at specific demographics, there are certain references that will endear you to your audience in a way that can have a big effect on your conversions.

If you want to appeal to anyone between 18 and 25, a reference to Pokémon (particularly Pikachu) will go a long way. If your audience is a little older, along the lines of 24 to 35, mentioning the Fresh Prince of Bel Air is always going to get them smiling.

Clearly, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is something with broad appeal. There’s a few of these gold mines that will set a fire in the heart’s of a very wide audience. Friends is another one that springs to mind.

But, whatever you go for, it has to be authentic and you have to do it well. Throwing in some bizarre and out of place reference to Will Smith isn’t going to win you any fans, but going specific with a mention of the Carlton dance or that scene where Will’s dad walks out for good will get people in thalls of nostalgia and connecting to whatever your discussing.

In case you needed reminding what the Carlton dance is...

The Willy Wonka World Bootcamp worked because the organisers committed to making it work. They did their research and their event was authentic in its homage to something that’s a significant part of many people’s childhoods.

If you want to appeal to an audience, work out their unifying factor and use it authentically. Advertisers and marketers have been using it for decades, it's time for small businesses to step up and start doing it too.


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