i have really been enamored with a certain blog—pardon me—bolg this summer for many reasons, namely the brand its creator has been able to forge using microsoft paint and 140 characters. it really hit me a few weeks ago when fox saturday baseball did a mid-inning exposé on a shirt that an impetuous phillies fan bought from the zoo with roy online store and mailed to colorado rockies manager jim tracy’s office. this national exposure followed after zwr himself already appeared on espn’s first take. talk about local celebrity; in philadelphia circles, zwr isn’t just a celebrity—he’s a folk hero.

i wanted to do a quick and dirty case study on the “i want to go to the zoo with roy halladay” brand to see if we can figure out how all of this national exposure came to a simple bolg that someone created on blogger.com (it has since been moved to its own domain).

1. the bolg is really fun.

i think the first thing to look at is of course the fun factor. things go viral on the internet for only a few reasons: (a) they’re absolutely hilarious, (b) they’re extremely inspirational, (c) it involves justin bieber. the whole bolg is predicated on wanting to spend a day at the zoo with the phillies right-handed ace, roy halladay. if that’s not funny enough, just read some of the bolg posts and tweets (especially drunk zwr tweets). i’m not saying that it’s hilarious to everyone, but it’s comedy certainly has found a market—even bringing sam rosen and tim mccarver to laughter in the fox broadcast booth. people love to share laughter, and it’s easy to share zoowithroy.

2. it’s over the top.

not only is it funny, but it’s over the top. is zwr serious about going to the zoo with roy halladay? yes he certainly is. but he has taken something serious and made a farce out of it. it’s not just ridiculous, it’s so ridiculous. (it’s not just cuttered, it’s so cuttered.) it’s not a woody allen brand of humor, it’s a will ferrell movie. certainly woody allen has a fans, but do you walk into a bar on a saturday night and hear people quoting small time crooks? no. you hear them quoting talladega nights and anchorman.

3. zwr lives his brand. everyday.

this one is maybe the most important lesson that we can learn from zoowithroy.com. its creator lives the brand he’s made. he doesn’t have a name. he doesn’t have a face. he lives his brand—zwr—everyday. when he tweets, when he writes his bolg posts, even when he’s on television. it’s zwr 24/7. everything you see and hear is consistent across every medium.

4. zwr has made his bolg a community.

there are a lot of key pieces to the zwr puzzle to be found in this arena. everyone knows that a sense of community is really important for the success of a brand. zwr builds a community around a central idea—going to the zoo with everyone’s favorite phillies pitcher—but he does so through the use of language and inside jokes. terms like “donkey,” “so cuttered,” “so buttered,” and “moyer’d, yo” are common lexicon for phillies fans now. the shirts he has created and sells in his online store only reinforce that sense of community. you walk through the ticket gate and into a phillies game, see red zwr shirts all over the ballpark, and you think to yourself, “awesome, yo! that donkey is a fan too.”

5. zwr interacts.

i’ll say this one until i’m blue in the face: social media is supposed to be social. if you’re not engaging your fans, then you’re not doing things the right way. is it difficult? it certainly can be, especially with the more fans you get. you certainly can’t RT everything you see come across twitter from your followers, and you can’t post every email you get to your blog, but you can post enough that people still feel like they’re being heard. the days of broadcasting information are over. viewership includes feedback loops now, and if you’re not monitoring those channels and taking part in them then you’re only hurting yourself.

what can we learn from zwr?

we can learn a lot from zwr and the way he has built his brand.

  • you need a good product, and—when talking about the internet especially—humor always wins out.
  • don’t be afraid to take your content and your brand over the top because ordinary is nothing anymore, you have to be uncommon.
  • building and maintaining your brand is an everyday thing. to be really successful, your brand has to be on at all times.
  • foster a sense of community through shared experiences, inside jokes, common language, etc.
  • you have to be a part of your own community. interact with your fans because they’re what make your brand successful.

i think that a lot of brands are afraid to go to some of these places for certain reasons. they don’t want to use humor because that would seem unprofessional. they don’t want to fully invest in their brand because they fear that they might appear to be ‘fake’ during those times they are willing to live their brand (or times when they’re not). and they don’t like genuine, person-to-person, communication because they’re afraid of saying the wrong things.

if we take a look at those people that are successful, however, you’ll find the reasons why it’s worth taking chances and going to those places. you’ll find the reasons why it’s worth going to the zoo with roy.