Online Marketing

Memester by Cyril Gupta | Memester Video Edition Review

On the surface, memes seem like an exciting way to connect with a new audience, enhance the value of your content, and reinvigorate the energy of your brand. They can certainly do all these things, but there are “right” ways and “wrong” ways to use them in the context of your content marketing campaign (or social media presence).

In this Memester Review, I’ll explain what memes are, the different types of memes you can use, and some basic rules for success if you choose to use memes in your marketing campaign.

What's a Meme, Really?

The term “meme” can refer to many different applications, from goofy cat photos to any image with text, but the origin of the term illuminates why and how we use the word today. Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins originally coined the term “meme” to describe a cultural idea or trend that circulates and grows in popularity much like a successful genetic trait.

To be sure, most modern “memes” are inside jokes, ways of speaking, or unique photos that become instantly recognizable across the globe thanks to social sharing and the vast power of the Internet.

Types of Memes

There are three broad categories of “memes” as the Internet describes them, but not all of them accurately represent the term:

·         Literal memes. Literal, straightforward memes are highly popular trends that have caught on and circulated throughout the population. They’re instantly recognizable to avid web users, and may be funny, sad, or entertaining.

·         Macros and temporary memes. There’s a specific style of especially popular memes, featuring text over an accompanying image, that have also become synonymous with the word “meme,” even if they haven’t gone viral. You can see these present in meme generators, which allow you to create original works in this style for any purpose you choose.

·         Intentionally viral memes. You could also use “memes” to try and generate your own virally popular trend, style, or catchphrase, but as you’ll see, this is easier said than done.


Using memes within your content can serve a number of different purposes:

·         Attention grabbers. The best and most successful content is content that catches your attention immediately, and because memes are instantly recognizable and fun, they can make all your content “catchier” when seen only momentarily; they can encourage more interactions and click-throughs accordingly.

·         Content enhancers. You can also use memes to enhance your content, either by using them to illustrate or make fun of a complex topic, or by using them for entertainment purposes, such as using a reaction image to empathize with your readers.

·         Popularity fuel. You could also use memes as a way to boost your own popularity or reputation, either by riding the success of an existing meme (think: capitalizing on a political gaffe), or by creating one of your own.

Main Rules for Success

No matter how you choose to use memes, know that they’re no guarantee of success. You need to implement them properly if you want to avoid polarizing your audience and weakening your brand.

Here are five rules for success to help you use memes appropriately:

1. Know your audience, know your brand.

First, you need to know that memes aren’t for everybody. They’re most appealing to young adults who spend considerable time on the Internet, so they might be seen as juvenile or otherwise misunderstood by other audiences. Similarly, most memes take the form of playful, tongue-in-cheek jokes. If your brand is playful and energetic, this is a good thing, but if you want your brand to be seen as stoic, conservative, and traditionally professional, memes could easily work against your brand image. Consider your brand and your audience carefully before pursuing this strategy.

2. Don't force it.

Like with any form of viral content creation or content marketing in general, if you try too hard, you’ll end up hurting yourself. Forcing a meme into each of your articles will make it obvious that you’re trying to capitalize on a trend, rather than enhancing the content in any meaningful or entertaining way.

3. Know what you're getting into.

The quickest way to lose face in front of Internet subcultures is to use one of their beloved memes the wrong way. If you miss the true intention of the joke, such as using a sarcastic line literally or using the wrong tone or placement, you could instantly disgust the audience you’re trying to win over.

4. Use memes sparingly.

Even if you have the right brand and the right audience for meme use, it’s a good idea to limit the quantity of memes in your content. Think of them as a dense dessert; in small doses, they can be highly effective, but too much will make you sick.

5. Never sacrifice quality or originality.

Finally, never use memes as a substitute for the originality or quality of your content. Memes alone will not help you build a consistent audience; they only serve to enhance the valuable content underneath and around them.

Even when following these rules, memes aren’t an addition that will guarantee the improved performance of your content. They are specialized forms of conveying information and relating to readers, and are only appropriate in certain contexts. Until you’re more familiar with them, use them sparingly, and look for both direct and indirect feedback to help guide you in your future usage.

Coined in 1976 by Richard Dawkins, a meme is a “package of culture.” Pre-internet, this meant things like regional sayings, fashion, and architecture. These are stylesconcepts, and behaviors that are infinitely replicable (so we’re not talking about trading physical items) and spread out to other cultures from the point of origin.

The Greek Parthenon looks an awful lot like the Roman Forum, and both of those match America’s very own Lincoln Memorial. The columns are an architectural meme that has transferred from culture to culture with adaptations to the climate, landscape, values, style, and function of its new environment.

Now that we have the internet, we have a whole new set of memes, many of which involve cats who can’t spell.

What are some popular memes I would know about?

Photo and video memes:

Photo memes include anything featuring a person imitating a position or action that’s familiar, such as plankingTebowing, and owling. A picture of oneself holding up a personal story about finances or healthcare added momentum to the “I am the 99%” and “I am Obamacare” movements. These have been very popular politically, because they put faces with the effects of passing (or not passing) certain legislation; they show individuals to accompany data points, which is much harder to dismiss.

Video memes include dubbing over (or otherwise changing the sound) the sound on familiar videos (such as Hitler Reacts and Auto-Tune the News) and imitating familiar stereotypes (such as Sh*t Girls Say and Sh*t Chicagoans Say).

Image (macro) memes:

An image meme (also called a “macro”) is slightly different than a photo meme in that  image memes are generally a familiar image (photo or cartoon) with different captions (or, in a slight variation, familiar text with a slightly different image) in contrast to photo memes, which are photos of different people in a familiar position or environment. For example, the Most Interesting Man in the World’s tagline is: “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.” The taglines on the memes share a familiar format.

These include the Most Interesting Man in the World, Futurama Fry, and Condescending Wonka among countless others.

Word memes:

Strictly speaking, a Twitter hashtag is a meme. Popular words and phrases with a pound sign (#) in front of it become “trending topics,” (meaning lots of Tweets contain that word/phrase). People can add their own twist.


Miscellaneous marketing memes:

These memes ask loyal fans (and potential new customers) to engage in an activity or take a picture of themselves doing something. The original behavior or posture is the same, but each person adds their own personal touch to it. Other marketing memes capitalize on existing memes and add their own caption.

Isn’t that the same thing as “viral”?

Viral describes how something (like a meme) spreads online. Viruses make tons of copies of themselves and transfer from person to person. Online media that “goes viral” starts with an original document that is streamed online or downloaded and spreads through word of mouth and direct transmission of the file. The original media is generally kept intact.

Memes, though they move “virally,” are slightly different in that they keep a basic component of the original culture packet but are altered slightly as they enter new subcultures. The core concept is imitated, but the details change.

Where do memes come from,
and where can I find them?

Like viruses, the base images and videos for memes can come from anywhere from a personal photo uploaded to Flickr to a deliberate attempt from an advertising company to “go viral” to meme generators.

If you’re looking for the origin of a specific meme, Know Your Meme (part of the Cheezburger network, which has been a long time home base for memes) has some solid research on where many were first spotted online.

Memes are shared on all social networks, with Tumblr and Reddit being hotspots. Facebook and Pinterest are also meme-friendly platforms, but links to images and videos aren’t quite as hot on text-based Twitter. Originally, they were created by those with some graphic design savvy, but meme generators (more on those under “How Do I Use Memes?“) have made it easy for ANYONE to participate in the cross-cultural communication.

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