Thursday, July 2, 2009

Charlie the Unicorn: Getting down to business

Let's face it, there is a lot of terrible video material on youtube. Straight up, I'm not saying this is a bad thing: it's part of the fascination; and, if you're in the right mood- usually overly tired and somewhat delerious- then a poorly-edited cartoon or music vid can be just what you need to lift those spirits. And then there was Charlie the Unicorn... where to begin?

If you have not taken a moment out of a busy day or huddled around a computer to feast on this masterpiece then you really cannot consider yourself 'of the 21st century'. Charlie is the bomb. Please allow me to refresh your memory...

"Charlie.. You silly sleepy head... wake up!"

Now it's unknown whether the creator, Jason steele, was on some form of extended acid trip or scaling the heights of a herbal hallucinogen; or whether he simply found his "happy place" - Happy Gilmore style- while forming the masterpiece for (as the film would suggest) "Typequeen" of online community Newgrounds*. But, as of the last time I checked, the creation has been viewed over 38 million times- and thats ony the first movie! So, artificial enhancement or not, that's a lot of trips to candy mountain... Forget conservatism, I'm running with another exclamation mark... Boom!

"Now that's a lot of potential leads!"

I briefly hesitate in absolute artistic appreciation of Charlie. Frankly, I am a huge fan. The simplicity of the language and utter brilliance of the timing is, in my humble unicorn-loving opinion, unrivalled when it comes to flash cartoons on the tube. Of course, I am more that happy to be corrected. Having quickly glanced at the Newgrounds website, it seems as though the film was not created as a means of making a quick buck... so perhaps this was an afterthought?

If you watch the entire movie you will notice that it concludes with an upbeat and circus-like tune whilst directing your attention to a website: "". At this location you can browse through various other funnny clips (most of which I have not seen as of yet) OR visit the "Store".

When I open the link to the store I literally begin to laugh. On the screen before me are various designs and sizes of charlie the uncorn t-shirts, stickers, mousepads, and of course- and no merchandise store would be legit without it- a charlie mug.

But how many t-shirts and mugs can you possibly sell? If, for arguments sake (and I am convinced this is 100% not the case), charlie the unicorn WAS created as as means of online revenue generation, would it be a mathematically and fundamentally wise decision to simply follow up the millions of views with a merchandise store? Let's have a think about this...

To answer this question properly, we need to refer to some of the basic tenets of NLP, or for those non-pop-psychologists out there: Neuro-Linguistic-Programming. Don't worry, this is not going to get all techno-and-outa-control, I promise. And yes, for the large part, NLP has not been overly accepted by the scientific community. But we only need to borrow a small part, so we should all just take a deep breath and get on with it...

As you would be aware, we as humans have a tendency of attaching certain emotions and feelings to different stimulus and circumstances. When watching charlie, for perhaps the 1oth time, I notice that I immediately begin both to smile and hold my breath, it's like a wave of excitment washes over me. A little creepy? Not at all! This is some hypnotic stuff. It's amazing. Now, let's just call this state "excitment phase 1", or EP1 for short.

My question then is simple: how do you get from EP1 to "I-want-to-buy-a-t-shirt"? Does that seem like a natural step? Perhaps not. Then again, maybe it's more like an impulse purchasing strategy. Granted, it does seem to be an instictual reaction to want to share the charlies of the world with others. And I guess a t-shirt would be a good way to do that? But more than likley you will just forward a URL or better still, look over at Nicole from accounts and yell across the office "Ey Nic, you eva heard of charlie the unicorn?... You gotta check that out!"

If you buy a t-shirt, firstly you gotta pay $$$ and then wait for delivery. By this stage, not only has charlie lost his kidney, but he's also probably considered a senior citizen in youtube years- where an hour is like a day. On second thought, sharing the love through the means of a t-shirt is far too lengthy, costly and detached for the fast-moving infomation age we are living in. Not good.

This means, in actuality, that only the really hardcore charlie groupies (and I may or may not be in this category) are likley to purchase a t-shirt in the end. I'm guessing that's probably not too many. Having said this, my logical sales projections could be way off. I would be very interested to know what the figure actually is...

My solution is simple: you need to strike while the iron is hot! While the viewer is still in the EP1, otherwise known as the "very excited and happy" phase, why not advertise for a similar product? Why not advertise for a product or service that will draw out the same EP1 feelings and reactions. Maybe this is a comedy channel? Maybe this is a dvd collection or upcoming comedy film? The product or service is not important really. What IS important is striking while iron is hot! Or, what NLP would tell you, taking one set of feelings and associations (aka anchors) and applying them to another scenario. Put simply, if I am super thirsty, sell me a gatorade, not a t-shirt!


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