Come on, admit it – who trades in memes? And by ‘trade,’ I mean that you almost solely communicate via the exchange of memes, on a daily basis. Because I do. Whether that be with friends, family or colleagues – or on any social media platform that I’m employed to engage on, memes are the dish du jour, every darn day.
Why? Because memes are the cause and the cure – the cause being the stresses, strains and mundanities of everyday life, and the cure being the weirdly specific ridicule of those very things in the form of a badly written sentence plastered over the latest culturally relevant image. And by ‘culturally relevant’ I exclusively mean popular culture, of course.
Memes have become a sort of slang for millennials, with many quickly becoming viral phenomenon, shared and liked by thousands, before they quickly find themselves being repurposed for yet more meme content.
What is a meme? Well, according to Dictionary.com a meme is a “humorous image, video, piece of text, etc. that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users.” But a meme is sooo much more than that, right? You laugh with them, you shake your heads at them, you purse your lips in silent empathy with another over them, they are a source of gentle humour and a distraction from the never-ending-to-do-list of life. Do I love memes too much? Perhaps. But this isn’t about me, this is about the popularity of memes and their impact on the future landscape of marketing communications, which is kind of important. Especially when the leaders of the United States and Iran are currently using GoT inspired memes to discuss extremely inflammatory foreign policy on Twitter…
*FYI This could not be more insanely wild…
Meme’s are not a new thing, they are simply derived from funny comments being attributed to an image, something human beings have been doing for centuries, yes, really. But thanks to that crazy new invention called the internet (anyone heard of it?) we’ve really managed to streamline the process, massively dilute the pool of content, and simultaneously work hard to destroy grammatical diligence on a massive scale, modern-humans hey! But, what does this have to do with marketing?
Aside from humour, as not all memes are actually humorous, memes are always relatable. Relatability is essential to a meme’s survival – relatability is also essential to any marketer, advertiser and communications specialist’s raison d’etre, because if people can relate to something, then they care – and from this stems interest, trust and loyalty in a brand.
So, how can marketers leverage meme-mania to profitable ends? Well, this has so far remained relatively untapped, but there is little doubt that meme-culture will begin to play more and more of a role in how brands engage with customers online in the future. However, the problem with advertisers capitalising on memes, is that if they make them themselves, there is a very, very good chance that they won’t be well received. The main pull with the popularity of memes is that they come free of any agenda (i.e. they’re not adverts) they frequently touch on the taboo and they’re largely unregulated – all things that don’t usually go hand in hand with effective and appropriate marketing campaigns. So, when it comes to memes, brands have to be very careful to not end up being ridiculed, sued, or even worse, ignored, when they dip their toe into the arena.
However, as bleak as it may seem for marketers to jump on the golden-viral-opportunity of meme sharing, it would appear that perhaps the industry is being a lot cleverer than we think. For example, just take a look at most of the big-brand Xmas adverts from the last few years; most feature over-the-top characters or dramatisation of events and emotions – all perfect fodder for the avid meme creator. Take a quick search online and tell me that you can’t find a plethora of Xmas-advert related memes that range from Kevin the Carrot caught in-flagrante, to the recurring nightmare that is Trump’s head on a trampoline-bouncing Buster the Boxer?
All of these memes garner hundreds of thousands of shares and likes and will no doubt be tracked by a brands communications team to demonstrate the extensive reach of the advert and campaign. Even celebrities are getting in on the act, remember Drake’s Hotline Bling video? The rappers erratic dancing was at first ridiculed and labelled cheesy by the majority who watched it, until the memes came a knocking that was. Now the video is a cult classic and provides content for some of the most popular and widely shared memes around today. Non too surprisingly then that those in the industry who know the rapper, speculated that he knew exactly what he was doing when he went to work on making that video. He got people talking about him, and it made people like him even more – because when they looked at him wildly gyrating in a puffer jacket, wagging his finger whilst pouting away, they were reminded of a meme that made them relate to him on a very personal level.
*Yeah, nice moves buddy, you really got us with this one.
The magic ingredient here seems to be that as long as you can create the entertaining visual-content, and leave any satirical, humorous or relatable comment to an-unbiased party with a lot of followers, then you might just be on to a winning formula.
Either way, memes are big business on social media, so the sooner marketers work out how to utilise them to their full potential, the more exciting the landscape will become. And, you know what they say, there’s no such meme that’s bad publicity…
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Thanks for reading!