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Imagine that you’re a typical high schooler. You throw on your red team t-shirt and khakis and go to work on a Sunday like any other teen in America. You’d like to maybe get enough gas money to go out and be a clown on Friday night with the rest of your friends. You come home and open your Twitter and find that not only is your name trending, but thousands of people have made creations and memes with your likeness.
Such is the case for one, Alex, better known now as #AlexfromTarget. There is literally nothing that this young man did special, no video, no crazy stunt, just one teen game of telephone spiraling into internet sensation (really no different than ‘Hot Mugshot Guy’ – sorry kid). Here are just a few facts:
- #AlexFromTarget has received more than 1.2 Million tweets since Sunday
- It was trending on Twitter for at least 30 hours straight in some way shape or form
- It has trended on Twitter, Vine, Google+, and Tumblr (thanks to Andrea Lopez aka @BlueChooChoo for her work)
- Alex (the real #AlexfromTarget) has gain more than 500,000 followers overnight
What the world is trying to figure out today is “how the heck does a random kid go viral overnight?”
I’d chalk this one up to another one of those silly internet games that we play these days. The person credited with starting the meme has quite a few followers, so when more and more people felt compelled to share this idea, it morphed and turned into something bigger than it started. Now, Ellen is even tweeting to him!
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) November 3, 2014
Call it the Bill Brasky effect if you will.
Bill Brasky was a Saturday Night Live skit where four businessmen are at bar drinking and telling the more outrageous tales of one companion, Bill Brasky. The stories get progressively more outlandish and unbelievable and they eventually bring in another person at the bar because of the ripple effect.
Teen influence on Twitter is becoming more and prominent, at least from my personal observations. Regularly around 3-4pm you can see trends online shift from news, world and sports to more fun and entertainment topics. When a funny joke like a cute boy at a Target starts making its rounds it snowballs into what we have today, a never-ending game of internet telephone leaving a trail of hilarious images, videos and Vines along the way.
In a statement to Mashable’s Laura Vitto, Target said:
“..Imagine our surprise yesterday when one of our Target team members managed to flood the Internet with images of red and khaki without even trying. We are proud to have a great team, including #AlexFromTarget, and are in contact with his store and family.”
So when they do get in contact with his store and family (which presumably isn’t hard because they’re a multi-national corporation with an employee database of around 300,000) what should they do with him?
Is he instantly employee of the month? Well duh. But where do you go from there? Target should take advantage of this and have a laugh with their customers. I pulled together some quick ideas on things Target might consider (feel free to take these ideas Target):
1. Run a series of posts that play up the #AlexFromTarget Meme
There have already been a number of really funny posts about #AlexFromTarget that came right from the audience. Why not take the best suggestions and remake them with Alex and share them from the @Target Twitter account?
2. Put him in their holiday advertising
Imagine teens’ faces when they open up their mailbox and see this internet meme Alex staring back at them. Not only will they die laughing, but best believe they’re going to share that image online again and again.
3. Release a limited edition giftcard
What if Target were to release a gift card with #AlexFromTarget on it? Sounds crazy but who knows how many giftcards might be sold as gifts from one friend to another online.
4. Put him on Vine or Snapchat
Alex is a teen idol for the moment. How great would it be to see these memes come to life while Alex is on the job. Send a crew of vine producers to his store and film some funny memes with him throughout Target, taking ideas from fans. As you can see below some of Vine’s most popular creators Marcus Johns and Curtis Lepore are already hopping on.
5. Ask Me Anything
Let Alex takeover the @Target account and have some fun with it. I’m sure this might be unnerving for Target but the internet would feel like they won with this type of recognition from Target.
6. Don’t do anything.
Which is pretty much what they’re doing now. One funny photo that gives a head nod to the trend, and a quotes in a ton of press articles probably is enough. Whatever they do, it’s going to be scrutinized. Nothing is worse than a brand coming in and messing up a good internet joke, and if Target doesn’t play nice they’ll feel the wrath of some internet teens.
— Target (@Target) November 3, 2014
Whatever Target decides to do with Alex moving forward it will undoubtedly be great, this is one of those goofy stories that is harmless and benefits everyone.
As a brand, you can’t plan for these types of events, they’re one in a million and rely on a variety of factors to blow them into the stratosphere. You can only have the infrastructure in place to accept and execute on these moments when they do come up, and the leaders who are willing to smile and play along with their customers.
Last night, it was been widely reported by CNET, Buzzfeed and others that some company is claiming responsibility for the #AlexfromTarget Meme. I think that’s BS.
Here’s the article in question where the founder claims responsibility.
Now all the media are so willing to give him credit for this. I still am skeptical here, the Breakr CEO doesn’t seem to be telling the whole story. The media is seeking an answer for what’s unexplainable and they’re rushing to the first person to claim responsibility. Where’s the evidence?
I’m sure it’s what he wants his company to do in an ideal world, and I’m not knocking his company, but maybe it’s not all true?
Having worked with a number of influencer networks before like theAmplify (and even my own with Delmondo) the story is rather possible, but I’m just not buying it all the way through.
What I think is more believable is that this company MAY (and a big may because this is giving them serious credit that I still think is undeserved) hopped on a trend while it was early knowing that a certain number of factors made it a ripe conversation to blow (a fair nod to his fangirl-type targeting), and they probably then went ahead and amplified the hell out of it with a network of creators (there were a lot of solid videos going out in a short amount of time so that leads one to believe there was some communication ahead of time) but I would be surprised if they planned that from inception.
If so, hell of an ad campaign and my hat’s off to them.
Why else would the person who initially posted the photo go into hiding and now say she didn’t work with Breakr? How come so many Vine and Youtube stars knew about this AlexFromTarget meme so fast? All good questions.
Despite where it started there were very real posts being created, many different memes sprung up and content was across multiple channels, and it’s a great example of why brands need to be listening to their audience in order to craft a message that resonates with them.