Do Meta Approaches Work?

Meta on Meta

Self-awareness is tricky, especially in pop culture. It creates both paradoxes and unique challenges for content creators. Is total originality a dying art? After all, even “new” television and movie media make constant use of cultural references to drive home a point. (Think Family Guy.)

Originality isn’t dead. It has just evolved beyond simple creation. Life is now meta.

What is Meta?

Recycling, remixing and riffing are now seen as legitimate forms of creative expression. An understanding of this phenomenon has lead to a rise in self-aware or “meta” content. Some examples of this type of content are Intel’s Rockstar’s campaign, the Windows 7 Launch video and the Toyota Tacoma WoW tie in. The most common usage of meta content is video but it recently has been spreading to a variety of other mediums.

But does it work?

Yes, but not always in the way that you would think. Meta comes from a conversational approach to content. It’s a living, breathing organism that can’t be boxed off from commenting, remixing or engagement with an audience.

Often, some of the most successful meta content calls attention to the lameness or ridiculousness of their premise. Self-deprecation has helped spawn some of the Internet’s funniest memes, so why can’t it spur on your marketing?

Can meta approaches work in a community setting?

They have to. Calling attention to an “inside joke” from a community not only leads to a feeling of solidarity but is more likely to convert. Think of it as hyper-contextualized content for your audience. You aren’t going after regions anymore; you are going after individual ip’s.

The key is not pandering.

What can meta do for your marketing?

A meta approach to marketing is necessary for any community based approach. If you aren’t self aware and in-tune with your community’s idiosyncrasies? How can you expect to engage them effectively? The simple answer: You can’t.

A meta sensibility allows for a fair amount of ridiculousness.

What if it fails?

You run the risk of failure with any marketing program. A meta approach to marketing is no different. Stray to far into a niche and you risk alienating the majority of your community. If you keep the content too broad and you run the risk of mediocrity.

The same is true with self deprecation. Pointing out your weaknesses can be risky (especially from a brand perspective) and backfire. You won’t earn the respect of your customer base if you don’t try though.

Now it’s your turn: What’s the best example of meta-marketing (or content) you have seen?

Image Source: brendan aanes

11 thoughts on “Do Meta Approaches Work?

  • I think the Domino's “Pizza Turnaround” campaign is a good example of “meta” content and strategy. The message is that there is no advertising message– just an acknowledgment that people hated their pizza and Domino's listened and made it better.

    It is a risky campaign. Acknowledging faults and weaknesses is always a gamble, but I think, in this case, that “meta” may pay off.

    Do you agree, is the Domino's campaign meta in the sense you were talking about? Have I missed the mark?

  • To an extent. I think meta takes it a step further though. Self awareness bordering on parody and shouts to inside jokes are more of the meta style.

    Think every meme on the internet ever basically.

    Dominos is just doing the good social business thing…but I'm not sure they are technically being “meta”. They are self-aware of their faults though.

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  • Ad campaigns, since the emergence of mass media, have become a powerful part of our shared cultural consciousness. My parents remember advertisements and jingles from their childhood. My friends and I watch Youtube videos that are made by advertising agencies and talk about the Nike MVPuppets or the Geico Pothole.

    Advertising works because it taps into cultural reference points that resonate with consumers in order to sell a product. We are subject to 5,000 advertising messages a day. So advertising that comments on advertising in a way that is self deprecating and self-referential makes sense, because advertising is such a powerful piece of our shared culture.

    But, has advertising always been “meta” since the emergence of mass media? Or have we truly undergone a shift where advertising only works if it's innovative and comments on advertising itself?

    Are advertisements so ubiquitous that they are the only cultural reference points left for advertisers?

  • Part of utilizing the community is listening to the community, though. You're right – Domino's isn't meta, but to become meta you need to be in-tune with your community to know what will appeal to them. Inspiration for creative of campaigns could come from a community member, too, no? If you just listen…

  • Part of utilizing the community is listening to the community, though. You're right – Domino's isn't meta, but to become meta you need to be in-tune with your community to know what will appeal to them. Inspiration for creative of campaigns could come from a community member, too, no? If you just listen…

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