Imagine you are a surfer.
Do you just plonk your surfboard on the sea surface and hope somehow you will be propelled forward.
It’s obvious you wouldn’t. You don’t need to know much about surfing to appreciate that a key skill of a surfer is to spot the potential swell, the current that starts small but grows into a powerful force to overcome all before it – and provide the best potential vehicle for riding on.
As a surfer you read your territory.
If most communicators were surfers they would probably have a very shiny, attractive looking surfboard. And the board would probably bobble up and down resting on the surface, but not really go anywhere. Most communicators fail to read their territory.
A mememaster (or mistress) – or my preferred term, ‘memechef’ - in communicating a message would be like the surfer: observing currents and trends; some may be well established, others can swell in an instant (calling out for a dog named ‘Fenton’ for example).
The trick is to harness these currents to advance some part, or the whole of your message.
A meme is a self-replicating message. Think of the song ‘Happy Birthday’ – you know the words, but you haven’t been on a ‘Happy Birthday’ training course, or read a ‘Happy Birthday’ training manual; somehow you:
a) Know the words and
b) Know to use it on social occasions to celebrate someone’s birth anniversary.
Doesn’t it make sense to harness established memes, especially an event that you know is going to happen which can somehow get people talking about you and remembering some part, or even the whole of your message.
My favourite phrase at the mo’ (inspired by Coca Cola’s excellent Content 2020 report) is ‘gaining a disproportionate part of popular culture’; if you want to gain a disproportionate part of popular culture wouldn’t it make sense to follow a line of least resistance and piggy-back on a relevant bit of surf to your message?
It has intrigued me that nobody out there has sought to tame one of the best established memes going. With just the slightest of prompts and provocations you can get people talking about overcoming adversity, tempting fate, or something even scary, or even about luck.
i am of course talking about Friday the 13th.
Each year typically has three ‘Friday 13ths’ (if the month starts on a Sunday then it will have a Friday 13 th )
A morbid, irrational fear of Friday the 13 th is actually called friggatriskaidekaphobia: Friday is ‘Frigga’s Day’. Frigga (Frigg) was an ancient Scandinavian fertility and love goddess, equivalent to the Roman Venus who had been worshipped on the sixth day of the week. Christians called Frigga a witch and Friday ‘the witches’ Sabbath’.
The Friday 13 th phobia is also called ‘paraskevidekatriaphobia’ as well as ‘triskaidekaphobia’.
Curiously, for both Greeks and Spanish-speakers, the 13th of the month is considered unlucky if it falls on Tuesday, instead of Friday.
Will you be using Friday 13 th to bring your campaign extra impact, or are you fearful of trying to using it?
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