What do you Mean by a Meme?

memeThis is a guest post by Anita on what is meme? You can read the guidelines for guest posting at our guest posting guidelines page.

Richard Dawkins may have claim to coining the name for memes, but this viral form of communication has been around practically since man first discovered how to make tools. A meme, as defined by Merriam Webster Dictionary, is “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.”

Think of the red-and-white-striped pole spinning outside of a barber shop, or the use of the colors green for go and red for stop. These are all examples of memes, but if you tried to point this out to someone under the age of 35, they’d probably look at you a little odd. That’s because memes have taken on a whole new image in the past few years.

A rapidly growing part of the online social media scene, static memes can basically be found in two formats: the four-panel comic strip and the single image, with the single image rapidly becoming more and more popular.

The popular website ICanHasCheezburger.com, is probably the most well-known for their infamous LOL cat memes. Typically portraying a picture of a cat in a funny or unusual position, the picture is framed with a humorous, phonetically spelled caption. For example, the image of a soaking wet cat might be tagged with the line “You left the lid up. Again. I’ll be sleeping next to your pillow tonight.”

Beside meme-based websites, memes also spring up seemingly out of nowhere, such as what happened with the now infamous Ridiculously Photogenic Guy. Snapped on March 31, 2012, the picture of the 25-year-old runner was snapped just as he inadvertently turned toward the camera during a marathon in Charleston, South Carolina. His model-quality looks quickly captured the attention of the online population and within a few days of being posted, millions were viewing his image and thousands of tag lines were being generated.

Ranging from “Promotes Heart Health – Makes Mine Skip a Beat” to “Goes for Run – Entire City Follows Him,” the memes for Ridiculously Photogenic Guy were so popular that 11 days after the picture was taken, he appeared with the photographer on Good Morning America.

So with such a successfully viral form of communication rocket-firing around the internet, how can you use memes to benefit your business?

Creating a popular meme

There is no magical formula for creating a popular meme. Just like there’s no way to predict what will become a popular viral video, short of using someone’s celebrity status to spread the word, one pretty much has to rely on the will of the people to boost a fledgling meme’s popularity. What we do know, however, is that memes work like a virus. One person picks it up, passes it on to a few more, then a few more and so on. And a common factor for popular memes is that they practically bridge language barriers.

Relying on bright colors and off-the-wall images, the more popular memes almost don’t need a caption to make their viewers react. Whether funny, cute, relatable or shocking, once a meme catches on, there’s little that can stand in the way of its 15 minutes of fame.

Using memes for Emarketing

Instead of trying to create your own meme from scratch, consider using an established meme to spread the word about your business. It may be a little tricky at first, but try to think of it as a way to make someone laugh without putting a whole lot of thought into it. The picture should speak more or less for itself, and it only needs to tie in loosely with the message.

More and more peripheral, almost subliminal messaging is being used for advertising. Think about the last popular ad you saw on television. What do guinea pigs have to do with insurance? Or exploding houses have to do with cable television? Even online shows have their advertising tucked into the video frame as opposed to popping up in the middle of the program.

This same approach works with memes. Instead of broadcasting images of your company, try to work it in subtlety. For example, if you own a construction company that specializes in paving, try using an image of a street disappearing into a road mural painted on a brick wall á la Roadrunner-style with the caption, “One Smart Asphalt” and your company logo at the very bottom. Or if you own a flower shop, try using an image of a cat destroying a beautiful bouquet with the tag line, “I arranged theez 4 you.”

If you need inspiration or want to check out what’s popular in the meme world, try visiting social media sites such as StumbleUpon.com, Reddit.com, 4chan.org, 9gag.com, the “meme” section of ICanHasCheezeburger.com, and of course, Facebook.

No matter what, memes are a fun way to approach emarketing and regardless of how much they catch on internationally, you’re sure to generate some laughs – and some customers – in your own area with some creative company memes.

About the Author:

Senior executive Anita Brady is the President of 123Print.com, a leading provider of high quality customizable items like business cards, letterhead and other materials for small businesses and solo practitioners.