Memes and Marketing

The overall goal of marketing, in any form, is to grow a larger audience around the product or service you’re selling. With so many businesses competing against each other, a successful marketing campaign can really elevate yours above the rest. We don’t mean to lecture you about the basics of marketing. We’re sure you understand its importance. However, with so many ways to market one thing, it’s very tricky figuring out the BEST way to do it. Would an email marketing piece help expand your audience? Maybe a simple postcard to your mailing list? Or maybe’s it’s as easy as rehashing a popular internet meme.

We know what you’re thinking. “A meme? How childish.” And you’re certainly not wrong. They are childish. They are silly. But they’re also effective. As ridiculous as the internet meme popularity has gotten, its origins are quite serious. Much like the hashtag, the internet did not invent the meme. It just helped popularize it.

The Beginning

Richard Dawkins, the famous English biologist and author, was the first to actually coin the term. He created the word “meme” in his book The Selfish Gene, in order to have a singular word express the idea of “cultural transmission.” He needed a way to express the idea that culture can be viewed as a singular item, and that it can move across time. Meme is actually derived from the Greek work Mimeme, meaning an “imitated thing” or “to imitate.” It’s how we also got the word mime.

Mimeme was too long of a word for Dawkins’ liking, so he shortened it down to meme. This was also to help serve another purpose in his book, and that is, like genes, culture can be passed down from generation to generation. Genes helped create your personal traits, while memes helped create our cultural traits. Thus, memes have been in our vocabulary since the publication of Dawkins’ book back in 1976. They have a much deeper meaning than just some graphic image on the internet that is accompanied by text. Nevertheless, you might not be all that interested in the origin story of the meme. You’re probably more curious about how it can help your business. Well, here’s how.

How It Can Help

Memes are trendy. They’re popular for a second, and then they’re gone. They have a short shelf life, but there’s value in something that can be bought up really quick. They’re meant to engage your audience so your audience will, in turn, engage with you. Perhaps this engagement only comes in the sense of a “like” on your Facebook or a potential new follower on Twitter. Still, a carefully crafted and timely meme can help you accomplish multiple marketing goals in only one simple post.

There’s no rule or cap on the number of people you can gather as an audience. As a result, most marketers will tell you, “the more the better,” and there is certainly nothing wrong with that philosophy. However, it’s hard to achieve. It’s quite a task to continuously grow your audience. That’s where memes can help.

Going Viral

These days everyone wants their post to go viral. Make this blog go viral, make this video go viral, etc., etc. Obviously it’s much easier said than done, but if we take a step back and think what it really means for a social media post to go viral, you’ll find that it’s actually not too far from its original definition.

A virus gets spread by people sharing things, whether it be the same cup, the same plate, or even holding hands. A social media posts gets spread by sharing as well. Although this comes in the form of people literally clicking the “share” button on Facebook, retweeting something on Twitter, or even repining something on Pinterest. However, unlike a virus, you want your content to be shared. Unless, it’s harmful to your business. But that’s a topic for another article.

As we stated previously, making something go viral is much easier said than done. It requires the right bit of humor coupled with impeccable timing. It’s the old adage, “comedy is tragedy plus time.” It looks like a simple equation, but everything needs to be balanced perfectly. Take Ken Bone for example.

Ken-Bone-2016-10-10-at-12.03.18-PMThe internet proclaimed him to be the “winner” of the 2nd presidential debate. If you notice, he’s just an ordinary man. That’s not a George Clooney look alike or a Brad Pitt stunt double. That’s Ken Bone. Just a man asking about energy policies in a red quarter zip sweater, mustached, and slightly thinning hair. And he was the most popular man on the planet for a split second.

He was everything the people wanted. He took everyone’s eyes off of the presidential election that just so happened to be contested between two of the least popular candidates in history, and he took his new fame well. He enjoyed the limelight, but knew it wouldn’t last forever. He fit the equation.

Comedy (Ken Bone Fame) = Tragedy (2016 presidential election) + Time (The 15 Seconds he had in front of the camera)

If and when you decide to use memes for your marketing, it’s important to remember this equation. It’s quite possible, in order to generate more buzz around your meme, that you take it to the extreme. Try to avoid this. The character of your meme needs to match the character of your company. Again, think of Ken Bone. He’s just an ordinary man with incredible timing during a dreadful election season.

Get Creative. Get Creating

Memes are not an internet phenomenon. They are a means of expressing culture that can be passed down from one generation to another. They’ve become an important staple within our society, and they can become an important staple within your online marketing campaign. They’re a good way to help expand your audience and engage with them. It also adds to your company’s viral potential. Remember, a solid meme can reach hundreds of thousands of people in a single day. Just look at Ken Bone. It turned his 15 seconds of fame into an entire week.