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Why things go viral (and why everyone loves a good meme)

Why things go viral (and why everyone loves a good meme)
Memes: those amusing, often slapstick Internet phenoms that we see circulating in emails, on social media sites, and in message-board posts.

Published: 11 Apr, 2013

Why things go viral (and why everyone loves a good meme)

Most of us love these little nuggets of cultural currency. But why?

Why are are memes so popular, and why have they now transitioned into the world of commercial business to become a legitimate marketing tool? What started out with nerds and web geeks (which we count ourselves among), memes are breaking into the mainstream - for business.

What's in a meme?

The most obvious feature of memes is that they are highly visual. Nearly all are based around an image.

Visual content, as we know, connects with the web-savvy masses. You don't always have much page space (or time) to impress the modern Internet user. So the visual nature of the memes (and the resulting consumability of the meme's message) works well in the increasingly clouded online realm.

The concise, humorous nature of memes makes them memorable.  This means that the visual message will stick with, and be recognized by, its audience.  What's more, memes easily transcend language and cultural barriers, making them all the more suited to a global audience. 

Another advantage of memes is that they are easy to make, with sites like helping you build your own (like the one above). To view all the current memes on the Internet check out:

Memes for businesses

But how do they work commercially? Businessweek has previously reported that if properly implemented, memes can bring in anywhere from a few thousand dollars to six figures for an integrated marketing campaign - not to mention the additional benefits that can come from licensing, merchandise and adaptation.

We have also seen companies like VitaminWater wholeheartedly embrace the meme craze by running ads featuring references to dozens of popular memes.

Of course, with massive popularity comes complications such as IP and copyright problems, spurring debate as a result. That said, such concerns have not yet presented a negative affect on the on-going meme craze, which is more popular than ever.

The challenge

The biggest challenge associated with the use of memes to spread your message is that, whether creating your own original memes or re-purposing existent ones, the meme has to be humourous and applicable to your audience.

For this reason, you'll want to put some creative thought into how using memes will help your online marketing. Memes can work for virtually anyone, it's just a matter of understanding your message and your audience when using them to deliver your message or drum up interest.

Long live the Meme!

Example Meme