Ever hear the urban legend about the tourist who visited Tijuana, Mexico for the day and found an adorable homeless dog? The thing was so cute, she brought it back over the border, cleaned it up, fed it and even let it cuddle in her bed – until she found out that dog was actually a rat.
Welcome to a modern meme (rhymes with team). The stories that morph, the videos that go viral, the rumors that spread and become completely new accounts are the stuff of memes and they surround us every day.
A meme is an idea, behavior, style or anything else that enters into popular culture and spreads rapidly. The term was coined in 1976 by British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins to explain the spread of ideas and cultural phenomenon. While the naming of the meme may be fairly new, the existence is age-old, beginning with how humans shared stories from clan to clan.
Now the Internet meme is the next evolution of the viral spread of information. Daily you can find Internet memes such as Charlie Bit My Finger, which currently has over 367 million views, that began as a simple video and has now launched an actual YouTube channel.
So, memes are swirling everywhere. They are advertising jingles we can’t forget (Got Milk?); sayings that never disappear (It’s the economy, stupid) and stories that gain lives of their own (as our Chihuahua/rat demonstrates) and they can be an ideal way to get word of your brand out amongst the Internet masses.
Just Do It
These three simple words have become part of our cultural lexicon. They were the foundation of a marketing campaign that continues to this day. What makes this meme so successful? It follows three basic principles:
- It gives people an idea of what you are about: Nike = fitness
- It’s catchy and unforgettable – short and to the point
- It’s a conversation starter – paired with images of famous athletes
Nike’s Just Do It success centered on the variety of celebrities from sports across the board who represented the best. The campaign played upon our attraction to successful (and beautiful) athletes who embodied the ultimate in performance. It also made us feel that with that little swoosh on our sportswear, our performance would improve, too – or at the very least we’d look good trying!
Creating Your Own Marketing Meme
Today’s marketing memes take on lives of their own nearly spontaneously via the Internet. If you’re going to use this guerilla tactic for your small business marketing, follow these guidelines:
- Have a clear understanding of who makes up your target market
- Look for common threads in successful marketing memes to give yourself a starting point
- Choose what image/idea/phrase best sums up your brand/product
- Focus on the problem your brand/product solves
- Decide what you want your audience to do after seeing your meme
You can use video, Facebook posts or your blog to imbed your meme into the minds of the online community. Your email marketing is also fertile ground in which to plant your marketing meme.
Just remember, once your meme goes viral, your control over it ends. The very nature of a meme is that it may morph and change as it skips through the culture so consider carefully what tag line, image or video has the best chance of staying true to your intention.
You don’t want people equating rats with your business when you’d rather have them thinking of dogs, instead.
What marketing memes have people talking right now? Share your favorite.
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