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Catching the Buzz - Profiting from the Ecce Homo Fresco Meme

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Written by Aaron Charlie– Wed 29 Aug 2012

Marketing is a funny old game, new opportunities spring up all the time - often where we least expect them. One recent example has taught us a very useful marketing formula - timing + social media = sales.

SEO, social media and content marketing are all interconnected. To get links, social shares, and engagement you need content that stirs the public imagination.  We offer courses in all the above; visit the SEO and Social Media pages if you are interested in learning more.

Stories like the Ecco Homo fiasco don't come around too often. It's perfect meme material - human, ironic, funny, tragic. We've been thinking about how to recognise the signs of a meme developing and using the tidal wave of interest as a marketing tool.

1/ Don't try to restore a century old fresco unless you know what you're doing

You must have seen it by now - an 80 year old Spanish grandma has become an viral sensation and hit headlines across the world for her unauthorised attempt at restoring the 100 year old fresco 'Ecce Homo (Behold the Man)' by Elias Garcia Martinez. The image she created has become an Internet Meme.

Early critics ripped into her efforts, with a BBC correspondent likening it to "a crayon sketch of a very hairy monkey in an ill-fitting tunic". However...

2/ The internet loves an underdog

In the wake of the headlines (the Sun went for 'Not so golden oldie's restoration wrecks Christ fresco') the internet has rushed to the defence of Cecilia Gimenez. Especially since news broke that the unpleasant media coverage has caused an anxiety attack.

To date, tens of thousands of people have signed an online petition (Spanish) calling Gimenez's work 'daring' and claiming it belongs to the German Expressionism movement. Facebook groups have popped up all over the place showing support for the new piece of artwork.


3/ There's nothing more viral than an image

As well as defenders of the restoration as a piece of art, it's also become the fastest spreading meme of the summer - appearing in all the likely places - from the last supper to a piece of toast.

The famous face has also been making an appearance on Facebook as users have started replacing their own faces with the new fresco face.

My personal favourites

So what on earth has this got to do with marketing? Well...

4/ There's money to be made here

Amanda Palmer, one of Cecilia Gimenez's most vocal supporters, took to Twitter and sparked a great discussion with her 610,000 Twitter followers which resulted in the creation of a catchy and - more importantly - sellable slogan:

"Stop Pretending Art Is Hard"

Spurred on by her supporters, Palmer turned the slogan (and the Ecce Homo restoration) into a t-shirt, and sold it using Twitter start-up 'Chirpify'. According to reports, Palmer has sold over 250 t-shirts in 24 hours - at $20 a pop that's over $5,000 for a t-shirt based on an internet meme. How was this possible?

There are two factors at play here - timingand social media.

Timing + Social Media = Sales

Despite her strong following on Twitter, had Palmer chosen to sell any old t-shirt at any old time, it wouldn't have done nearly as well. The interest was there because of the virality of the topic - the story was trending all over the world. Palmer got in there early and was one of the first to sell the t-shirt (there are now many imposters on Amazon and eBay) so she caught the wave of interest early.

However, timing isn't enough - social media was also a critical aspect. Amanda Palmer has a very strong Twitter presence with over 610,000 followers, without that following it would have been hard to find a customer base to sell the t-shirt.

It also helped that Palmer used Chirpify - a platform that allows you to sell products through Twitter. Users connect their Twitter account with PayPal and then when they Tweet 'buy' with a link to the product, they've bought it - so simple!

With good social media marketing, you too can build up a following and turn it into profit. Our social media marketing workshops will teach you how to gain real fans who could turn into real leads and also how to identify the best ways to engage with them - including tools to identify the best times to engage.

Miss the Wave, Miss the Sales

A lot of the timing is down to you - it's about having the instinct to take advantage of trends before the bubble. Catch the wave early and you have a much better chance of riding it out and reaping the benefits.

To demonstrate - here's our attempt at selling Ecce Homo merchandise:

We added a t-shirt and babygrow based on the restoration to her RedBubble account - unfortunately, not one t-shirt, babygrow or sticker has sold. However, the design does now appear 5th on Google search for 'ecce homo t-shirt' and 2nd when you search with Google shopping, so we're still hoping!

This shows that if you do want to sell something based on a trending topic - do it through a Google approved store like Redbubble, eBay or Amazon. That way it will show up search results immediately!

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