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Does Your Brand Have What It Takes to Ride the Meme Wave?


The Internet today is a culmination of cultural phenomena that our society experiences in today’s digital age; and out of the many, one in particular sticks out like a sore thumb – memes.

If you don’t already know, memes are basically viral trending photos, animations, videos or behaviors that are individually adapted to reflect the cultural feelings of Internet users. Think Chuck Norris jokes, or even worse, Kim Kardashian’s attempt at breaking the Internet.

Circulated from person to person often in large numbers, memes provide a unique medium that is timely, user generated, fast paced, viral and perhaps most importantly for marketing purposes, widely accepted by the internet users.

So to no one’s surprise, some companies have taken the opportunity to hitch a ride on this Internet phenomenon. Why wouldn’t they?

It is arguably an ideal bridge for companies to promote their brands to the millennials of today by speaking the same language as they do and in turn creating a common ground for both to share.

However, when it comes to memes and marketing, there are two main ways that a brand may use memes to its own effect:

Memejacking

First, is the use of a current existing meme in itself as evident from Sprint’s use of cats and even ‘Nyan cat’ for its Nexus S 4G. Known as memejacking, this is when a company jumps onto a current occurring meme that’s popular.

In this case, the Internet has always had a weird obsession with cats, thus Sprint jumped on the opportunity and used this particular cultural quirk to its advantage. This ultimately resulted in the advent of Sprint’s commercial jammed pack with nimble felines.

Another fine example of capitalising on an already existing meme would be the one and only honey badger meme. Accumulating over 45.8million views on YouTube since its upload in 2011, the Honey Badger meme is a National Geographic clip that was dubbed over to hilarious results. Wonderful pistachios used this meme to their advantage, and released a 30-second commercial featuring the Honey Badger being nothing short of a badass.

Nothing is without flaw though, and memejacking is no exception to the rule. To properly ride a meme wave you need to be aware that not every meme is the same, and some last longer than others. Fail to realize and you will very quickly find your ad rendered obsolete.

Memescaping

The second method of how memes and marketing work hand in hand is through what is known as ‘memescaping’. This is when an agency attempts to create a meme from scratch, which is a lot more difficult than one would think. Often times, the spark of a successful meme is more of an art than a science with a dash of luck to go along with it.

In 2006, Euro RSCG created the campaign, ‘The Most Interesting Man In The World’ for Dos Esquis, a brand of beer. Featuring Jonathan Goldsmith as the star of the ad, the campaign quickly took off and was largely successful. It in the end, he became a cultural icon on the Internet, and the memes of him can still be seen till this day.

It’s obvious to us and hopefully to you by now, that the landscape of memes as a marketing tool is one filled with countless opportunities that’s able to leave an endearing mark on today’s digital crazed society.

However, it is also fraught with perils, as crowd-sourced campaigns are often times beyond much control of the marketer once it takes off. To add to it, campaigns are also at risk of being outdated. It can be a friend or it can be an enemy. You decide if it’s worth it.

Will YOUR brand ride the memes wave?

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  • Syera

    Good article, it’s pretty informative. Was obviously aware of what memes were, but had no idea terms like memejacking and memescaping even existed.

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