Caught in a meme cross-fire
links for 2007-06-22

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery...

Picture 6.pngOr, in the case of social media, parody is the sincerest form of flattery. The most buzz-worthy companies and products are all on the receiving end of parodies via the internet. It could be an audio clip, video clip or fake website. Some companies try to stop this practice, but I say encourage it!

You heard me right. Companies should make their content social media, parody-friendly. A great example of this (whether intended or not) is the Apple v. PC ads. Just take a look at the search results on YouTube to see what I mean. Out of the first 20 results, 15 are parodies. Some are pro-Mac, some are anti-Mac. Some are promoting religion, gaming or online dating. Everybody is talking though and everybody knows it started with Apple.

Here is one of the many Apple parody videos:

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CK pointed out this quote in her piece about pardody by Jeff Hicks, CEO of Crispin Porter + Bogusky in an issue of Business2.0:

"The brands that are adopted, blogged about, and parodied the most are the ones that are going to win because they're involved in the evolution of pop culture." (Think subservient chicken, one of CP+B's campaigns.)

What makes the commercials so good from a parody perspective is they are simply done. You can recreate it in your basement. It's shot on a white background using music that is easily reproducible. The characters are so ingrained in our minds through the Apple ads that you know who you should root for by the side of the screen they're standing on. You also know which one is cool and which is not. Everything in the ad is easy to copy and apply to other products or services.

I am not saying you have to make your ad low-end or that you should copy Apple. What I am saying is that you should make it very easy for people to parody you. You could provide your creative in downloadable MPG files and let people create their own. You could give them a link to the audio track and the font you use. What could you do to let people jump start the buzz? Encouraging people to do this can be a very powerful way to get their creativity going while increasing awareness of your brand.

Here is another example. Microsoft Surface is a cool new way of interacting with physical content. The creator of this clip used Microsoft's video with their own sarcastic dialog. MS could take this as offensive, but why? People are talking. The people who will buy this device will still buy it and others will be exposed to the product.

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If you are saying to yourself "That's absurd, I don't want people copying me" then you are missing the point/boat. People talk about you anyway. They chat around the proverbial water cooler (do we really do this anymore or is it the coffee machine?). They email their friends and say the same thing. Why not let them do it and have some brand recognition and fun in the process? If you're aware of what is happening and engage with people, you can find out why your detractors don't like and possibly improve your product/experience and you can ignite the passions of the people that do love you.

Anybody who creates content around your brand is clearly passionate. More to the point, people are going to do it anyway. Why not help them out? The old PR saying goes "there is no such thing as bad publicity" and the same is true on the Internet. There is no such thing as bad user generated content.

What could you do today to let your customers get closer to you to create content (sites, video, audio) that endorses you or shows their passion for you (either way)? Are you strong enough to listen to them? What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

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