A Halloween Lesson: Context is Queen
It's been said many times that if content is king, then context is queen. What you say matters, but how it's received does, too. I was reminded of that this Halloween with my costume.
Inspired by the Hipster Disney Princess: the Musical video (which, in turn, was based on the Hipster Ariel meme), I decided to be "Hipster Prince Charming" for Halloween. I planned a Prince Charming Costume and thought it would work out great. I saw this, in my mind:
That didn't seem too hard to achieve. I jumped on Amazon.com, ordered the stuff (a stocking cap, heavy-rimmed glasses, and a Prince Charming costume, specifically), I grew/groomed a mustache, and was delighted when it came out just as I'd imagined:
I was excited. If content is king, I had nailed it.
But alas and alack, I was not recognized. Not a single person at either party I went to for Halloween was able to successfully guess what I was dressed up as (even though I had a Hipster Snow White next to me all night). And no one at work remembered what I was even though I'd told them all previously what I was going to be.
Why was this? Context. Specifically, it had to do with knowledge and location.
Ideas spread fast. For better and for worse, our brains seek them out and embrace them or reject them. Pre-internet memes spread mouth-to-mouth or over printed words and then through radio and TV. Through imitation and absorption, the ability to moonwalk or to do the robot spread. Some non-dance moves did, too, I think.
With the advent of the Internet, though, and the World Wide Web in particular, the ability to absorb, imitate, mutate, reject, and spread memes advanced by leaps and bounds. We know who Honey Boo Boo is (although not how to spell "Honey Boo Boo"--I had to Google it) more because of the Internet and snippets (video and text) featuring her than we do because we watch her show.
OK. Great. How does this relate to my Halloween costume?
Because I am used to memes at Internet speed. I am not at the absolute cutting edge of meme knowledge, but I know who Boxxy is (was?). I am aware of Ridiculously Photogenic Syrian Rebel. To my thinking, Hipster Arial was almost two years old--practically ancient. And the Hipster Disney Princess video had just come out a month before. The timing was perfect.
I ignored, though, the fact that I am not like most people. I won't get into all the ways that that is true, but I meant that even internet memes take a while to seep into the consciousness of non-Internet geeks like me, and this costume might have been premature. Which is ironic, given hipsters' penchant for liking things before anyone else does.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When in Rome, do not dress up like a Roman for Halloween.
Seattle is not Williamsburgh, but on a per capita basis we are dramatically overrepresented on the hipster front. Capitol Hill, where Phinney Bischoff is headquartered, is the epicenter of Seattle hipster culture.
When in hipsterville, do not dress up like a hipster for Halloween. I suspect this is what Seattle people were thinking when they saw me:
Which makes sense. Guys here grow mustaches. They wear stalking caps year-around. My efforts to hipster-ize my costume was not remarkable in this environment, and the rest of my costume was not obvious enough to make it clear who I was trying to be.
The Moral of the Story
It's not enough to execute (to bring a plan into action). It's not even enough to, objectively, succeed (execute well).
A project--whether a website, or a logo, or a halloween costume--needs to take into account the knowledge of its audience, the timing of the communication, and how it fits into the bigger picture.
Content is king. Context is queen. And I was Hipster Prince Charming, dammit.