Happy Friday. And happy birthday Bob Merlotti.
Becoming internet famous was not an option a decade ago. Not really. But today, if you tweet hard enough and hilarious enough, you can get a sitcom. Or at least a Klout score in the forties. Same if you really know how to work Facebook or Pinterest or YouTube or even Etsy–all of these communities have leaders and shining stars. Social media empowers a certain kind of meritocracy.
By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson
I’ve been behind the eight ball all day and it’s only getting worse so in lieu of actual fresh and insightful blog content, I’m just gonna repost something genius done by someone else. And of course, it’s an infographic. This one comes courtesy of Chicago freelancer George Ellis, who apparently also has a healthy professional self-loathing streak. Thanks to the eagle-eyed Bob Merlotti for the find.
By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson
Whether or not you agree that a level of narcissism underlies most social media, the fact remains that pretty much anyone who goes through the effort to shape a thought into 140 characters and Tweet it does that with an implied hope that it will be deemed worthy of retweeting by someone, somewhere. Twitter is built on sharing and so the idea that someone might validate your content fuels the participation on that very public platform.
But while it’s never been more immediately obvious. this phenomenon is not unique to social media. Back in the pre-viral, pre-socially-networked ’90’s, we specifically recorded multiple dialogue options whenever we shot Bud Light spots with the hopes that one of those lines would–in the words of advertising creative and pundit Bob Merlotti–become a “popular culture catchphrase.” And so phrases like “Yes I am” and “I love you man” became part of the culture, passed along on barstools and softball fields and even–in a few wonderful, halcyon moments–Letterman monologues. Being quoted by others was and remains a very valid means of extending your brand message through a viral person-to-person network of individuals who find your idea worthy of sharing.
Which brings me to this wonderful YouTube piece a fan pieced together from the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 top movie quotes in history. It’s ten minutes long, but the percentage of quotes even a passing movie fan will recognize is extraordinary. These bits of movie dialogue form a shared cultural reference point for all of us. We recognize them because at one time or another, we’ve quoted them ourselves. The sheer volume of memorable quotes from across decades will amaze you with how a few simple nouns, verbs and adjectives can achieve immortality when uttered in just the right context.
Great brands have sharable stories–thoughts that merit passing along to others outside of paid media. If it’s worth saying, it’s certainly worth saying memorably. Enjoy the clip.
By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79
About a week ago, Bob Merlotti–unrepentant funnyman and founder of the innovative advertising organization Skeleton Crew–posted yet another one of his casually hysterical status updates on Facebook. It read simply “Bob Merlotti wears the scarf of indignity.” Now I don’t know what life event prompted this thought–if any. And aside from the fact that as a huffy sort of adjective, ‘indignity’ falls into that wonderful linguistic subset of intrinsically funny words, little distinguished this specific update from dozens of his other witty posts. And yet it clearly struck a chord. Within minutes, four people had chimed in, offering absurdist sartorial builds on his initial bit, ranging from ‘the english derby of righteousness’ to ‘fez of futility’ and ‘bathing suit of exasperation.’ By days end, that simple post generated sixteen replies.
In the massive numbers of the internet, sixteen replies equal the approximate register of a single leaf falling in a thousand-acre forest, but for those of us who jumped in (and you bet, I jumped in too), the experience was like a taking a few turns on a swingset–simple, silly and undeniably fun.
What was it about this particular post that made it such an irresistible invitation to play? Why did such a relatively high number choose to add to this particular thread?
In his highly accessible and brilliantly informed book Here Comes Everybody, Clay Shirky details how today’s widespread communication tools radically reduce the cost of participation, fueling social upheaval around how quickly and powerfully groups form and act today. Whether a group forms to disseminate information, drive political change, or crowdsource large scale projects, reducing the cost of participation increases the likelihood of success exponentially. In a time of more change and fewer absolutes for both the marketing industry and society as a whole, Shirky’s informed analysis helps provide a framework for adapting to this new reality and the financial repercussions it creates.
Getting back to Bob’s post, his clean, easily imitated gag structure clearly lowers the cost of participation. With Facebook, that cost refers not to time or money, but rather fear of extremely public failure. Anything you post on Facebook instantly pops up on the newsfeed of hundreds and even thousands of others to see and judge, intimidating many from jumping in. But in this instance, Bob provided an initial gag structure that was both delightfully clever and easily replicated, requiring only a silly, alliterative clothing/emotion combination. Once you free associated say, ‘hot pants’ with ‘hussiness,’ you could play too. And so ten people did almost immediately.
Unlike a very special episode of ‘Family Ties,’ we didn’t all learn something. Still, it was a day-brightnening experience and an intimate lesson in community building–if you make something easy and fun, all sorts of people will want to play with you. Thanks for that Bob.