Three Wolf Moon Rising
Brian Govern (Posted first review of Three Wolf Moon Shirt)
Michael McGloin (The Mountain)
Antonia Neshev (Three Wolf Moon Artist)
Patrick Davison (MemeFactory) [Moderator]
How does a simple, quiet shirt with a little bit of stardust, three wolves, and a moon end up kicking the Amazon bestsellers lists ass for more than four weeks running? What’s it like being a part of that process? What do you do after it’s all said and done? Does the shirt actually grant you mystical powers?
NOTE: This is not a full transcription of the panel. If you have any corrections, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Patrick: Introduction, welcome, big up to the magical moon. Perfunctory introductions. Brian Govern, law student in New Jersey. The original Three Wolf commenter. Michael McGloin, businessman/artist, art director at the Mountain. Antonia Neshev, artist, moved to US in 96, paints lots of wolves, and is Three Wolf Moon artist. Throws to Brian.
Brian: Well, I have to be honest, my review for the Three Wolf Moon shirt is the first and only funny thing I’ve ever done in my entire life. I’m going to be an attorney, not very funny. I’ve only purchased 2 things on Amazon, both law books. Also not funny. I’m from Detroit. I don’t have much experience with being clever or ever making people laugh on purpose. I tapped into some vein of Americana when I wrote the review for it. It was a complete whim and then we ended up here today.
Patrick: Michael, describe responsibilities.
Mike: All things art. Designing shirts, web, talking with artists, doing sketches, trying to get shirts done, marketing, catalogues, the whole thing.
Patrick: How many artists do you work with?
Mike: I have a core of about 15, Antonia is one of 100’s of other artists all over the world.
Patrick: How often do you come up with new designs?
Mike: We do about 100 designs a year.
Patrick: Antonia, how did you come to paint wildlife?
Antonia: It’s a long story. I did a bit of writing but I will summarize the most important events in my life. I had been creative sculptural pieces until I got tired of lugging them around. Moving the computer was easier than moving paintings. My husband left for only his computer when he was hired by a printing company in CO. The company was hiring anyone willing to transport to the isolated community. Since I was already there, I spent 2 years working there in house and learning about how to design nature t-shirts.
Patrick: So now let’s talk about Three Wolf Moon itself. This is what I’d call a flashbulb moment — you always remember where you were. For each of you, when did you know something was different about Three Wolf Moon?
Brian: When I was sitting down and I opened my email, and it was in the middle of finals and I hadn’t had much of a life in a long time. It was an email from Amazon about public relations saying the NYTs wants to talk to me, and can I pass over their into. I Google myself, and my review of TWM is all over the internet. I made the review 6 months ago, and I had forgotten that I had even written it, so it just came out of the blue for me.
Mike: A guy I worked for forwarded the review from Amazon to me, so I went and checked it out, then I realized that there were like 100 reviews. I sent it out to our entire company. Do you see what going on here? This is insane! We have about 300 dozen of each shirt in stock, but TWM was out of stock, and they were all going to 1 customer, the one that was selling on Amazon. They didn’t even tell us they were out of stock. Then we decided PRINT IT NOW.
Patrick: Antonia do you remember?
Antonia: Yes, I do, I always check my t-shirts, and Googling them, and looking for ratings and how popular is the image. I was aware of the review under TWF, I thought it was written by someone who has nothing more meaningful to do. It was sitting there quietly for a while until one day I received a historic email from Michael. You have to read this, it is out of control. I went there and saw 1000s and 1000s of comments.
Mike: While TWM was happening, she was on vacation for like three weeks. No one could find her.
Antonia: I had emails, from Mike, looking for me. Where are you? Are you kidnapped?
Brian: I can confirm it was from someone who has nothing better to do. Ask my wife, I’m on the internet from 5 minutes after I wake up. The fact that I missed the whole TWM thing is ridiculous.
Patrick: So TWM happened, how have your lives been, post-moon?
Brian: Even locally it was kind of cut off. The day that the TWM was on world news tonight, the local news broke in on this story about this girl who had kidnapped herself broke it, so I hadn’t seen it. A lot of people I hadn’t talked to in 15 years friended me on Facebook.
Patrick: Trying to get a cut…
Brian: Most of the time, people don’t put 2 and 2 together. When I tell people they’ll say “Oh, you’re the guy who wrote that?” and then move on with their lives. I’ve been trying to figure out how to spin this into some kind of marketing thing, but I haven’t been able to figure out how.
Patrick: And that raises the question, have you thought about reviewing anything else?
