Public relations, advertising and marketing professionals have taken advantage of Internet memes as a strategy of spreading the ‘buzz’ towards their products and services. Memes have become a form of viral marketing tapped to create awareness among Netizens. According to popular definition, the term “meme” came from the Greek word mimema, which means “something imitated”. It was introduced in 1976 by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins to describe the way humans’ transmit social memories and cultural ideas and truths to one another, or simply put, how ideas travel from one mind to another.
The practice of using memes to market products or services is known as memetic marketing. It is usually observed whenever marketers attach brand messages to already-trending memes which could be a clever phrase to create humorous situations that audiences relate to, photos, popular GIFs, spoken phrases or videos. Interest is created by transforming these into trivia, ephemera, or frivolity rather than engage in straightforward selling of the product. Doing this helps audiences remember and relate to the brand resulting in more engagement and higher reach.
Internet memes have become popular marketing tactics because they are cost-effective, invokes emotion and have gained a following.
Memes are used because they are easy and cheap to create with sites like memegenerator.net which allows users to find a popular meme and customize it by attaching their brand and slogan as well as upload images. One popular example is the “Adopt me maybe” parody, which animal activist and pet fashion designer Anthony Rubio created in 2012, riding the wave of Carly Rae Jepson’s hit song “Call Me Maybe”.
Meanwhile, feel good and funny contents have a way of connecting with audiences emotions which in turn increases their desire to share it among their network. This is often called sharing positive vibes. Because we live in a culture that likes to share, social media users are wired to share any unusual, humorous and positive information they find. Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, each is designed to help users engage one another through sharing and if the meme created is interesting enough, it is likely to be shared in ways that will be successful beyond other marketing tactics employed.
“Dumb Ways to Die” is now becoming a meme using the humour appeal to engage audiences. It is a public announcement ad campaign by Metro Trains Melbourne meant to promote train safety. Different memes has already been created by using the illustrated characters in various parodies and video games showing actual people’s reckless behaviours that may be considered as dumb. But the characters are not just used in safety remembers, but as marketing icons as well.
Lastly, memes are not memes unless they’re already a popular theme spreading through an community. By using something that’s already popular and attaching a branded message, marketers are leveraging the success of something that’s gone viral so there is no need start from scratch. Infusing an already established meme with the brand, ensures driving traffic to its website by followers.
Be it on their Facebook page, their website, or even on a billboard, no one can dispute the success of Virgin Media’s “Success Kid” meme. Success Kid, sometimes known as I Hate Sandcastles, is a reaction image of a baby at a beach with a smug facial expression. It has been used in image macros to designate either success or frustration. In early 2011, the original image was turned into an advice animal style image macro with captions describing a situation that goes better than expected.
Memes are an excellent way of quickly and easily reaching vast audiences across the internet due to their cost effectiveness, popularity and simplicity to create. Generally if memes are already successful one can build up on it just as what Virgin Media managed to do with their ‘Success Kid’ billboards.