Hundreds of people gathered in Melbourne to say ‘wow’ like Owen Wilson.
In February 2018, 500 Melbournians gathered together around one simple goal, to say one very special word... Wow. With that word, they attracted the attention of international news, Hollywood actor Owen Wilson and created a lasting moment in history.
Part I - Humble Beginnings
My distinct sense of humour and penchant for fixating myself on a funny niche led me to becoming fascinated with the idea of running a "Meme Page". A meme is an idea, behaviour, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture—often with the aim of conveying a particular phenomenon, theme, or meaning represented by the meme. Internet memes perfectly encapsulate the "viral" nature of the 21st century, they can mutate, aggressively spread and evolve.
I set out to create a meme page out of a desire for fun and curiosity. I already had a preference on what I would be popularising; American actor Owen Wilson. The actor was not a random choice, he is very close to my heart and someone whose iconic voice I often enjoyed impersonating. The challenge however, would be re-popularising someone who enjoyed success in the early to mid 2000s, and was largely now irrelevant to my intended page demographic.
Part II - Laying the Foundations
I set up a Facebook Page under the name, Owen Wilson Wowposting. Drawing inspiration from an already well-known video that circulated the internet three years prior, "Owen Wilson Says WOW". The video revealed the fact that Owen Wilson inserts the word "Wow" frequently into his films and many of my "memes" revolved around this joke.
The challenge was overcoming Facebook's algorithmic and systematic pressure to force Page Managers to fork out dollars in return for likes. It is well documented that Facebook actively makes it incredibly difficult for its pages to reach a wider audience organically (that is, without paying money). I pledged that no money would be spent and the exercise would be done at a $0 cost. Using some time-consuming and ingenious methods, I persevered through these early stages made painful by Facebook and began to solidly work up a fanbase.
Part III - Getting to Work
Several months had passed and I was continually pleased to have friends informing me that distant relatives or faraway friends of theirs were engaging with my now-notorious page.
Many people asked me whether I would ever sell the page to buyers that inevitably come when meme pages grow (large Facebook pages are a valuable commodity, apparently), and I held firm with a defiant No. I was beginning to have bigger aspirations than a quick sell.
In February 2018, the page was doing well considering it was sustaining itself off a relatively niche joke, and with around 6000 likes I was confident the base was enough to put my plan into action. I set up an event called Say Wow like Owen Wilson at Federation Square.
Within a mere 24 hours time, the event had been noticed by thousands of people, with a rapidly growing response rate. The actual aim of the event was to go to Fed Square and as a collective, "say wow like Owen Wilson", and underlying it all was a message of positivity and community spirit.
The key behind achieving a "viral" quality to the event was in capturing the media's attention. This was achieved almost instantaneously, and once the first media publication had covered the story, it caused a domino effect seeing countless stories being published internationally online.
I then used my radio experience to help promote the event further, doing several interviews live on commercial radio. This included interviews with Fox FM, KIIS 101.1, ABC, Triple J, 3AW, Sea FM (Hit Network), 4ZZZ & SYN. Television outlets picked up the story with Sunrise and Today covering it, along with extensive coverage on online video publications.
Part IV - The Event
The event was a categorical success. It was estimated that 500 people gathered at Federation Square in total. ABC News was in attendance with a reporter and camera crew, Vice News, as well as radio personalities and producers from Fox FM Melbourne. Considering the event was a Monday evening after work, it was incredible the efforts people put in to attend; there were some who travelled two hours (from Ballarat and regional areas) and I was told by many they "ran as fast as they could from work" to make it on time.
As for the Facebook event online, the total number of respondents came in at 24,000 people and the event reached 1.2 million overall. This saw a 500% increase in the page's weekly engagement and a 330% increase in its weekly overall reach.
Part V - LiveLoveWow.com
Following the success of the event, I set up an online eCommerce business to sell merchandise inspired by the page's content, with product designs created by myself. I also managed all marketing strategies, sales channels and operations.
I converted the page's followers to customers, achieving increased penetration into key international markets. The results yielded an immediate positive cash-flow, and exceeded sales targets in all months of operation.
Part VI - Full circle
This whirlwind adventure was brought full circle when NTN24, a Colombian free-to-air television news channel, interviewed Owen Wilson and showed him the event video. Owen responded well, noting he liked the organiser’s positive motivation behind the event.