A few days ago, a friend sent me a link to a YouTube video of teenage boys freaking out on Chatroulette. The video shows various teen boys watching a teen girl tease them. Suddenly she turns into a demon-possessed being. The resulting looks on these boys’ faces is truly priceless.
What is interesting from a marketing standpoint is that just a few days ago on YouTube, this video had 1100 videos. Now it has over 1 million views. For internet marketers, I suggest that the study of internet memes is crucial. To quote Lorrie Thomas, M.A., “It is an art AND a science.” One must have a creative AND an analytical mind, OR at least a team with both/and present.
WHAT IS A MEME?
A meme is a unit of cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena. (The etymology of the term relates to the Greek word μιμητισμός (/mɪmetɪsmos/) for “something imitated”.) Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes, in that they self-replicate and respond to selective pressures.
Francis Heylighen, of Free University of Brussels, writes that successful memes follow three characterstics, which include:
1) copying-fidelity: the more faithful the copy, the more will remain of the initial pattern after several rounds of copying. If a painting is reproduced by making photocopies from photocopies, the underlying pattern will quickly become unrecognizable. 2) fecundity: the faster the rate of copying, the more the replicator will spread. An industrial printing press can churn out many more copies of a text than an office copying machine. 3) longevity: the longer any instance of the replicating pattern survives, the more copies can be made of it. A drawing made by etching lines in the sand is likely to be erased before anybody could have photographed or otherwise reproduced it.
SUCCESSFUL INTERNET MEMES INCLUDE:
Successful internet memes have been seen by anyone who has email or spends even a little time on the internet. Some of the most famous include: (1) Double Rainbow (2) Nigahiga’s YouTube channel (3) David After Dentist (4) Diet Coke and Mentos (5) the phenomenon of Rickrolling (where user is tricked into clicking a link to a music video for the 1987 Rick Astley song “Never Gonna Give You Up”. (6) Lady GaGa’s Bad Romance (7) Justin Bieber’s Baby.
A Comprehensive List of Internet Phenomena may be found here.
MEMETICS RESEARCH and ACTION:
1. GEEKY RESEARCH: Read about Cluster Analysis (just to see how deep and complicated the science really gets). Study Meme-Tracking. Check out Group Formation in Large Social Networks.
2. KNOW YOUR DEMOGRAPHIC: Pay attention to the MAJOR archetypes within your chosen demographic AND their needs. Lots of market research has been done already by major research groups like Forrester, Nielsen, JD Power, and MRI into the buying habits, content preferences and behaviors of your audience.
3. USE LISTENING TOOLS TO SPOT SENTIMENT TRENDS: Listen to trends in the social fabric of the internet AND press-releases using Recorded Future, Radian6, Monitter and some of the new Facebook listening tools like Booshaka, Facepinch, OpenBook, It’s Trending and Kurrently. These tools could jumpstart your creative process. Any social campaign worth its salt has included some degree of listening to the customer PRIOR to launch.
4. BRAINSTORM using BIG pieces of paper and LOTS of flexibility WITH ALL IDEAS that emerge. Get INSPIRED in the Behance community, a fabulous place for meeting peers in the creative space AND to learn fabulous CREATIVE PROCESS TECHNIQUES.
5. A, B, C test your top ideas using landing pages, images, tweets, FB status updates, and blogposts. Notice AND measure response to these communications using Google Analytics, Facebook Insights and Alexa.
Great content contains effective memes, or word-creatures, the weavers of this living tissue that we call the social fabric of the internet. Viral videos like the one above, inspirational quotes, one-liners and personal news in the form of tweets and status updates are examples of word-creatures that move through individual and communal minds/hearts to what end none of us may ever know. These thought-animals consume the attention of a community, grow larger, and move deeper into the texture of the community.