I bet half of the people who saw "meme" clicked on this link half terrified that they would be Rick Roll'd, right? That seems as good an introduction as any to the use of memes as a marketing solution for online business visibility. Or, at least it is a starting point that got your attention.
What Is a Meme?
In popular culture today, a meme is content that has become viral online and is regularly shared or referenced - for example, "I Can Haz Cheezburger." Occasionally, this phenomenon will become centered around a person, such as the "Ancient Aliens" meme consisting of a still of Giorgio A. Tsoukalos.
However, the true definition of a meme is: "An element of a culture or behavior that may be passed from one individual to another by non-genetic means, esp. imitation."
In other words, this is a reference or imitation done in popular culture that is passed from one person to another. It has always been a concept that humans have followed, and it always will be. It just happens to have an online context know.
How Can It Be Applied to Marketing?
You are probably already starting to see the potential application here. The purpose of online marketing or any other form of marketing is to spread the word of your service or product to your target audience. The point of a meme is to spread something from person to person, becoming a part of the day's pop culture.
While you will have to update your use of current memes - as all memes become stale over time - it is a convenient way to rope your message in with something that is social on a whole new level.
Used Memes vs. Original Memes
The real trick is knowing when to use memes already established and when to create your own.
Using a meme that is already well known has a ton of benefits. Anyone viewing it who has even a small amount of experience on the web will probably recognize the image. That immediately creates a tie in their minds.
For example, earlier this year Virgin Media started using "Success Kid" in its advertising. The image of a little boy gripping sand in his fist with a triumphant look on his face has become one of the biggest memes on the web. So the use of the image on Virgin's billboards has been very beneficial.
Other companies might make a meme without realizing it. One instance of this is Geico Insurance. Its commercial featuring a little pig squealing "all the way home" has become very well known and immediately recognizable by most of its audience.
Using a meme or creating your own is a great way to spread a message and provide immediately shareable content with your target base. All it takes is a little creativity, and you can generate a viral image, video or item that will pass through the web population faster than you thought possible.