What Makes a Good Viral Meme?

What Makes a Good Viral Meme

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What Makes a Good Viral Meme?

What exactly is a viral internet meme you may be wondering? Well I’ll give a little definition for you. Viral memes are anything that is passed around electronically over the internet, and gains rapid and huge popularity. Eventually a meme will get many millions of views from people all over the world.

A meme can be something as simple as a picture, a joke, or even a viral video (most notably).

You may have already seen or heard something viral on the internet. Some notable examples include Scumbag Steve, The RickRoll, The Double Rainbow Guy, and Chuck Testa.

That’s only a small number of memes, you have to understand that there are literally thousands of internet memes floating around out there right now…and the number rapidly grows every day.

Memes have the power to capture our full attention, entertain us wildly, and also give us the hope of being a viral star ourselves someday.

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There is something magical about a viral meme that really can’t be described. Once it catches on, it spreads like wildfire and really never stops.

Internet memes have become an integral part of our entertainment, culture, and daily lives. So all that being said, what exactly makes a good viral meme?

Well I’m glad you asked. There are several different characteristics of a good viral meme, but there are some qualities that are more notable than others.

Most notably a viral meme should hook you emotionally in some kind of way. That’s not to say that it has to be sad or anything like that, but there should be an element that sort of “pulls you in” so to speak.

After all, it’s that “hook” element that draws you in time and time again and ultimately makes you share it with all your friends and family.

Think about everything viral you’ve ever seen on the internet. OK well, as you could conclude they all had something that drew you in and captured your attention, even if it was only for a short time.

Good internet memes should also make you think (ideally) and challenge your mind in some way. It doesn’t have to be complicated though.

It should just present something to you that you haven’t seen before. And if you really want to get a good reaction, make your meme or viral video have a comedic element to it. That’s sure to win people over.

It’s not all that hard to make viral memes, and with a little effort, and just by being yourself and expressing your true side, you should be able to pull it off.

What the Heck Is Meme Marketing?

Meme marketing- this phrase is being thrown around a lot lately, but what the heck is it?

During “All Things Considered” on NPR a bit titled “Do Youz Knowz What I Meme?” was aired on August 30, 2010 to discuss the word “meme” and its meaning.

The show defined the word as a phenomenon of popular culture that spreads on the Internet quickly such as an auto-tuned news video, a joke, a rumor, a unique website, among other possibilities. The show also discussed the invention and original meaning of the term.

The word “meme” was coined in 1976 in the book The Selfish Gene written by British scientist Richard Dawkins, an evolutional biologist.

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He used the term “meme” to describe an idea that evolves itself through natural selection and propagates by leaping from brain to brain across a population, like the spread of a virus.

In the book he listed examples of memes as melodies, catch-phrases, beliefs, fashion, and the technology of building arches.

At that time he had no way to predict the magnitude of the Internet and its ability to perfect the evolution and spread of memes.

Ben Huh, Internet meme expert and CEO of Cheezburger Network, a collection of internet humor and de-motivational websites, believes memes have to have added value- people need to interpret the content and put their own twist on it. An Internet meme cannot just be a viral video that is shared with others; it has to be participated in.

A recent website that is fast becoming an Internet meme is, The Should I Skip Class Today? Calculator. Created by Jim Filbert, a developer at Biznet Internet Solutions in Michigan, this website is designed to help college students calculate the risk of skipping class.

Articles, blog posts, and Tweets are popping up all over the Internet as users try out the calculator and love it- it is certainly creating a buzz.

“I wanted to create the site because I thought it would be an interesting idea and something that college students would find entertaining,” said Jim Filbert.

“I have done a few phone and email interviews with student newspapers and set up a Facebook page, but other than that I haven’t really been doing much marketing of the site.”

And that is exactly how meme marketing works. It is more about the creation of a unique idea and the ability to make it accessible to everyone than the feverish marketing of it.

Wikipedia discusses meme marketing:

“Public relations, advertising, and marketing professionals have embraced Internet memes as a form of viral marketing to create marketing “buzz” for their product or service. Internet memes are seen as cost-effective, and because they are a (sometimes self-conscious) fad, they are therefore used as a way to create an image of cleverness or trendiness.”

Meme marketing needs to start with a catchy idea that hasn’t been touched on before or hasn’t been interpreted in “that” way before.

During creation, a niche target market must be determined and goals must be set within this niche market.

Meme marketing can become quite annoying when it tries to reach everyone; the message needs to only appeal to a specific group of people.

