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Memes & Marketing


Memes have become an integral part of social media engagement. In the social media spectrum, they achieved their notoriety mainly from Instagram at first, placing text titles over pictures to substitute status posts from a community who expects status posts. Before that, they originated from 9gag and 4chan. 

It wasn’t until recently however that they could be used as a way to portray very compelling, easy-to-understand points of view while simultaneously capturing euphoric humor, often through hyperbolic exaggeration such as the one example meme above, which suggests Putin hacked an election in his favor.

For marketing purposes this is an advertiser’s gold mine. In the book “Don’t Make Me Think,” the author explains that a marketing message should be able to be consumed and understood without any effort in a very short time (seconds or less). And memes capture every sense but smell and touch, all at once, then connect the senses with emotions – humor. 

The Facebook newsfeed exemplifies how powerful this “method with memes” is to people – because memes are often treated as factual when it successfully engages an emotion. The brain can process an image 60,000 times faster than text. And a simple phrase attached to it causes the brain to accept its message with ease, and even disregard logic at times.

What this means for marketing is two things:

1. You can deliver a fast message that people will accept quickly.

2. It limits liability because it is “just a meme,” and memes “can’t” be taken seriously. So false advertising claims are drastically mitigated.

The one major downside to this vehicle of advertising, however, is that you are likely to attract the lazier customer and it may be most effective only to consumer markets.

Studies repeatedly show that readers make more decisions with more thought where as your average meme lover might be more of an impulse buyer. This is great for cool gadgets or simple, cheaper consumer items but an article, blog, book, or other reading materials are better vehicles for the business markets. 

In fact, the average CEO reads 60 books per year. The average American reads only 1. Your average CEO is often smarter and usually makes anywhere from 50 – 100 times more than their average employees. In short then – the meme marketing tactics are best used for the former market rather than someone wealthier or smarter, a business person. 

We will visit this again and take a closer look at the psychology of memes more in-depth in a later article. The main takaway from this should be that memes can be a strong advertising vehicle for the current generation and beyond. In fact they may change the scope of online advertising in future, particularly by becoming a new standard for B2C marketing.


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