We’re Going to Make You Cry, Then (While You’re Emotionally Vulnerable) We’re Going to Talk About Ecommerce In a Way That May Seem Crass In Context, But We Assure You That Our Motives Are Pure, So Just Go With It
While searching the Internet this morning for important new pictures of baby sloths, we stumbled on the video we’ve posted below. Before you play it, we’d like to warn you about a few things. First, it’s eleven minutes long. Second, you’re going to want to watch all of it. Finally, unless your heart is a tiny, ice-cold cinder, you’re going to cry. We’re misting up just thinking about it, but that might be because we’re also listening to Sarah McLachlan, so we’re probably thinking about that frigging animal shelter commercial that always drops like a bomb into the middle of whatever lighthearted romp you’re watching on TV and brings your life to a screeching halt while you scrape together all of your change to donate just so you can make all the big-eyed homeless puppies stop crying in HD all up in your grill.
The video below is the opposite of that. Enjoy.
Okay… now just pull yourself together now so we can talk about this like the totally composed businesspeople we are. So, that was deeply charming on a lot of levels – the boundless and inspiring enthusiasm of youth, the near-universal love of The Arcade and the way that something so frivolous can bind us all at such a basic level, the unqualified support of a working class father for his son’s passion project, the pride of accomplishment – there’s a lot of real genuine heart-string-plucking going on here.
… but did you notice how no one gave a crap about Caine’s Arcade until a savvy outsider stepped in and started a social media campaign in support of it? Did you further notice that Caine’s Arcade also benefited from the Holy Grail of viral luck – an appearance on the front page of reddit? The Internet basically prevented this from being an incredibly sad or possibly even heart-crushingly tragic story. Let’s talk about how all of this could have played out after the jump…
For the sake of argument, let’s say that Nirvan Mullick had never walked in to Caine’s Arcade. Let’s say that because fate and reality are often unkind, not one single adult ever acknowledged Caine and his accomplishments. Let’s say that no one ever cared about Caine’s Arcade except for Caine. Then what happens? One of two things…
The good option is that Caine outgrows his obsession as puberty hits and the allure of The Ladies takes over (as it is likely to). A dust-covered, roughly-hewn cardboard Dave & Busters is far less attractive to teenage girls than one would like to hope, ultimately leaving Caine with only one option – the dumpster. Caine’s Arcade dies an unceremonious death at the hands of the local sanitation workers and rots – unmourned – beneath an near-immeasurable mound of other people’s cast off dreams and garbage, as Caine goes out into the world, coated in Axe body spray, in pursuit of something that cannot be suitably simulated with corrugated cardboard and packing tape. The Arcade becomes a nearly-forgotten family story that people only talk about when they’re trying to remember how cute Caine used to be before the light inside of him died.
That, my friends, is the happier option.
Now, let’s imagine that Caine’s lust for The Ladies never overtook his obsession with his paper arcade. The light inside of him never dies (despite the fact that we’re still speculating that it goes unnoticed). Let’s say that he just kept building and building – creating a veritable cardboard Neverland that swallows his father’s auto parts store, making it no longer viable as a retail space. The store loses its customers, perhaps to more convenient online options (here’s where we start to bring it back around to ecommerce) and the business’s failure drives a permanent wedge between Caine and his father, who had always supported Caine in spite of his own self interest. They cease speaking to each other completely even though they’re both forced to live together in the carboard-stuffed corpse of the former auto parts store. Caine’s father dies under a skee-ball machine made entirely of refrigerator boxes and Caine appears in an episode of Hoarders that’s so epically tragic that it anchors A&E’s sweeps week programming and gets higher ratings than American Idol’s results show.
But none of that happened. The Internet saved Caine and his arcade. Social media saved him. Virality saved him. A kind and talented stranger saved him. Caine is a very lucky young man. Here’s the problem: you’re not Caine.
You’re like Caine in a lot of ways. You’ve built your business from nothing. You taped it together as best you could and it’s filled with your blood, sweat and tears. You’re ready to serve your customers with your whole heart and if they take you up on it, you’re going to give them the kind of consumer experience that will make them want to come back again and again. You’re ready to make them love you. Now all you need is for Nirvan Mullick to stumble on your business and make a beautiful eleven minute movie about you. Wait… you also need him to believe in you strongly enough to try to organize a small group of people to patronize your business. Oh, and you also have to be fortunate enough to capture the imagination of one of the most influential and unforgiving audiences on the Internet: Redditors. The good news is that it happened to Caine and there has never been a more deserving target of that particular set of unlikely conditions. The bad news is that you’re going to have to be your own Nirvan Mullick and you’re going to have to do it at the same time that you’re busily taping your business together.
Love what you do. Be good at it. Both of those things are truly critical, but without an audience, your business is a pile of passion and paper. Find a way to engage with the wider world. Find a way to tell your story. Let your voice be heard. Social media provides you with a near-infinite range of opportunities to connect with your target customers and you simply cannot afford to ignore that fact. Of course there’s Facebook. Of course there’s Vimeo and YouTube. Of course there’s reddit. The question is what are you gonna do about it? What’s going to make your target care about you when they have access to… well… everything? Answering that question is a challenge, but it’s going to become more and more critical to your business as the world gets simultaneously wider and smaller. Don’t expect that jaded world to beat a path to the thing that you love. Reach out, grab them by the heart and tell them why they should love it too.
It’s important to us that you understand that we are not heartless business robots. We know that Caine’s Arcade is not about commerce. It’s about passion. Its about community. It’s about shameless innocence reflected in the rediscovered innocence of strangers. We want some of that. If you happen to be in East LA, please visit Caine’s Arcade for us. You can find it right here:
BOOM! Right back to ecommerce!
UPDATE: It’s important to our trendspotting ego that you know that even though Caine’s Arcade now has over 100,000 fans on Facebook, When we wrote this article, he had less than 300. We’re more trendy than approximately 100,000 people.