If you haven’t heard of the story of the “Fail Whale”, you’re not alone. Even most of those who love using the social networking site Twitter may not know the emerging “Fail Whale” phenomenon.
A phenomenon was born from a social media website. This phenomenon developed a cult following. People familiar with Twitter used the term “fail whale” as a neologism, as in, “Great… Twitter just fail whaled” (when the Twitter website goes down due to overcapacity). This is because whenever the Twitter website was unavailable, users see a big teal-and-orange colored picture of a whale.
You can read about the “Fail Whale” story from Sarah Perez, who has written – well – “The Story of the Fail Whale: How An Unknown Artist’s Work Became a Social Media Brand Thanks To the Power of Community”.
From this phenomenon, a brand and with it – a market – was emerging. In fact, there were those who wanted to create a brand around the “Fail Whale” phenomenon. Yet the original artist, Yiying Lu remained unknown, because Yiying was not acknowledged by the company using her image (they bought her image as a stock photo), and I am not sure she was included in the “brand plans” of those who wanted to create a market from the “Fail Whale” phenomenon.
Until Tom Limongello came along.
Tom was a catalyst who took it upon himself to connect the artist behind the image that was creating a brand and a fan base. Tom called Yiying Lu and asked that she make the “Fail Whale” image available for merchandising.
Tom then went one step farther and sent T-shirts to Twitter!
This generated awareness for the “Fail Whale” as a brand, as well as created buzz when Twitter team acknowledged the T-shirts on their own website.
Yes, you will read about the fan club that exists on Facebook for the “Fail Whale”. You will read about the birth of a “social media object”.
But what I liked most about this happy ending of the “Fail Whale” story is what Tom Limongello has done for the artist. He made the effort to connect the artist with an emerging market from the artist’s idea, and in essence gave Yiying Lu both recognition and a revenue stream when neither existed before. Lu now can extend the “Fail Whale” brand to her other creative signature objects that are immediately recognizable as siblings to the Fail Whale”.
As an entrepreneur, I really appreciate the power of connecting our personal brands to emerging markets.
Many entrepreneurs are focused on “angel investors” for their businesses.
For me, I love “angel catalysts” in my professional network: a Tom Limongello who help get me credit where credit was due and connect me with a new revenue stream that I otherwise would not know about.