Internet memes may seem like nonsense, a complete waste of time. That they’re something for people with nothing to do but to surf the net all day. But in actuality, these internet memes are big business. They shape popular culture, change the way we live our lives, and continually evolve with modern society today.
What are Internet Memes and Why You Should Care
An internet meme is a cultural phenomenon, spreading like a virus, traveling from one person to another swiftly until it takes on a life of its own. “Meme’ is pronounced as ‘meem’, which rhymes with ‘seem’ or ‘team’. Meme is a term coined by Richard Dawkins.
Internet memes are usually jokes, urban legends, viral videos, funny pictures or contagious music. Memes today hugely influence modern language and culture. They shape how the youth, and the whole internet user population for that matter, live their lives.
Marketing, advertising and promotions professionals embrace internet memes, because it’s inexpensive and trendy; plus its unique characteristic is to spread like a virus.
The more people go online, the stronger memes will be. Memes equals money. Internet memes have assisted in producing fame and fortune for many people, transforming nobodies to overnight sensations in the blink of an eye. Memes are a great opportunity; always at work even during your offline hours, always up for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The Science behind the Power of Internet Memes
What is the science behind the power of internet memes? The year 2000 onwards foresaw the meme phenomena, which subtly represents the tones of today’s social etiquette and culture. Today’s culture and humor keeps on evolving everyday. The cultural impact of internet memes cannot be ignored. In fact, it can even be a tool for self-promotion, branding and marketing that will ensure your fame and success.
To prove our point, we’ll give you an example. One of the most popular memes of all time is the many pictures of the cat with funny, captions that throw grammar out the window. It is created by Hawaiian blogger Eric Nakagawa with girlfriend Kari Unebasami. Do you know how much these cat pictures are worth?
Nakagawa’s website dedicated to lolcats is now worth $2 million. It is the most popular internet web site displaying pictures of cats, receiving as many as 1.5 million hits in a day. In a year the page receives over half a billion, yep billion, page visits, making it in league with other major news empires’ sites like the Huffington Post or NY Times. They’re being extra profitable, just by creating memes. Nakagawa’s web site generates images of these adorable cats and kittens with humorous captions. Pretty impressive, for cats.
These memes are outrageously funny, and they don’t need a lot of time to enjoy. They take a few minutes of your time, and in the case of the lolcats, only a few seconds of your time. But don’t start thinking coming up with a meme is easy. Scientists and researchers have tried to study and understand memes. Every detail is taken into account, to know why this meme succeeded and why another meme failed.
Researchers have difficulty studying memes, because unlike previous cultural phenomenons, the internet meme does not have the problem of lacking cultural artifacts, but rather its exponential growth. Memes spread like wildfire from social networking sites, such as Twitter, Facebook, Digg and Reddit.
Memes are highly unpredictable and untraceable: there is no hard science on which picture, video, or joke will go viral next. In fact, a meme can be ignored for a long time before it explodes. One good example is Rebecca Black’s Friday video, which was uploaded on February 2011 before comedian Michael J. Nelson tweeted about it saying ‘Songwriting isn’t for Everyone’. It became infamous almost overnight.
The lesson here is that we can’t force a meme to become a viral hit. You do have to rely on luck a little bit. Memes may bring you different results than what you expected. To be honest, memes are more of an art than a science.
Top Memes of the Past Decade
I will share with you the top memes of the last ten years (erroneous sentence, because memes didn’t exist before that) and why they are so successful. What made these internet memes click? What did we learn from them and how can we achieve the same success?
Planking, also known as the lying down game, is an activity that consists of a person lying face down with arms at the sides, photographed and shared online. The term ‘planking’ refers to the activity of imitating a wooden plank. Plankers try to find the most unusual and most humorous places to ‘plank’. Some of the most unusual places to plank include roofs, poles, on top of vehicles, even on toilets.
Planking has led to other variations such as owling, jebbing, teacupping,and lately, horsemanning etc. It has its own holiday, ‘Global Planking Day’. Even big celebrities like Katy Perry, Chris Brown, Tom Green and Justin Bieber have joined in on the fun.
Although planking seems like a harmless enough game, there are always daredevils out there who seem to want to be in trouble’s way. Planking has caused many accidents or issues.
Seven doctors and nurses have allegedly been suspended for ‘planking’ while on duty. One man has also been arrested for planking on a police vehicle. Worse, A 20 year old man, Acton Beale, fell to his death after attempting to plank on a 7th floor balcony in Australia.
2. Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday’
Rebecca Black is the epitome of ‘Bad publicity is better than no publicity at all’. Her video ‘Friday’ on YouTube has 3.1 million dislikes (or 87.1% of the total ratings). Despite that, she has amassed 167 million views and hundreds of parodies. It is the 22nd most viewed video on YouTube of all time, before it was taken down on June 16 as per Black’s request.