Brian: I’ll be honest, I haven’t. I’ve thought about it. I’ve attempted to. I’m faced with trying to follow up with something that was important enough to be the subject of a panel at this conference. I don’t want to be that guy. I’m already paralyzed by the success of the whole thing. I’ve had bands try to ask me to review them. Some products, like an irrigation system. There’s no comedic gold in irrigation systems.
Patrick: Well, so offers from bands, or companies with money. What would it take?
Brian: The right product, and the right inspiration on it would get me back into the review. The review was something I’d written to someone. I kinda put myself into their shoes and wrote the review from their view point. Most people who ask are friends who are going to be Patent Lawyers. I’m pretty sure they’re not going to compensate me.
Patrick: Michael, what we’ve seen is the way in which corporations respond to internet memes… one of the things that was great was how quickly The Mountain came out in support of TWM. How has TWM changed your approach to marketing?
Mike: It made our brand completely stand out, in itself, it put us on the map. We’re not a small company, but what it allowed us to do is get over the hump of selling just to middle America. We’ve done collaboration with Element skateboards, Ronnie — in New York, mainstreamed us;
Patrick: Do you have any pre-wolf competitors?
Mike: We have some rivals…
Patrick: Are they super pissed now?
Mike: They started selling the shirt. Antonia, has the popularity of TWM effected your work?
Antonia: It opened up our business, it made our brand completely stand out. It has allowed us to get into a lot of markets we weren’t in before. It put us on the map. We’re not small company, we have about 150 employees, but what it allowed us to do was to get over the hump of just selling to middle America and get into some larger chains and doing some collaboration. I’m doing some collaborations out of New York. Just our look in general, it mainstreamed us.
Mike: We have some rivals, but not really. Liquid is a rival of ours. They started selling the shirt, so they banked.
Antonia: In a very positive way, I have a great exposure and Michael initiated a licensing representation by The Mountain, so I have no worries about how the business will go, that’s Michael’s area of action, and I have a pretty good life.
Patrick: Have you been receiving any requests for wolf-themed art?
Antonia: Most of the people are interested in using TWM image since it is the phenomenon, and I’d like to believe that there is a time when people will be interested in seeing beyond that, to the rest of the work that I have, that has quality, but not the popularity. TWM will open the door to the rest of that.
Mike: And it already has…
Patrick: Speaking of requests, obviously English is not her first language. I asked if she felt comfortable talking in English, asked if maybe she wanted, she could do some art on the chalkboard.
A: What do you want to see? Wolves? More wolves?
Patrick: Cats? I think we want cats. Why don’t you guys start backchanneling… You guys throw up your suggestions. So, we talked about your experiences with TWM… let’s get a little theoretical: Why do you think TWM became popular?
Brian: Well, first and foremost, I think the story kinda created a frame work, a mythology, that other people could add to. If it was just a funny review, it’d be a funny review, and that’d be it. “Not putting this shirt on your torso, you put it on your soul”. It almost created a progressive story where people could add to it and sort of tell their own story, it created this mythos that resonated with people and let them add their own. On top of it it converged with this trucker chic with the net hat and PRB beer and it kind of merged with that undercurrent and it gave it more of a body than a single funny review would have.
Patrick: Any other thoughts?
Mike: I believe it because it was a product that people could buy. The majority of the reviews before were about milk? Just random things that people wouldn’t buy on Amazon. Since we were a big company and could fill orders for something quickly, it allowed it to gain a momentum. It wasn’t just a meme that had to build over time, it connected to the real world and connected to the real world.
Patrick: Connects to the real world… speaking of that, is there, are there any standout moments? Most you printed in a single run?
Mike: We do about 400 dozen per press per day and we ran it three months straight.
Patrick: That’s a lot of shirts.
Mike: we printed and dyed so many shirts and our waste water company called and said please stop dying because we are not that big.
Patrick: So TWM is an environmental hazard.
Mike: We printed 100’s of 1000s of shirts. Walmart picked it up 60k shirts. It keeps going. Amazon is like our #1 customer right now. You can look at people at work that you pass on the street, and maybe 50% have seen the same funny cat. But if you have the TWM shirt on, you can ID each other by being part of that meme. It’s like you’re part of this secret brotherhood.
Mike: There are people who buy our shirts beforehand and you’re like “yeaaah” and they’re like “I’ll kick your ass!”
Patrick: This raises a good question, do either of you own the shirt?
Mike: We actually print a glow in the dark one now, because in his “cons” he listed “shit does not glow.”
Mike: Yeah. It glows.
Patrick: How many are out there?
Mike: You can buy it on our website. But not many people know about that. www.themountain.me
Patrick: Obviously there is a TWM variation, in the ROFLcon shirt? But are you saying there are other secret variations?
