It Is What It Is?

If you’ve ever found yourself scrolling through a TikTok comment section, chances are you’ve come across these three emojis. They are often used together to depict an awkward or absurd situation. For example, if you’re watching someone do one hundred pull-ups and then a triple backflip off a thirty-foot cliff as you’re sitting on your couch, elbow deep in your second pint of Ben and Jerry’s for the night, this might be a suitable response.

Last Thursday night, these emojis began to surface in account bios across tech and VC Twitter, all pointing to an account @itiseyemoutheye that had been recently created. The bio of the account shared the link to 👁👄👁.fm, a flashy landing page with a simple call to action, “give us ur info.” Pinned to the top of the account was a cryptic tweet teasing a special announcement at 7 pm PST, 06/26.

Once users entered their email onto the landing page form, they were directed to wait for an invite...with one caveat. If you donated to the Loveland Therapy Fund, your invite would come quicker.

For over 24 hours, no one knew at all what it was. Was it an app? Was it a brand? Was it a hoax? Everyone who tweeted about or DMed the mysterious account to discover it’s true meaning, all received the same answer: “It is what it is.”

Throughout the day of the 26th, images of the suspected user interface circulated around Twitter, further revving up the hype train.

By Friday night, the tech world was buzzing about what this was. It had become the top product on ProductHunt, earned press from Forbes and The Independent, and had been discussed by some of the biggest venture capitalists in the world. Some even tried to invest in it, without knowing what “it” was. Once the clock struck 7PM PST, the account tweeted again sharing that the announcement would be pushed back two more hours. In the meantime, they directed users back to the site where they could donate to Loveland Foundation, The Innocence Project or The Okra Project. Once users had donated, they could upload the receipt to the site “see what it is.”

At 9PM, the team behind the account finally unveiled “what it was.” A savvy marketing campaign built in 36 hours by a diverse group of Gen-Z techies, all of whom had bonded over an inside joke on Twitter. Capitalizing off of the tech industry’s almost comical desire for exclusivity and the allure of a secret society, the team behind IWII was able to capture over 20,000 emails, raise over $110,000 for the BLM movement, and generate much needed awareness towards racial inequality in the industry.

When I first saw “what it was,” I immediately thought of the “Instagram Egg.” In 2019, the world came together to make a picture of an egg on a white background the most liked picture on Instagram with over 54 million likes. Through a series of Instagram posts, the account @world_record_egg announced that they would reveal the creator of the account on Hulu after the Super Bowl. The outing was used to promote awareness for mental health with a video of the egg captioned, “Recently I've started to crack, the pressure of social media is getting to me. If you're struggling too, talk to someone.”

Key Takeaway: In both cases, egg creator Chris Godfrey and the 60 person team behind IWII were able to use little to no marketing spend to cause a socially impactful internet frenzy, fueled by our own gullibility and addiction to mystery.

As someone who watched both of these campaigns unfold from start to finish, the endings left me with only one reaction…👁️👄👁️.

© Randy Ginsburg, 2020 | Want to chat? Email me at randy@randymginsburg.com