Straight Outta Meme

The N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton opened last weekend to the tune of $56.1 million. While much of the mainstream press was stunned by the movie’s success, if you were watching the online buzz about the film, it wouldn’t have come as such a shock.

The movie about Dr. Dre and Ice Cube’s early days had one major cultural force that set the stage for its success: A public that had been inundated with years of media coverage about violence suffered by young black men at the hands of vigilantes and the police. In that context, the film serves as prelude to present-day headlines.

Publicity about the film was also given a major boost with the drop of Compton on August 7, Dr. Dre’s first album in 14 years, which was inspired by the biopic.

Straight Outta Somewhere

But the most deliberate buzz about the film was generated through the use of a simple online tool and a keen understanding of the psychology of online sharing.

Two weeks before the release of Straight Outta Compton, my Facebook feed became populated with one image after another from friends claiming they were Straight Outta THEIR HOME TOWN.

Clicking on the image brought me to, a companion site to the movie that displayed the film’s logo and asked visitors to enter the name of their home town and upload an image. Visitors could then download their custom Straight Outta image or share it directly from the site with their Facebook or Twitter followers.

People have a natural affinity to place. Geography is always the context for memories and so people naturally associate nostalgia with specific locations.

  • It explains the pride people express when declaring where they are from. I live in St. Paul, for example, and exchange teasing barbs with my Minneapolis friends about the shortcomings of their city.
  • It explains the loyalty people have toward their home town sports teams. We have far too many Green Bay Packers fans here in Minnesota and as a result, no small amount of friendly rivalry among neighbors (well, mostly just me).

The other dynamic at work is that the tool focuses on the visitors to the site. The Straight Outta meme generator allows people to talk about their favorite subject: Themselves. In doing so, it makes it easier to shill for a brand.

The Straight Outta Somewhere tool anticipated and harnessed that sentiment to create online buzz, knowing that people would happily share their Straight Outta Where They’re From-branded photos.

The tool harnessed pride of place. Or it harnessed irony by enabling the contrast of the Gansta Rap logo with a place not necessarily associated with Gansta Rap:

Straight Outta Shoreview

Straight Outta Meme Mobile App

And, of course, thee’s a mobile app, the Straight Outta Meme Maker:

Screenshot: Straight Outta Meme Maker

Released on August 15, the app quickly shot from the 1,455th spot for downloads ranking in the iOS app store to 108th overall the following day, according to App Annie’s mobile app stats.

Chart: Straight Outta Meme Maker Download Rank History

Straight Outta Social Sharing Statistics

So what was the volume of the Straight Outta social buzz? This chart from Topsy shows Tweets using the #StraightOutta hashtag that the Straight Outta tool provided as well as the #StraightOuttaCompton hashtag.

Chart: Topsy StraightOutta Tweets

The tweets that propelled the big orange spike using the #StraightOutta hashtag were one by @VinceStaples on August 5:

Artesia 2 Ocean. Norfside specifically. #StraightOutta @beatsbydre @JonathanMannion

— Vince Staples (@vincestaples) August 5, 2015

Another the following day by @SnoopDogg:

#StraightOutta #LBC

— Snoop Dogg (@SnoopDogg) August 7, 2015

And then on August 7, @JLO tweeted:

#StraightOutta #TheBronx #FBF #BronxBarbie

— Jennifer Lopez (@JLo) August 8, 2015

While celebrity certainly helped drive awareness, there were plenty of others sharing their Straight Outta Somewhere images (306,000, according to Topsy) and tweeting about #StraightOuttaCompton (391,000). The blue spike in the Topsy chart above coincides with the movie’s release on August 14.

Straight Outta Search Volume

The awareness for both the Straight Outta tool and the movie generated by social sharing also prompted search activity, as this chart from Google Trends Explorer demonstrates.

Chart: Straight Outta Compton Search Volume

The blue line represents search volume for “Straight Outta Somewhere” queries, which, as you can see, parallels the volume of social buzz. The red line represents “Straight Outta Compton” searches, which are obviously for people wanting to learn more about the movie. The volume for those searches peak at the film’s release.

Half the battle with generating online buzz is understanding how people will react and the other half is creating something that will harness that anticipated reaction. Straight Outta Somewhere provides a great case study in how to do just that.