Year of the Meme

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Gabriel Marketing Group

There was no shortage of amazing, horrible, and amazingly horrible memes in 2012. With countless new memes popping up everyday, and even entire social networks and sites devoted to collecting and sharing these Internet gems (Reddit and Buzzfeed, for example), it’s hard to imagine that only a few short years ago the meme was not something that populated our news feeds and news sites on a regular basis. (And I’m sure we can all remember the life changing moment when we experienced LOLCats for the first time).

There is no question that the viral power of memes is unparalleled in terms of content–so how can marketers get in on the action? Here are some of my personal favorite memes of 2012 and some lessons for marketers going forward in 2013.

1. Mars Mohawk Guy

Bobak Ferdowsi was flight director on the Mars rover Curiosity mission and overnight Internet star after the above picture hit the web during the Curiosity landing. His rad mohawk, dreamy smile, and serious nerd cred gained him fans across the globe and made space cool.

2. Grumpy Cat

Tardar Sauce, the grumpiest Internet cat, maybe ever, became an Internet sensation following her YouTube debut and subsequent memes documenting her daily miseries, only fueling the Internet’s already unhealthy obsession with cats.

3. McKayla Maroney is not impressed

McKayla’s less than thrilled response to winning a silver medal at the 2012 London Olympics spawned an entire category of memes featuring her “not impressed” face superimposed into situations that would beyond impress most all other people, and even got President Obama in on the action!

While definitely amusing, memes are more than just a timewaster on a slow Friday afternoon. What can they teach us about marketing?

  • Content is king. As evidenced by the meme, engaging content will share itself. Creating materials that add value to consumers’ experiences with your brand are more effective than messages that feel impersonal and are clearly just trying to get the consumer to make a purchase. Get creative and offer your consumers something new that adds value to the conversation!
  • Show some personality. Consumers like to see that brands have a human side. It makes it easier to relate to brand messages. Landing a rover on Mars seemed like this huge, impossible mission to which no average person could relate, until it turned out that this attractive young guy with a cool haircut was leading the mission. Similarly, becoming an Olympic athlete is a feat that the average person will never attain. But when McKayla Maroney showed her disappointment after placing second, now that is a feeling to which we can all relate.
  • Aim for the visceral reaction.  Providing consumers with engaging content and displaying brand personality both play a part for brands in achieving this third characteristic of memes that make them so highly shared, connecting with consumers on an emotional level. We all have a friend who embodies the attitude of Grumpy Cat (and maybe even some of same facial expressions of the aforementioned feline), so we can interpret Grumpy Cat memes in a way that’s relevant to our personal experiences. This ability to connect with and relate to different consumers will also drive the viral success for your brand.

So, the next time you’re stifling a giggle over the latest “Hey Girl,” pause a moment before posting to your bestie’s Facebook wall and consider the reasons why you’re sharing. For marketers, think of ways to apply these characteristics of memes to your brand content, and you’ll be able to better connect and interact with consumers.

From the Blog

Leah Nurik