Thursday, February 25, 2010

Birth of a Whale Meme?

If a company figures out the magic formula for consistently producing long-lasting memes, it will quickly become the most successful marketing company of our time. It takes more than great creative. In fact, what it takes is a rather complex set of factors that some have tried to scientifically dissect.

I would argue there are more factors:

Shock - At some level, the meme has to jar the audience. It has to be outside the status quo. A cat is not a great subject for a meme. A cat asking for a cheeseburger is.

Delight - The audience must delight in what they see. If the shock factor is based in horror or revulsion, the meme will not be as effective. A delightful response is more conducive to sharing. The exception to this rule is a meme aimed at a cultural sub-group, where it can become an 'inside joke'. For example, a meme that spreads amongst university students who are trying to gross each other out.

Technology - Memes that are conveniently packaged are potentially most viral and most successful. For example, private companies that create a meme but hide it behind a user log in, or memes that require a specific technology to be viewed are not going to be successful. The best memes are those that grandma can email to her friends.

Let's apply this meme framework to the recent tragic death of Dawn Brancheau, Seaworld whale trainer, at the hands (jaws) of Tilikum, one of the Shamu whales, to see if it will become a successful meme:

Shock - A killer whale eating its trainer is definitely outside the status quo, and will jar an audience.

Delight - Some people will be delighted by a whale kept in captivity lashing out at its 'Oppressive Human Overlord', however, this will not be the primary instinctive response by most. No delight here.

Technology - There is nothing to share. There are still images available of Dawn and Tilikum prior to the attack, but there is no video or images of the attack available at this time. If a meme evolves, it will be based on creative formed around the incident and not stem from it directly.

Evaluation based on these criteria shows the incident could spawn a meme that will be popular amongst some people, but it will not be wide-spread.

© Jeremy Buehler and Rogue Tendencies ( 2010.

No comments:

Post a Comment