Next the idea needs to be made accessible online to the target market. This is done by video creation, website or micro-site creation, social media network accounts, and other methods.

Then the marketers seed the idea through link sharing and digital media- the more creative the initial sharing is, the more buzz can be built.

Now the marketers must let the idea fly. Meme marketing is only successful with a hands-off, manipulation-free approach.

The whole idea is to let the creative idea be “naturally selected” by the target market and leap from brain to brain (or computer to computer) and bring about buzz and awareness.

Advertising Memes

Meme” comes from a Greek word.

In terms of marketing the word describes a “packet” of information that is comprehensible in an instant. In order to cut through the noise and jumble of advertising today only the most compelling and simple-to-understand “packets” succeed.

Memes in marketing are real. They are a mind-control device. This isn’t science fiction stuff. Geoff Ayling in his book “Rapid Response Advertising” tells all about it. It is one of my favorite books.

Memes are a sort of “instant recall” template in our brains. Sometimes a meme is a slogan, sometimes it’s a jingle, sometimes it’s a visual association. Whatever the form, a successful advertising meme gets under our skin and embeds itself into our subconscious mind from where it influences our actions.

Creepy, right?

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Perhaps. But I think I can convince you that a meme can be used as a force for good… and that developing the right meme for your business or product could be the difference between struggling to succeed year-in, year-out and getting filthy rich.

Here’s a classic meme:

“I like IKE!”

What’s not to like about Ike? His image was congruent, at least in public he succeeded in being likable in two elections… in part due to his charisma, appearance, and credibility – but it was all tied-together by the simple 3-word hear-it, say-it meme. Ike won by a landslide in 1953, ending a 20-year Democratic White House – even though he had NEVER HELD AN ELECTED OFFICE and thus wasn’t an experience legislator.

Ike’s election was a great triumph of populism… and it might have come off well even without the meme “I line Ike!” You can’t deny the power or the associations the slogan brings up.

Other famous memes include:

“Hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes of less or it’s Free!”

“We’re number 2. We try harder.”

In both these cases the name of the business isn’t even included in the meme but the associations are so powerful the majority of Americans recognize these memes even though they may not have see the ads in years.

Here’s another:

“Take the Pepsi challenge!”

I remember this from the 1970s and early 80s. I was a kid. I liked coke better but I did try Pepsi, as did most Coke drinkers… and Coke lost a huge market share to Pepsi in the space of a few years. Pepsi re-positioned Coke as being old-fashioned and uncool.

The damage to Coke was brutal and the company spend incredible amounts of money trying to get the business back. One of the great marketing coups in history.

Let’s face it, the chances that your product or company will ever have such a successful meme as these ones is slim. Memes are powerful in more subtle contexts too.

Ideally a meme will create, in the mind of your customers, a profound and compelling “reason” to buy from you.

A combination of memes can even be used in layers to create the impression that your product or service is profoundly different from your competition – even though in reality it is not.

The differentiation between what you sell and what your competition sells is in the MINDS of the people who experience your products or your advertising. 

Many business owners would be shocked at just how oblivious the public is to the value of their products, and how easily forgotten their advertising is.

By understanding and using Memes in your marketing messages you stand a fighting chance of standing out in a sea of “me-too” marketing… which is, despite your pride in your current marketing, probably what you are doing right now.

There are not that many great memes visible in marketing today.  Some of the companies that have them however have triumphed in the marketplace. 

Avis car rental’s Meme “We’re number 2 – we try harder” actually catapulted that failing company into a number 2 position… the Meme actually created the reality they were after.

The Marlboro Man is another successful meme. 

The tag line is “Come To Where The Flavor Is – Marlboro Country” – and that’s okay but the real power of it comes with the layering of the associated images of male power and rugged Americanism. 

The memes embedded in the collective consciousness of America and took Marlboro from being number 22 to being number one in cigarette sales. 

It took a undistinguished, failing brand and created a multi-billion dollar brand.

I wouldn’t want to be involved with a poisonous product like cigarettes but you have to admit the meme is powerful indeed, and worth studying. 

A number of liquor companies have sort of tried to borrow from the Marlboro meme with some success.  In essence Whiskey is, to most drinkers, pretty similar, yet effective memetic marketing has created brand-preferences in the minds of consumers which allow some brands to dominate. 

When presented at a bar with 20 brands of Whiskey the drinker knows what he likes. 

He has a preference that is in fact less based on his own real personal preference and more based in the effective mind-control marketing of memetic branding.

Powerful stuff indeed.

What do you think?

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