Play marketing

August 18th, 2009

The barrier of entry to making and sharing creative projects is so low today that there is an explosion of people entertaining themselves and their friends with things they’ve made. For some people it replaces most of the time they used to spend watching television, movies, or reading books. They still consume those things, if only because those are considered something akin to ‘high art’ and serves to define the things they make. Sometimes they’ll even borrow bits and pieces from, say, a TV show and add it to whatever they’re making.

This creator culture making serious ripples that may break out into the mainstream and become a dominant form of entertainment. I’ve already talked about the Favrd Crowd, a group of very funny and creative people busy entertaining themselves instead of letting others in mass media do it for them. Often times they will take a little piece of something else and add it to something new, or morph a phrase or meme into countless variations*, usually to hilarious effect.

We (for I consider myself a part of the Favrd Crowd) aren’t the only ones building a community out of making and sharing things online. Other groups have been started or will start that only serve to entertain its members. Some are based around books or movies (Harry Potter fans), fantasy sports, videos, or simply who can make the most offensive thing possible (4chan which, like it or not, exerts a major influence on the creativity of others online).

These online communities will only grow and spread over the next few years, and they will become more important to the daily entertainment of millions of people. People who are smart, creative, and who very likely have disposable income (or strive for disposable income).

See where I’m going with this?

As long as companies respect the intelligence of these people, it is possible to market your product and use the structure of the community to spread your message to others who are mere spectators.

For lack of a better term, I call this play marketing. Create advertising that encourages people to riff and evolve the idea into a meme that is fun for the consumer, but spreadable and effective. The big caveat is respect: respect the audience and respect the product. Any lack of authenticity will be quickly found and the campaign will be in the audience’s hands, and they won’t be very nice.

*The memes of the Favrd Crowd are very ephemeral and die out after a few days, save for a few particularly clever phrases or concepts. This makes it hard to archive and find link to examples. I’ll try to collect some examples from Twiter and Tumblr that demonstrate the creativity of this group. For examples of funny tweets that aren’t necessarily memes, check out Twitter Wit, which compiles some of the funniest tweets of the Favrd Crowd and others.

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