Patrick: The Internet might have just found out.
Patrick: How often do you guys wear it?
Brian: Well, I’m married, so I can’t wear it too often. I have my mint shirt that I keep for prosperity and show it to my grandkids, where my 15 minutes came from. Mike sent me a crate to give away at Christmas, so we have family photos of everyone wearing them.
Patrick: Would either of you consider using a t-shirt cannon in any contest?
Patrick: You mentioned
[Antonia draws Pedobear.]
Patrick: You were talking about the 2 usergroups, one ironic and one not. I think we might be taking a turn down negative lane…
[Continues to draw.]
Patrick: Now there is definitely a subtext… to the popularity of the TWM reviews that play on the white trash stereotype. In the wake of that, how have you guys reacted… Brian, how do you feel now about the original tone of your review?
Brian: I think that the internet community as a whole is probably less politically correct than the average bear, considering that the #7 image out there is a ASCII goatse, and the last panel was a ASCII wiener, I think people are a little less politically correct. I had someone specific in mind…
Patrick: You know a person?
Brian: I think that class of society is the last bastion you can legally make fun of. I didn’t mean any harm by it, I had a specific person in mine. In the vein of internet memes, I think there is less problem there than if I was openly making fun of someone on TV.
Patrick: So the context of it being… in a comment field, as opposed to on television.
Mike: Would you have changed it if you knew it was going to be so huge.
Brian: No, not really. The person it was inspired by, who I will never confess because I’ll get a mail bomb, they really liked wolf shirts. I was thinking about how that individual would have grown as a person and what they would have said to the shirt. Because of the good humor, I would have done it the same exact way.
Patrick: Have you had any experiences managing 2 different user bases? Genuine buyers and ironic buyers?
Mike: Not so much, it’s really funny, because I don’t know how many of you actually know our shirts at all, but it’s America, a lot of animals, when TWM took off, our customer base, 95% of it could not sell the shirt, because our customer weren’t you guys. The rest of them were selling huge #s of it. We are a whole sale company, so it was kind of a difference for us. There were maybe 50 customers who were selling the heck of it, and the rest of the customers get it.
Patrick: Have you seen any boost of sales from the previous community, or just the new community?
Mike: Well, everyone knows that the recession kinda sucked for just about everybody. We were down about 25%. We lost about 25% of our customers, they just got wiped out. TWM happened after we brought our workforce down about 30%. The t-shirt guy shined on us, and TWM made it all better. We have hired almost all our people back and now we’re pretty much on fire right now. We’re printing 7 days a week like all our shirts.
Patrick: That’s great. That hits on something I’ve noticed, there ’s some aggression, some reviews go a bit further with that stereotype. But there seems to be a general positive air about the whole thing.
Mike: In general, yeah. Probably like 100 or so maybe 120 reviews on Amazon. It started for me to get a little racy, another wolf shirt, it was a long sleeved shirt. “It cured my AIDS,” it got really racist, this other meme. I responded to them, and let them know that our company wasn’t cool with that. I thought it was this one on one with this guy, and all of a sudden they were like The Mountain hates us! But we were like no we like the money thank you. I didn’t really think about it as a bad thing.
[Antonia draws a dinosaur mounting a robot]
Brian: A couple got racy, but I think it will still not as bad as anything written on YouTube.
[a standing ovation for dinobot]
Patrick: Tomorrow, that will be on Cafe Press.
Patrick: If something bubbles back up from this, we’ll slip that back to her. Speaking of, what do you think about Tuscan Whole Milk? Also, do you look more closely at reviewing threads now, and do you spend more time on the internet?
Mike: I think that they are missing a huge opportunity. I haven’t talked to Tuscan, but don’t you think they’re missing a huge opportunity.
Patrick: What do you think they could do? To, ya know, sell some milk. It’s like $70/gallon.
Brian: They actually carry it at grocery store, so of course I had to buy it. I almost troll around the internet now, but it’s impossible for me to do more so than I did in the past, but something like Tuscan Whole Milk, you gravitate towards it because there are 100s of funny reviews. A lot of times people try to do their own funny reviews, but they’re not really very funny. Amazon has tried to embrace this, and tried to make a video. Snow tires aren’t going to lend themselves to funny reviews as well as other products. It has to be the right product.
Patrick: Antonia, now that you’ve finished gracing us with your drawings. Do you spend a lot of time online?
Antonia: Every day, Facebook, I spend 3 – 4 hours on there.
