In the 1941 film classic, “The Maltese Falcon”, a diverse group of people traveled the globe in an effort to possess a jewel-encrusted black bird known as the Maltese Falcon. When asked to describe the mysterious statue, Humphrey Bogart simply replied, “It’s the stuff dreams are made of.”
That was 1941. Today, millions of people spend countless hours standing in line, camping out on retail store parking lots and devising elaborate strategies to possess everything from World Series tickets to iconic phones to the chance to be the first to witness the midnight showing of the latest "must see" movie. It’s a phenomenon we all see on a fairly regular basis, but the question that always arises is constant: Why?
Gia Manry, an entertainment marketing specialist based in Dallas, TX, offered some insight.
“Social media has expanded the conversation about people, products and events to a broader audience than ever before,” she said. “But it is difficult to participate in the conversation in a meaningful way unless you have experienced what it is people are talking about. People like to talk about what they are interested in. It’s a very social thing. It’s what creates ‘fandoms’.”
“Fandoms” are communities of enthusiasts who emerge around specific interests. The term is a combination of the words “fan” and “kingdom”. ComiCon is a good example of a fandom. People who like to cook could be identified as a fandom of cooking. Beyonce has a fandom that follows her every move. And every fandom that exists gives voice to the people who have an interest in that particular subject.
“It’s not about power,” said Manry, “it’s about participation and the pursuit of things that really interest you on a personal level.”
So, could this explain why thousands of people camp out and stand in line on Verizon Wireless parking lots throughout the country every time a popular new device goes on sale? Possibly.
Greg Krowitz was a recent camper at the Springfield-South Verizon Wireless store in Springfield, MO. Like earlier outings, Greg was looking for the latest mobile device. Although the store was not scheduled to open until 8 a.m. on a Friday, Greg arrived at 6 p.m. the night before and set up a primitive camp consisting of a camping chair, a hoodie, a spare jacket, a bag of beef jerky and a box of cheese crackers. He had a plan to be first in line. But, the same question remains: Why?
“I am really interested in new technology,” said Krowitz, “and I like to be on the cutting edge. I had to check it out and this was my best opportunity to get the latest device on the best network.”
According to Krowitz, the whole experience was fun, his fellow campers and line-standers were great and he was able to secure the first spot in line. “I spent 14 hours in line and was in and out of the store in 11 minutes,” said Krowitz, “but it was worth it. And that’s good, because I had to be at work that same morning.”
Krowitz went on to explain this was not his first time in line. He has staged similar expeditions in various weather conditions to experience the launch of video game systems, like the Nintendo Wii and Xbox 360, purchase iconic phones on the first day of release, and has camped in line to view first showings of various Lord of the Rings movies.
“It wasn’t just about being first,” explained Krowitz, “it was more about just being there and doing it. Next time, however, I am going to bring a cot.”
Krowitz didn’t sleep much in his camp chair that cool night in Springfield, MO. But, he must have slept some. And, he must have dreamed. Because in the span of just 14 hours, he got the stuff tech dreams are made of.
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