Back in the early 1980, there was a cheer made popular by University of Michigan students during their football games. Entire sections of students would stand and cheer while raising their hands, sit down, and then the next section would do the same thing. The effect was what looked like waves of people moving throughout the stadium. This gave a great visual effect and engaged the crowd every time that it started. Wave leaders would get a couple of the most raucous student sections (usually those including the band) and after a few tries, the rest of the sections would pick up on the wave and it would take off through the stadium.
The Wave grew very popular after it caught on during Detroit Tigers games as they won the world championship in 1984. By that point, everyone in America had learned the Wave, and it became common at sporting events. By 1986, the Wave was being done at the World Cup and it became a global phenomenon.
The reason that the Wave was popular is the same reason that the Internet has spawned so many popular memes. A meme is an action that spreads throughout a society. In the Internet age, most “memes” are Internet phenomenons that have users joining strange activities, just to be part of the crowd. Flash mobs were “the” meme a few years ago. During the 2012 London Olympics, it seemed like every athletic team in the world went online and did the same dance to the Carly Rae Jepsen song “Call me Maybe”. And recently, the Internet has lit up with tens of thousands of videos of people copying a jump-cut YouTube video done by a group of Queensland, Australia teenagers to the song “Harlem Shake”.
So why? People like to stand out from the crowd. But more importantly, they like to be part of the crowd. In a new world where relationships are created and maintained online, these bonding experiences are important. Memes are way in which a virtual Waves can be created online. It allows people to participate in crowd will not even leaving the safety of their computer.
I am a close observer of the crowdfunding space. Memes are proof that the power of crowds is the coming attraction of Web 3.0. Marketing is not about messaging anymore. It is about engaging. And soon businesses are going to have to learn to leverage the latest memes to ride the newest virtual Waves.
The University of Michigan does the “advanced” wave. Counter-clockwise twice, once in slow motion, once at double speed, once clockwise and then split into two counter-waves. Don’t try this at home!
Jonathan Frutkin is an attorney at The Frutkin Law Firm, PLC in Phoenix, AZ. He’s written a new book called “Equity Crowdfunding: Transforming Customers into Loyal Owners” which will be published in May, 2013.