Antonia: To keep connected with friends. Everyday, I go through different websites, I have a huge list of bookmarks of different art websites, and that’s my main interest. Another one is looking for tribal jewelry and ethnic jewelry, which also interest me. National Geographic. I can easily spend days and days and days on the internet.
Patrick: Do you look to other art online as inspiration?
Mike: No, she hasn’t sent me any?
Patrick: Are you just living off the success of TWM?
Antonia: No, I’m working secretly.
Patrick: So there’s something awesome that’s about to drop?
Antonia: A tsunami.
Patrick: I asked the gentlemen here if they owned or wore the shirt, do you? Do you wear it?
Antonia: Sure, yes. Isn’t it a macho shirt? Should I wear it?
Mike: Does your husband wear it?
A: Yes. Actually, my brother in law wears it, and he got divorced.
Patrick: So it seems like the power of the moon didn’t shine so brightly…
Mike: No, because everyone was attracted to him
Patrick: How did you find the shirt on Amazon, Brian? Were you looking for wolf shirts?
Brian: Believe it or not, no. I remember the day, it was 11:30 at night, I was laying in bed with my laptop, I was looking for “Professional responsibility, patent law, etc.”, and the Amazon suggestion popped up that I would probably like the TWM shirt. So if those are your interests, then you should probably buy the shirt. I have no idea why that combination brought out the shirt.
Mike: Well you were looking for great things.
Patrick: On the last panel, one of the speakers admitted to possibly being a bit intoxicated when they made their videos… were you on some substance or other?
Brian: Other than pure boredom from having spent the last 3 years reading 12 hours/day. Usually I get wittier when I get drunk, but I think that’s just my opinion not anybody else. It was off the cuff, without any assistance.
Patrick: Antonia, were there any substances involved?
Antonia: There are always substances involved.
Patrick: Anything you’d care to describe?
Antonia: Like alcohol.
Patrick: Antonia, how does it feel to be an American icon, responsible for Americana, as an immigrant?
A: Oh, thank you for this question. That is the most ridiculous thing. As an immigrant, I saw on the website of my home country, which is a notable capital in Europe, there is so much going on there right now, and I saw at the bottom of the page a list of Celebrities of Bulgaria, National Heroes. There are the most recognized writers, singers, musician, composers, huge names, and on the bottom of this list is “Antonia, creator of TWM.”
Mike: That’s awesome.
Patrick: There’s another question… would 5 wolves be better than 3? No, obviously. But, if TWM could have any other number, how many would it have?
Mike: One. The loners. Instead of the wolf pack. But three is the best, it’s the trinity.
Brian: Sixty nine.
Patrick: That’s the second funniest thing you’ve ever said. Antonia?
Brian: I was going to go with 42, but 69 is better.
Antonia: I’m sorry, I have no suggestions. You cannot break TWM.
Patrick: Michael, I have a question that might not be super appropriate [How many women are you with per week?]
Patrick: Ok, what percent of sales for the Mountain come from Amazon vs. other sources for Three Wolf?
Mike: Yeah, I don’t know. We have like 10,000 customers wholesale customers so it’s really all over the place. It was probably maybe around 5%, maybe 5-10% Amazon. It’s probably around 3% now, maybe. It’s still in the Top 10.
Patrick: I mean you’re the art director. Now, what celebrity would like most of all to wear a TWM shirt? Living and dead. Who would you most like to get the shirt on?
Mike: Maybe Tesla? That’s a tough one, because the internet says EVERYONE’S worn it. Obama.
Patrick: That because of Photoshop?
Mike: No, I’m the Photoshop master.
Patrick: Between you and Antonia, who’s better at Photoshop?
Mike: I’ve been using Photoshop for 20 years, but she did TWM so she wins. Brian, who’d you want to wear TWM?
Brian: I thought Teddy Roosevelt is a pretty tough guy, I wanna see it. I would love to see Quagmire see him wearing it.
Antonia: Frank Zappa for sure.
Patrick: We’ve got about 5 minutes left, any other questions or closing remarks?
Brian: I’d like to thank everyone for coming. I am so amazed to be here, that just some brain fart, ended up making so many people laugh and so many people rally behind it that people would want to hear about it, that some random dude from South Jersey could land here. I guess that just shows the power of the internet.
Antonia: Thank you all for participation and supporting us in such a touching way.
Mike: Yeah, I mean you guys did it, you guys spread it, you are the powers that be and let everyone know everything that’s going on. Me and my company thanks you from the bottom of our hearts.
Patrick: I talked to Antonia about drawing before the panel, but how would you feel, at the conclusion of this, if Antonia could draw us a moon on the board, to pose in front of the board, for a photo-op… for a Three Three Wolf Moon Panelist Moon Panel photo?