Harlemshaking, Hadoukening, Vadering… Or how understanding internet phenomena can help us create better concepts

It’s a been a few years now that once in a while a viral concept just comes up from the dephts of the internet and engage people all over the wordld into doing really silly stuff.   

I think everyone here can remember the whole planet planking in the middle of 2011. 

Lately we experienced one of the craziest and most viral of this kind of internet phenomenon : The Harlem Shake. 

In a couple days, the whole planet was doing it, literary the whole planet, including music bands, corporations, companies, entertainers etc… 

I actually think it was the most viral thing i’ve ever seen on the internet. Crazy enough, it was as well one of the most engaging one as it clearly demanded quite some organization, time and tools to do your own version of the Harlem Shake.

Anyway, a couple ago, all the social media trends websites started to talk about a new trend, a new internet phenomenon, expected to be the “new Harlem Shake” and called (and named by those websites), “Hadoukening”.


Hadoukening is a photo trend where, by a an awesome special effect, you eject people around you using your force and power, as a dragon ball/street fighter character would do. 

You know what, from the very start i didn’t feet it. No way that this trend could be as powerful as the Harlem Shake.

I actually had quite a debate with an other planner on Twitter on the subject. 

Basically he told me that this trend could be as and even more powerful than the Harlem Shake because it was less engaging than the Harlem Shake, that it was easier to do, so more people would be able to do it, so it would be more viral. 

I really disagreed with this. 

I told him that, what made the Harlem Shake so viral, apart from its cultural/sociological meaning, is the fact that its rules, its guidelines were about the way it should be done and not about what should be done in it. 

The Harlem shake was actually more about a framework of actions, leaving freedom and creativity to the creators regarding its content, than a set of defined and specific actions to do. 

In this sense, Hadoukening is basically the opposite of Harlem Shake. Yes there are rules defining how Hadoukening should be done, but there are also rules about what should be done in it, in this case an hadouken/kamehameha thing.

Thus it leaves way less creativity for the users, and therefore less ways to  make new things about it, less ways to surprise other users and thus it doesn’t give the ability to the concept to get fully viral.

That was of course nothing more than an hypothesis…

The cool thing is that i recently got proofs supporting those sayings. 

A few days ago, a new trend just came out… it’s called “Vadering.”


Vadering is basically a Star Wars version of the Hadoukening. Rules of how it should be done are the same, content is just different. You’re not Sangoku or Ryu, you’re Vader. 

It made me realize that people naturally tried to find an other way to express their creativity beyond the rules of Hadoukening, which i think felt a bit too restrictive for them, especially regarding its content. 

I actually find all of this quite interesting regarding how we can build creative concepts that can better involve users.

Today when you ask creatives to think about an engaging, involving creative concepts, you often come out with complex stuff that demands people do to specific things. Usually those interactions you ask for are really codified. Do this, then do this, then do this, and then you’ll win. In 3 words, there are rules.

The thing is, as we saw it above, if you really want people to get involved with your concept, those rules should not be about the content of the actions you ask the user to do, they should be about the framework where those actions will be performed. A creative concept with rules focused on the framework more than the content can leave people space to express themselves within them, thus giving them the possibility to get really involved and to appropriate the concept. 

Those concepts should almost be seen as media in themselves i think, as they are more context focused than content focused.

And i don’t think this is just about creative concepts. It can be extended to everything you build on digital that aim to engage and involve people. You have to build stuff that leave people space and freedom to act and speak for themselves. 
Don’t dictate what to do, dictate how to do. 

EDIT : new evidence, the Pottering : image