It’s a cliché, but it’s true: life is complicated. That becomes all the more true when trying to boil down complex issues into simple, easily communicated and shared messages. Yet, that’s exactly what’s required of good marketing, a point made all the more sharp by the rise of “memes.”
Enter: Kony 2012
The last few days saw an amazing rise of the Kony 2012 meme, culminating in it becoming the leading trend on Twitter and resulting coverage on multiple international news sites. By all standards, it’s a social media success story employing multi-media (starting with the enthralling and emotional mini-documentary at the center of the campaign), and powered by the strategic exploitation of social media channels to spread the word.
And man, has it worked. The film has had tens of millions of views as of this week and mainstream media has followed the crowd. Given the stated purpose of making “Kony famous” in the hopes that the raised awareness will increase pressure for his arrest, they got the famous part big time.
But nothing breeds contempt like success and the critics are circling.
From criticism on social media of the film’s veracity to knocks against Invisible Children’s founders and subsequent management of organization funds. And now the pushback has begun with the filmmakers defending themselves. All of which threatens to derail the main focus of the campaign and move attention away from a war criminal and onto how non-governmental organizations and charities are financed and managed and whether any of this is just more “slacktivism” than true advocacy.
The Kony 2012 campaign illustrates the dangers of trying to make complex things simply understood. The example also puts into question the idea that “any publicity is good publicity.” Remember, gang: If it was easy, everyone would do it.