October 23, 2008

The power of the "in joke"

I don't pretend that this blog is a bastion of marketing and business knowledge, nor do I pretend to be an expert in the field, but I have noticed something quite a few times recently.

Today, I'm working my way through my teriyaki chicken bowl, listening to our about-to-be released new children's musical Parableooza. Gail and Jimmy Getzen have knocked another one out of the park with an approachable, engaging theme and music that will connect kids with the Word.

The conceit of the musical is a game show based on the Parables. Of course, every game show has contestants, so it wasn't unexpected to hear the announcer say something to the effect of "let's introduce our contestants..." but what followed almost made rice come out my nose. The boy's name is the same as the project leader's husband, and the girl's name is the same as one of our project coordinators.

This is probably the most "in" that an "in joke" could possibly be... the only ones that will get it are people who know both names. I just happen to be in both of their "friend networks," so I get it. The thing that surprised me was my reaction. I had an almost visceral response... surprise, excitement, disbelief, acknowledgement, and attention... ultimately attention that superseded the next bite of my lunch. And then, the next step, wanting to share the "in joke" - a first step in the guerilla marketing of a product.

Microsoft did this in their Gates and Seinfeld commercials. Although critically panned, they were almost universally talked about and deconstructed, from just noticing Bill's mugshot from an early arrest on his shoe store member card to a deconstruction of symbology for every element. The point is that no matter what people thought of them, whether they benefitted Windows, Microsoft, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Apple or had no effect on sales whatsoever, people were talking about them, and it raised awareness of a product and a brand.

Parabaleooza and Microsoft are about as opposite ends of the spectrum as possible, but both managed to cut through my new dad, super-busy site-launching church-resourcing, near-deacon, facebook-obsessed life and connect with me long enough to want to blog about it.

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