Marketing for Small Businesses

A Meme By Any Other Name

memes and marketingMemes.  They fly fast and furious now, immediately after any awkward onstage pose or missed fly ball resulting in a crazy fall or a beloved film still (I’m looking at you, Willy Wonka) or a smiling marathon runner.  We all have laughed or at least groaned at one of these little humor shortcuts. But who was that first clever soul to marry that quick one-liner gem with that first grumpy cat?

What is a MEME?

  • An idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from one person to another in a culture
  • An amusing or interesting picture, video, etc., that is spread widely  through the internet

The word “meme” itself is derived from the Greek word “mime,” which means “something imitated.”  Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins first coined the term in 1976 in his book “The Selfish Gene.”  He saw it as the spread of social and cultural ideas among people, an idea that travels from one person to another.  Carry that to ideas transmitted via the internet – blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and a slew of social media sites – and everybody can get in on the party.

This plays into our understanding of viral marketing, positioning a message and relying on the human desire to share an image, thought or idea, earning some of the credit for its humor and knowledge just by virtue of being the one to share it.  Social media, by its very nature, is the perfect platform for memes, allowing for the fast and widespread distribution of that fine-tuned message.

dos equis memeThere is no clear consensus as to what was the first meme spread via social media, although the hamster dance and dancing baby clips seem to pop up often.  There are definitely those that stood out and had a great run. Perhaps one of the best and most long-lasting advertising/marketing memes was inspired by Dos Equis’ “the most interesting man in the world.”  The character started out as the pitchman for the brand and, through clever memes and the virtue of social media, morphed into the perfect set-up for a slew of “I don’t always…but when I do…” phrased memes.

So whichever one was first, we definitely haven’t seen the last as there seems to be no sign of this fun and well-loved little cultural shortcut going “Bye, Felicia” anytime soon. So hey, girl (or boy), keep on forwarding and sharing and spreading videos of dancing to cell phone blings,and presidential candidates doing, well, everything and anything. We all need a good laugh – or groan – sometimes.


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