What the Heck Is Meme Marketing?

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  MemeScout

The Selfish Gene written by British scientist Richard Dawkins, an evolutional biologist. 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.


Leave a Comment