What can we learn from #TheDress, Alex From Target, Frozen, and The Kardashians?
#TheDress was a cultural meme that was talked about on morning news, and inspired twitter arguments, water-cooler polls, and Halloween costumes.
Now despite whether you through #TheDress was blue and black or white and gold, odds are you probably weighed in on the controversy. But you are much more likely to have if you live in the Top 10 DMAs (NYC, LA, Chicago, Philly, San Fran, Boston, DC, Atlanta, and Houston) than if you live in one of the other 200 DMAs.
In fact, 74% Top 10 Average weighed in on the controversy, compared with just 56% Middle Average.
And there was a similar trend for awareness of Alex From Target.
There was 52% awareness among Top 10 Average and 45% awareness among Middle Average.
And even Frozen was similar. Top 10 Average was also more likely to have seen Disney’s Frozen when every kid was singing “Let it go” in 2014 – 70% of Top 10 average saw Frozen at least once compared with 63% Middle Average. (It’s worth noting that only 38% Top 10 Average & 36% Middle Average are parents, so this isn’t just because it was on in the background.)
In each of these examples, Top 10 Average is more likely to eat what I call culture candy. In fact, Top 10 Average is about 20% more likely than Middle Average to be aware of and impacted by buzz like these examples overall.
But what’s really causing this?
I wondered if it just related to the media levels in their DMAs.
But I discovered there’s only 1-2% difference in time spent with TV and digital media, so it can’t be based on media alone.
Next I assumed that buzz and trends start in Top 10 Average, and trickle over to Middle Average. Or that Middle Aver essentially follows what happens with Top 10 Average, but that’s not what I saw in the numbers.
But when I asked about #TheDress, Alex From Target, and Frozen a few months later, the divide between Top 10 Average and Middle Average didn’t really close.
So consumption of culture candy isn’t media driven, and Top 10 Average’s love of culture candy isn’t influencing Middle average to eat more.
I’d suggest it’s really driven by the unique culture of place.
Top 10 Average chooses to live in a place with more culture candy, because they have a bigger sweet tooth. And because they live in a place where more people eat culture candy, they get greater social currency from making sure they’ve sampled all the latest flavors.
And to test it, I looked at one of the best examples of culture candy I could think of...
And I found that Top 10 Average is over 70% more likely to be a fan of the Kardashians, watching their show, paying attention when they are in entertainment news, and seeking them out in social channels.
So when Paper magazine published their famous cover, they might have broken the Top 10 Average Internet, but perhaps only bent it for Middle Average.
And we’ve all experienced this in real life – if you are eating more candy, you’re body will crave more sugar. And so it’s a bit of a self-fueling cycle. Top 10 Average craves culture candy because they enjoy the taste, but also because they get more social currency from sampling all the flavors. While Middle Average just has different priorities – priorities which I dive into in detail in other stories.
What this means:
And the practical implications for marketers and creative is that the approach we often take of launching things with Top 10 Average and assuming the popularity will trickle down to Middle Average may not actually work. There’s two different averages out there and the things they care about are pretty different.