What was once a derogatory term for those who didn’t quite fit in, has now evolved to be one of the biggest cultural movements since the hipster. Whilst for some it seems like it has just crashed into the scene like the Hulk through an alien army, the rise of the nerd has actually been gathering steam for quite a while.
But how did this happen? Two words. The internet. It has provided a place for likeminded people to discuss and learn more about their various fandoms with no judgement. As the internet has become more ingrained into our everyday lives, so too have the amount of people being able to connect from all walks of life. In the past, becoming a fanboy/girl of anything used to take a lot of time, effort and of course money. Now with the internet, everything you need to know about any topic is just a quick Google search away. So it is much easier to get your geek on if you will, than back when I was growing up.
Just over a month ago, I ticked off one of my main bucket list items. Attending San Diego Comic Con. For those who don’t know, this is the biggest nerd convention in the world. 130,000 official attendees were there and let me tell you, it felt like a lot more! It was such an eye opener to see so many different people coming together to celebrate all things once considered non-mainstream. But what exactly does this mean for advertisers?
Easy. Money. Lots and lots of cashed up nerd money.
We throw our rupees/galleons/pokedollars/galactic credits at anything related to our chosen fandom. Advertisers who genuinely align themselves with nerd culture are definitely given kudos. Pepsi is capitalising on the Back to the Future resurgence this year by releasing Pepsi Perfect bottles – the very brand and bottle from Back to the Future II. It is just normal Pepsi in a fancy bottle, but the cult fan base will be lining up on October 21st (the date Marty McFly travelled to in the future) to get one. Why? Three reasons; One, it is a piece of pop culture history; two, it will only go up in price from US$20 thanks to the limited amount and three, because they can. Pepsi is going even further by handing out bottles to Marty McFly cosplayers at New York Comic Con, further infiltrating nerd culture.
Brands need to use the force, not force themselves to be something they are not, when it comes to embracing nerd culture. To do this well, advertisers must learn their audience’s language. They need to be brave enough to alienate some people, as not everyone will get it. But those that do will give that wry smile and give an “I see what you did there” nod.
Anna Smith is a Digital Producer at BCM