If Beavis and Butthead speak meme, anyone can
Recently, MTV brought back "Beavis and Butthead," the classic Mike Judge cartoon about two juvenile delinquent nitwits who spend most of their time sitting in front of their television, commenting on pop culture. Usually, the boys watch videos on MTV (where else?), but in one episode they watched a web video that went viral back in 2008. (Clearly, Beavis and Butthead now have a web-enabled TV).
Anyway, the clip in question was an amateurish video for a homespun hip hop song called "It's So Cold In The D." The video isn't good. In fact, it's awful. But the video's unintentionally poor aesthetics and the song's offbeat tempo helped it achieve viral status, because, hey there's something internet audiences love about content that sits at the nexus of crappy and compelling.
The video's viral status in turn launched a meme, inspiring a slew of user-generated videos riffing off "Cold in the D." Here's one mashup on the meme that made the rounds shortly after the video's debut.
While memes like "Cold in the D" are part and parcel of today's web, this meme is particularly noteworthy for how far it traveled. Three years after it first captured the attention of internet users, the meme made its debut on MTV's "Beavis and Butthead." That's a significant event if you're interested in how television is adapting in the digital age, but it's important for two other reasons. First, the meme's success shows that there really isn't a correlation between reach and quality. That is, even something that's bad can go a long way, if the poor quality can be made to work in its favor.
But the second compelling thing about Beavis and Butthead singing along to "It's So Cold in the D" is that it illustrates just how effective memes can be at connecting an increasingly fragmented media landscape.
On one level, Beavis and Butthead mocked the video by pointing out its obvious musical and cinematic shortcomings. But at the same time their ridicule built on a larger reaction to the video -- Beavis and Butthead were in on the joke! If you Google "Cold in the D" + "Beavis and Butthead" you actually get a lot of results from hip hop sites that are laughing right along with MTV's iconic idiots, which is pretty interesting considering that those sites probably wouldn't be blogging about "Beavis and Butthead."
Snakes on a meme
Is it possible to have a meme that pre-dates a product? If the experience of "Snakes on a Plane" is any indication, the answer is yes. Long before the movie's release, the film's highly quotable title spawned an internet meme. But despite the meme's age (it dates back to 2005, which is ancient by web standards), it can still be relevant to marketers today.
According to the film's entry in KnowYourMeme, New Line actually added five additional days of shooting to its production schedule in order to incorporate fan ideas that came from the meme frenzy.
Here's the film's director, David Ellis, speaking to the Boston Globe about the wisdom of bringing fan input into the production.
"Given the groundswell on the internet and the fans' desire to hear Sam [Jackson] in all his glory, we were thrilled we got five extra days to do the things they wanted us to do... We had the unique opportunity to embrace what they wanted to see before we finished it... We had a chance to listen to the fans and give them exactly what they expected."
Now, while Ellis' comments may be unsettling for some filmmakers, his words are right out of a marketer's playbook circa now! After all, it's about engaging, listening, and then responding with a product based on user input. Maybe that means you'll make a campy film with decent box office, but if your business is selling detergent, there just might be something to speaking and listening via meme.