Thursday, June 17, 2010

Culture Lesson: Icing Bros

Now that Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg (probably) does it, I guess I have to explain what "icing bros" is. Ugh.

Icing is a drinking game. (Though the phrase often includes the word "bro" it is not gender specific.) The person who is "iced" is humiliated by kneeling on the floor and drinking Smirnoff. (Embarrassing because it tastes bad and is considered less masculine than other alcoholic beverages.) The drink is often hidden or cleverly disguised, so that there is more "humor" to the "game" over simple handing the beverage to the victim.

I thought this was a fake phenomenon at first, but no. It's real. Seriously. This is one of the "it" things of the summer. (Thus obligating me to tell you.)

The rules, as copied from Wikipedia:
The game has two rules:

  1. When presented with a Smirnoff Ice the target must drink it while kneeling. This is referred to as "getting iced".

  2. When "getting iced" a target can present their own Smirnoff Ice to cause the original initiator to be "iced" instead. This is referred to as an "ice block".

The New York Times suspects this is a viral marketing campaign via Smirnoff. Here's what they have to say about the phenomenon:
The premise of the game is simple: hand a friend a sugary Smirnoff Ice malt beverage and he (most participants have been men) has to drink it on one knee, all at once — unless he is carrying a bottle himself, in which case the attacker must drink both bottles of what Mr. Rospos described as a “pretty terrible” drink.

Amid suspicion that the trend is an elaborate viral marketing campaign by Smirnoff, which the company has denied, new icing photos are posted daily on various blogs, Twitter and Facebook — including scenes from graduations and weddings — and sent directly to a Web site, The speed with which Mr. Rospos and a group of his friends from high school adopted the game mirrors the rapid spread of Bros Icing Bros from the Web to backyards, living rooms and cubicles around the country, exploding from obscurity in May into a bizarre pastime of college students, young professionals and minor celebrities that counts among its targets the rapper Coolio, the actor Dustin Diamond and members of the rock band The National. A campaign online aims to ice Ashton Kutcher, who often serves as a kind of Kevin Bacon of Web memes, linking disparate areas of the Internet in fewer than six degrees.

The game has exposed the mercurial line between guerrilla advertising and genuine social media trends, raising questions about how young consumers can know when they have co-opted a brand for their own purposes, and when that brand has co-opted them.

“Guys who would never buy Smirnoff before are even buying it now to shield against attacks,” said Kevin Wolkenfeld, a junior at the University of Central Florida in Orlando who documented the phenomenon for the school paper. (According to the rules, the only way to block an attack — besides simply refusing to participate — is by carrying a bottle.) Most players — a widening swath of the campus, he said — would probably stop “if it turns out they’re being used to market a drink they really don’t like.”
And a little more on the game from The Awl:
Shockingly, yes. While commodities traders at Goldman Sachs don't appear to be chugging Ices at their cubicles (yet!), the phenomenon has so far invaded laxer corporate environs. [UPDATE: An icing at Goldman Sachs—on the premises, no less—has just been confirmed by an employee that asked to remain anonymous.] A friend at Vice reports that someone brought a 24-pack into the office just this morning. Bros have been Iced during early-morning meetings at IAC's CollegeHumor office. I've also heard of this going down at advertising agencies, including Wieden+Kennedy, the Portland-based giant behind Nike.
My generation, by and large, is composed of morons. Friends, I will not kneel on the floor and drink your cleverly presented Smirnoff Ice. I will not Ice Block you. I will just refuse to participate.

Additional Resources:
Did Mark Zuckerberg Ice His Bro?, Valleywag/Gawker
Icing (drinking game), Wikipedia
Popular New Drinking Game Raises Question, Who’s ‘Icing’ Whom?, The New York Times
Guest Op Ed: Why Bros Get Iced, Bro, The Awl

1 comment:

Nanette said...

I need this blog! Not most of the technology stuff, but definitely the culture/words stuff. Who knew there was such a thing as "icing bros" to wonder about?

But now that I know, I will come here to look up all the other things make me, a genuine old folk, stop and ask... what the heck is that?