Late last night on my final Reddit visit before bed I happened across a hilarious set of images entitled‘shell accidentally creates anti-shell meme generator’. Glorious! So I emailed the link to myself to tweet at work. Ha-ha stupid Shell.
Now, perhaps I was just tired or I secretly wanted it to be true, but nonetheless I took the images at face value. I thought this was an example of the Internets spontaneous satirical humour at its finest. I was wrong.
My calamitous tweet was picked up by some of our friendly followers who pointed out my mistake and i was able to correct myself accordingly. The selection of memes I thought had been the result of Shell’s ill judgment had actually been part of a satirical marketing campaign in opposition to Shell’s arctic drilling.
Now i am no stranger to memes and I frequent Reddit and dedicated meme websites (I find them to be relatable, witty and funny) but my blunder really got me thinking about memes and marketing. How effective are they be as marketing tools and how best can business harness their fickle power?
First things first, what is a meme? The phrase itself was originally coined by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book ‘The Selfish Gene’. He described a meme as ‘an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture’. Internet memes as we know them fit snugly into this definition. Now, its impossible to say what the first meme was but they were popularized largely by online communities such as Reddit and the infamous 4chan. More recently however businesses have been both creating and spreading memes through advertising, but why should you take notice?
Memes are not for everyone and before you think about using them consider your business and the image you trying to represent. However, memes have great marketing potential. They are relatable, already viral, great for sharing and they attract attention. The proof:
The above are all examples of memes used well. However, using memes is no guarantee of success.
An example of questionable memetic advertising is Vitamin water’s ‘grab it by the horns’ video. Without going into great detail just from the comments and dislikes on YouTube you can see it was not well received. Nevertheless it does have just shy of 500,000 views, and its said there is no such thing as bad publicity.
So, what do you think about using memes in marketing? Have you considered them at all? My personal view is that they are great if you can come up with something unique and creative and be cautious about picking an existing meme and bending it to your brand; this is likely to provoke the ire of online communities, if you care about such things.