This picture is my 13 year old son’s recent project. He printed out the Sunday funnies (we don’t get a newspaper so he went online and found some to print). Then, he chopped up each panel and sliced out each bit of dialog. Finally, he mixed them all up at random to make his own comics to see if anything unexpectedly funny would come of it. It was funny enough. The idea comes (roughly) from “Garfield without Garfield” and other remixes of old comics tropes.
Your Company Probably Doesn’t Pay A Lot of Attention to Memes
Shortly after Barack Obama became US President, a lot of politicians and corporations decided to take social media a lot more seriously. Before then, it was “that thing kids do.” Afterwards, I was hired by some of the biggest companies in the world (Coke, Disney, Pepsi, GM, Microsoft, and so on) to talk about how these tools could drive better human interactions.
Memes and meme culture are that same thing all over again. And everyone’s ignoring it. Again.
Okay, So What is a Meme?
The word meme (rhymes with “seem”) take a little unpacking. The official definition is “an element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, especially imitation.”
The other definition (the real one): “a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users.”
It’s these two words “spread rapidly” that should raise your eyebrow.
Oh, and a quick aside: bookmark this site. It helps explain some of these.
Memes are a Fast Pass to “Insider” Feelings
Here are three things you might not know about right now:
- A massive petition went out requesting the song “Sweet Victory” be played during the SuperBowl halftime show. This song is from the cartoon SpongeBob Squarepants, created by the recently deceased Stephen Hillenburg. It appears that Maroon 5 will be honoring this meme request and playing the song. (Wait and see.)
- Elon Musk (of Tesla and SpaceX fame) just reached out to PewdiePie (YouTube’s most subscribed channel with 82 million viewers) to host “meme review,” after several memes and fake tweets were posted saying he would. (Memes drive reality.)
- Teachers and companies all over are trying their hand at posting memes to interact with students and customers, sometimes hitting and other times failing, but definitely earning attention they otherwise wouldn’t have.
Not everyone is there yet. And yet others know it feels weird but they want to participate.
It’s not that you care all that much about SpongeBob or PewdiePie or memes in general, but to realize that a multi-billion dollar event and a billionaire CEO are being influenced by memes is worth thinking about. The fact that memes are “technology” that travel fast, convey meaning in a VERY brief format (in a world that is attention starved) and that give you a potential quick connection into otherwise distracted and attention-starved people, that’s worth thinking about.
If you’re already thinking of ignoring this, let me remind you that in 2008, no one thought Twitter or Facebook or YouTube were all that interesting, either.
Often times, the point of the meme is easy to understand, even if you’re not aware of the reference material:
That’s Squidward from SpongeBob. You don’t need to know that to accept the premise of the meme.
The format doesn’t exactly matter much.
This is just a graphic of a tweet that’s spreading around as a meme. It’s obviously a political jab at the current US President, cloaked in a reminder that other presidents were a bit more wholesome.
Other memes come from adding an interpretation to a photo for multiple potential future uses:
The obvious hinge of the meme is “but.” We have all kinds of ways to use that. “I know you didn’t ask for any opinions…” or “I’m not racist…” etc. Everything before the “BUT” is the joke.
Why Should You Care?
I’m least interested in convincing you to care. That’s a hard rule I have. But you might become a bit more aware of this as a tiny media type, as a way to earn attention before seeking even more attention from the people you most want to serve. People are far more willing to invest the small amount of time required to possibly laugh and relate (even more importantly) with your meme before they decide to check out your larger and more time-consuming business content.
This is most definitely a B2B play as well as B2C. Everything I’m talking about here is in play for as long as humans are your intended customer or prospect.
As with all media types, a little bit of thought is required before execution. (By the way, I consult about that.) You might review any potential memes created to ensure they’re not offensive to particular groups, and also to ensure that the content you’re creating is reasonably current. One insanely frustrating detail with the world of memes is that they seem to have a shelf life of less than a week.
But there’s value in here. You might not immediately see it. That’s okay. Other companies are noticing and they’re adapting.
Chris Brogan is a business advisor and digital marketing consultant. Get in touch with him here.