Sh*t We Say

Sh*t We Say: Lessons from a Long-Tailed Meme – Part 1

It’s an English basement.”

That might not mean much to you, but it probably made you chuckle if you fall into one of the two groups:

  1. Current or former D.C. residents
  2. Viewers of Sh*t People In D.C. Say

Of course, this video is one of many variations of the Sh*t Girls Say series – which has a cumulative YouTube viewership of 20+ million and growing. You know the premise: Stereotypical expressions from people of a certain ilk, organized by gender, hobby, lifestyle, or geography. There are takes on skiershipsterssuburban moms, and even sh*t nobody says (a personal favorite) and the meme’s ’success’ reminds me of basic marketing program goals: generating word-of-mouth, stimulating co-creation, and targeting segmented audiences.


$1,400 for a converted sunroom? Not bad – better than an English basement.

First: Why do we care about sh*t other people say?

As a meme – both intentionally and by accident – these videos satisfy several of the 7 Drivers of Word of Mouth synthesized from Emmanuel Rosen’s work: there’s a good story, people can show their involvement, there is an implicit invitation to participate through their involvement, ’supporters’ can be creative, and, most crucially, there’s a clear value offering – comedy.

The power of these elements is not only clear in the 20+ million video views of the original – and millions more on the variations – but the number of amateur aueters who created their own. An absurdly unscientific calculation using YouTube shows 200+ videos using a basic search – let’s safely presume 50 are duplicates and 50 are spam. Even at 100 and with absolutely no prize, that’s higher participation than most branded video submission challenges get – save Survivor applications and Doritos’ Crash the Super Bowl.

What’s the lesson?

This concept – again, presumably by accident – encourages marketers to revisit basics about constructing effective programs to generate word-of-mouth and cultivate co-creation. Here are a few quick ones:

  • Establish a proper barrier to entry for a desired output – if you’re inviting the masses, you better make it low.
  • Make it real – do a participants’ efforts really matter or is this just a marketing program? The former will help cultivate stronger long-term benefits.
  • Allow for creativity – while some of the videos are mocking groups, I would confidently presume that most of them were created by skiers and D.C.-ites themselves.
  • Let your co-creators own it – while everyone involved knows this is a marketing effort, no one’s interested in making a 6-minute branded video – nor does anyone want to watch one – so ensure the brand is seen through the lens of its fans, advocates, and consumers, not the opposite.

In Part 2, I’ll explore the concepts of segmentation as it applies to long-tailed messages and why – even if you don’t live in The District – Sh*t People in D.C. Say is still funny.

Why do you think this meme has become so popular? What are the other takeaways do you see that apply to marketers?