I don’t tend to call myself a geek, but I once ran a website with the tagline, “We don’t care how big of a geek you are,” and I still run a podcast called Nerds Assemble, so I’ll let you assume that I am one.
Here at Radix, we’ve experimented with (what many consider are) geeky content formats, like comic books and board games. Some of us have even attempted and succeeded in coding computer scripts.
But it’s not our geek cred I’m worried about in this post. I’m worried about brands using geek culture incorrectly or inappropriately.
Why go geek?
There are some good reasons why technology B2B brands may want to draw upon geek culture in their marketing content. The main one being that the people getting close to the metal or writing lines of code could very well like watching Star Wars or playing videogames in their spare time.
(The posts that crop up near the release of big franchises – like “Here’s what Star Wars/Game of Thrones/The Avengers/<insert franchise here> can teach us about x-thing” – shows that brands think “geek” sells.)
With that in mind, here are my three Rs of using geek culture for your brand – so that you’ll sound less like a Vogon and more like some cool Betelgeusian who’s become president of the entire galaxy:
Respect the culture and its fans.
You should take the time to check whether fans will like you tying your brand to something they love: run a test campaign before going all out. If a test campaign makes your audience feel like you’re not respecting their interests then you need to rethink your approach. Also, not everyone has read/watched/played what you’re referencing, so you should avoid spoilers for recent comics, games, films, TV shows and so on.
Recognise that you may not be knowledgeable of the culture.
This means doing research beyond, “Isn’t so-and-so quite a geeky thing, why don’t we reference that?” It means taking the time to find out that the official spelling of Spider-Man is Spider-Man. It also involves finding out whether certain kinds of in-jokes are okay for you to reference. And if you don’t understand a joke from geek culture then avoid using it.
Represent the culture and its texts beyond stereotypes.
Batman hasn’t been camp since the 1960s. In the US, 48% of people who play videogames are female. At least 17% of those who work in the UK’s IT and Telecoms industries are women. If you think you’re about to base an element of your content on a stereotype: please don’t. Geek culture has its own battles with inclusiveness that still need be won without marketers adding to the problem.
Getting it right
Here are some of my favourite geek centric campaigns:
Oracle teaming up with The Avengers.
SolarWinds’ “by geeks for geeks”.
By geeks for geeks
If you need to know whether Han shot first, or if you have any questions about what Radix Communications can do to help you reach people who like geeky things: get in touch with us today.