If you take a look at her ‘Friday’ video, you’ll see that the song lyrics are terrible, and the video just mediocre and the use of auto-tune was heavily criticized as well.She’s now a millionaire because of her publicity (albeit negative). ‘Friday’ was hated by the public, but proved to be a commercial success: in a matter of days, iTunes received 2 million downloads and with an iTunes payout of $0.70 per download, earning the singer about US $1.4 million in just a few days. Not bad for a thirteen-year-old.
3. Chuck Norris Jokes
Chuck Norris jokes are about the martial artist and actor Chuck Norris, stating exaggerated claims about Chuck Norris’ strength, ability, toughness, endurance, or everything else what makes him awesome. The claims are mostly absurd which is what makes them so hilarious. These jokes have spread around the globe via the internet.
The Chuck Norris jokes first appeared on Late night with Conan O’Brien, and started appearing on the internet. It was a huge hit. Chuck Norris himself was flattered and found them humorous, but tries to not take them seriously.
Some of our favorite Chuck Norris jokes are:
‘Chuck Norris counted to infinity… twice.’
‘Chuck Norris has already been to Mars. That is why there are no signs of life there.’
‘Chuck Norris doesn’t cheat death, he beat it fair and square.’
‘Chuck Norris is the reason why Waldo is hiding.’
‘Chuck Norris made a Happy Meal cry.’
4. Famous Dancing Baby
The famous dancing baby animation, also known as Baby Cha Cha, is a short 3D animation of a baby, dancing cha-cha to the intro of the song ‘Hooked on a Feeling’. This short animation is among the earliest examples of internet memes, having spread through chain e-mails.
It has appeared in several shows and parodies, where it became a recurrent hallucination in the ‘Ally McBeal’ series.
We love babies, they’re cute and adorable, ergo babies sell. We love them more if they can do crazy things they normally can’t. The Dancing Baby Meme was so popular it even spawned many imitations, parodies, remixes. One such is the viral ad ‘Evian Roller Babies’ featuring babies dancing and hopping in skates.
5. People of Wal-Mart
People of Wal-Mart features heavyweight, poorly dressed and just plain crazy people who shop at Wal-Mart. The pictures are absurd, silly, weird, and some are just gross. You can check all the funny pictures on their official website. Basically the web site mocks the shoppers of Wal-Mart. This internet meme is not for everyone, as it may offend some people, but you’re invited to check it out or just leave.
6. Demotivational Posters
Demotivational posters are spoofs of the often clichéd motivational posters found in corporate offices and such. Like a motivational poster, it consists of a single picture, with a black border, with an all caps title in white, usually a serif font. Most often it is followed by a subheading in smaller font.
The purpose of motivational posters is to inspire, demotivational posters work the opposite: they are pessimistic in nature. These are among the most common internet memes today, seen all over the cyberspace and shared among social networking sites. There are now dozens of websites dedicated to generating these hilarious demotivational posters.
These posters are effective because they’re simple, sweet and fast. They’re really funny too. It shows that one strong, single picture can be very devastatingly powerful when paired with witty copy.
7. Y U NO Guy
Y u no guy is a cartoon featuring a highly annoyed face, with his hands out and palms outward, as if screaming ‘Y U NO?’. It characteristically uses ‘text’ style grammar. It first appeared on Tumblr on LOLTumblrWallpapers, which instantly received 10,000 reblogs.
Y U NO GUY is inspired by a character from Gantz, on Chapter 55: Naked King. His facial expression shows extreme rage and frustration.
Other internet meme characters that are part of the Rage comics include Cereal Guy, Lol Guy, Okay Guy, Forever Alone, PFFFFT, Troll face, Me Gusta and more.
Memes as Promotional and Marketing Tools
Memes should not be seen as a link building tool, but rather as an effective promotional and marketing tool. Viewers can relate better to a meme than a long article. Thus it is effective in creating a loyal online following base, where they can keep on coming back to your website. The meme can create ‘trust’ and ‘loyalty’ in your web base, an integral value in marketing.
But memes can travel from one site to another, from one social networking site to another, thus you cannot be the sole carrier of the meme even if you are the owner. How can your site benefit from the meme if this is the case?
Of course you are recognized as the source of the meme. As the internet meme gets more popular, searches increase and thus bring more visitors to your web site. Successful meme marketing is a lot like viral marketing. It builds up online credibility, increasing social popularity. More and more people come to your site web site. If they enjoy it, they share it to their fellow friends. Thus it creates a domino effect, reaching millions of viewers in a short time. Memes are like a self-replicating virus.
Memes may work like magic overnight, or they may take time to spread. Social networking web sites aid in spreading your internet meme. Because of this, social networking is the perfect avenue to test the success of your meme by tracking its popularity and reading comments and reviews. Memes are still largely unknown and mysterious even to the best researchers, but one thing is known: memes are one of the most important tools in online marketing today.