From Dumbledore’s fall and Gandalf’s staff, to Thor’s Mjolnir and Han Solo’s blaster, these pop cult imageries once used to be ‘geeky’ or ‘nerdy’ enough for the ‘cool’ ones out there. It wasn’t particularly the trend to be a geek back in the childhood days. It was not to take pride in, lest you want to be locked in school washrooms by the bullies. Wanting to read comics, Austen or sci-fi novels was ridiculously funny to the rest.
But today, I dare say the geeks are in fashion. Current pop culture and fandom communities are all about the geeks, including the digital culture. After all, it wasn’t the high school bullies but the tech savvy geeks to explore the web culture.
The geek universe is filled with a plethora of definitions and meanings, but my personal favourite is the one by Jim Macquarrie in this Wired article describing the geeks as:
“Noun. Slang. A person whose interests ALWAYS take precedence over popularity or conformity. A person who displays the willingness to bear the public shame of liking some weird thing and not caring who knows it.”
Although, let’s face it. Most of us had rather pretended to not like the geeky stuff, than endorse our appetite for them in public.
We sought comfort in enjoying our nerdy passions privately.
So, what shifted the reality 360 degrees, that Thor: Ragnarok and Interstellar are breaking the box office, along with sell-out Star Wars merchandises and Downton Abbey periodic exhibits?
Days of unorganized fandom and the endless search for fellow fans came to a sudden end with the emergence of the Internet, geeks started coding websites and fan communities were partying online like never before. Before the mainstream bullies would land up on the web, early digital days belonged to the geeks celebrating comics, fantasy and everything uncool. And it is this list of uncool things that begins at the end of Chris Anderson’s ‘Long Tail.’
Anderson identifies this culture shift from hardwired hits and word of mouth to the unopened Pandora’s box of niches lurking behind in the tail. And this concept of ‘long tail’ helps to understand that there are more than a few niche groups to target and with the emergence of internet, the geeks are the new cool.
The best part of it all? Those high school ‘cool’ bullies realise now that they too enjoy some part of the geek universe. The long tail pursuits are the new mainstream. It is alright to be a comic fan or a Potterhead. To wear Star Trek logo tshirts or discuss black holes outside geek gatherings does not typify you as an outcast. And it’s acceptable to be a guy and like The PowerPuff Girls.
So, while the geeks are busy discussing and drooling over Darth Vader’s punchlines and how every Calvin needs a Hobbes, brand and content strategists are realising that the geek audience is the most profitable one. And here’s why:
The geek clans and communities are out there on the internet. Tweeting, hashtagging and creating discussion forums all over the Internet. Their culture is getting stronger everyday and their online communities an amazing source of research. Content marketing begins with research, and if you’re aiming to connect and develop your message to a niche audience, their online communities and forums prove to be the most insightful. They are full of the minutest details and all a strategist needs to do is quietly lurk around and collect as much information possible.
Embrace the geek vernacular and nurture their devotion, to develop the niche content for your niche audience. In the Internet era it’s easier to access the long tail interests. All you need to do is join the party, like the Warner Bros. did with DC Comics.
Aren’t we all thankful to Nolan for the Dark Knight trilogy? Or Nintendo for Pokemon merchandise and gaming? Even if you’re not, the geeks don’t care.
To all the geeks and nerds out there, Deadpool sends you love.
If you are still not convinced, here’s a little pep talk by actor Wil Wheaton telling you it’s equally cool to be geek and different.