Sunday, December 4, 2011

Kolaveri - The tipping point

Its been ten days since I first blogged about Kolaveri Song.  It has continued to attract attention and now gone more international with many variants of it coming out of different places. Even an unofficial female version of it has by itself got nearly 2.4 million hits on youtube! The latest version of it is also a must watch.

It has got a lot of international media coverage including getting Air time on BBC radio, MTV etc, mention on the Time magazine, Economist and dominating the web sites of all the Indian main stream media.

While the kolaveri "killer rage" is sweeping by and becoming an international anthem, purists are annoyed with the success of it and our full of complains. Unfortunately purist forget to identify the fact that being popular by no means imply that its the best. For something to become viral or popular it doesn't have to be the best. If you look at recent history, Twitter went viral, but doesn't mean that technologically it was the most advanced or the best social networking site ever developed. The Arabic spring went viral but it doesn't mean that people never tried harder to protest before that in Arab. Facebook went viral but doesn't mean it was the best designed social network at that point of time. 

In Malcolm Gladwell's "Tipping Point" he tries to explain this kind of mysterious sociological changes and here is my own (poor) attempt to fit "Kolaveri" in to the "Three rules of Epidemics". 

Rule 1: The law of few - It talks about the "The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts". When you view the video as an outsider it looks as if its been sung by a next door kind of guys and gals. But , the people involved are Superstar Rajinikanth's daughter (director of the movie in which the song is to be in ), Rajinikanth's son in law - Dhanush (He is also a national award winner for acting) and Kamal Hassan's daughter. Now these are the people with the rare social gifts of having parents who have captured the minds of the Tamil audiences. If you are in to Tamil movies you can either a Rajini fan or Kamal fan or sometimes a fan of both. So when their children are involved in a creative piece of work the Tamil person who watches this has more chances of sharing it and planting the seeds of going viral in the social networks. So that's what initially happened it was the Tamil audiences who started to initially share it and then as they say is "history".

Rule 2: The stickiness factor. The rule is described as "the specific content of a message that renders its impact memorable". Being dumped by a girl (soupu boy) is a global phenomenon and normally its best communicated when the dumped guy gets drunk and the song just does the same. Plus since its mostly in English its understood by non Tamils too. The lyrics and simple non intrusive music just creates the much needed stickiness factor. 

Rule 3: The power of context. If I am not mistaken up to now Tamil movie songs are not officially published on the youtube. But in this case apparently this song was leaked on youtube even before the other songs of the movie were ready . Hence the crew decided to or rather in away forced to release the song on youtube to counter the leaked version. The context that this has set up is phenomenal and turned out to be a blessing in disguise! 

I had become a fan of the Science of social epidemics from the day I read Tipping Point!

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