What do the Honey Badger, Success Kid and Good Guy Greg all have in common? They are meme famous. Memevertising has taken the marketing world by storm and has introduced a whole new genre of humor. Memes are now littering newsfeeds on Facebook and Twitter and are increasing in popularity within the Millennial demographic. But where did this phenomenon start? It might be a surprise to learn that the concept of a meme has been around since the 80s. Richard Dawkins first introduced the phrase “meme” in his book, The Selfish Gene, in 1976 to define a “unit of cultural information passed between people.”
This definition has since expanded into what we know today as memevertising. Successful memes connect with Millennials on three different levels – they must be humorous, memorable and highly contagious and shareable.
Millennials connect with humor especially when they feel like they are in on the joke. According to research conducted by MTV Insights, 79 percent of Millennials think it’s cool to be able to make fun of themselves. This insight speaks to accepting quality of the Millennial generation. “Flawsome” has become a new catch phrase that highlights the unique qualities of Millennials. Memevertising that aligns with this value is highly affective when targeting Generation Y.
Memes are effective because they transform a key cultural moment into a clever marketing message. The famous Dos Equis marketing campaign featuring actor Jonathon Goldsmith as “the Most Interesting Man in the World” has adapted its marketing to memevertising. Thousands of spin-off memes have been created as a result of the Dos Equis campaign. Although a majority of the memes are not promoting Dos Equis beer, the connection between the Most Interesting Man in the World and Dos Equis keeps the beer as top-of-mind for Millennials.
Memes are a creative marketing tool that depends on the network effect. Essentially, the network effect is an economic theory that explains how the value of a product is dependent on the number of shares and likes it receives. Memes cost nearly nothing to produce but spread like wildfire on social media gaining brands more awareness, loyalty and engagement online. Millennials place a high value on peer affirmation so an image, video or link that already has traction is more likely to be reposted by a Millennial.
Memevertising is more than just writing a catch phrase on a funny picture. It is interpreting a key cultural moment and transforming it into a strategic message that resonates with Millennials. As long as Millennials continue to remain an on-the-go generation, marketing messages geared toward the powerful demographic will continue to remain short, concise and to the point.
Leah Swartz contributed to this post.
Photo credit: Urban Dictionary