Before we delve into memejacking it is probably best to clarify what an internet meme actually is. When we hear the word ‘meme’ most of us think of an image with a funny caption but, in essence, a meme can be an image, phrase, rumour, hashtag, link, audio or video file that propagates a certain idea or perception and that is spread across the internet (usually via social media) from person to person.
What is important to note is that, technically speaking, for something to be a called a meme, it needs to have gone viral. This is best explained by analysing the origin of the word: The term was coined in 1976 by Richard Dawkins, a British evolutionary biologist. It is derived from the Greek word mimeme which means ‘imitation thing’. Dawkins coined the term for his ground-breaking book on evolution, ‘The Selfish Gene’, to explain the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena. The important word here is ‘spread’. If the idea does not spread, it cannot be called a meme and a cultural phenomenon wouldn’t be called a cultural phenomenon if it hadn’t spread to a phenomenal amount of people.
Although a meme can take on a variety of forms, for the purpose of this blog, let us focus on the most popular of these, namely, the image meme, and let us, for the sake of convenience, refer to image memes (whether they’ve gone viral or not), as simply ‘memes’.
Why Memes are so Successful
There is no denying that memes are extremely popular. Not a day goes by that we don’t see tons of theses on social media - and no other type of content attracts likes and shares faster. The question is why?
The reason is twofold. Firstly, human beings are predominately visual, meaning that on a physiological level we respond better to images than any other type of content. In other words, it’s just the way in which we are wired.
Secondly, and according to a study by the Statistic Brain Research Institute, the average attention span of an internet user is 8.25 seconds, about 0.75 seconds less than that of a goldfish.
Considering these two facts, it becomes clear that visual content is the king of content and why we find images easier and faster to digest than videos.
Memes and Marketing
Numerous brands have made memes the focus of their social strategies and are experiencing a level of viral success that is largely unrivalled by their other content efforts or competitors.
In South Africa, the obvious example would be the fast food chicken franchise, Nandos. These guys have taken tactical advertising to a whole new level. They pride themselves on pointing out the awkward happenings on our political landscape and manage to make witty connections between these happenings and their product offerings. For their approach to marketing, memes work exceptionally well.
But what if you’ve delved into this approach without much success? Does this mean that memes are not for you?
The short answer would be no, not until you’ve tried memejacking.
What is Memejacking?
In essence, memejacking means using a popular meme for your own purpose. You take a popular meme and repost it with a new caption. This caption often places the meme into a new context and, if done effectively, adds to or revives its popularity.
The Advantages of Memejacking
The greatest advantage of memejacking is that you are leveraging content that has already gone viral, meaning that the odds of your meme going viral are in your favour. Memes are also easy to create, so they won’t take up much time.
Considering that content is so important when it comes to digital marketing, what could be better than having a content type in your repertoire that is easy to create and that stands a decent chance at giving you good results?
Understanding Connotations and the Dangers of going the Nandos Route
You could use a popular meme to comment on current affairs and somehow tie it into your product or service offering (basically apply the Nandos route to a jacked meme) - although this approach could be risky. Not everyone has the social following that Nandos has, and people’s perception and expectations of your brand might also be different. In other words, your followers might not appreciate the Nandos’ approach, and the public in general might appreciate this approach from Nandos but not necessarily from you.
That being said, it is also important to fully understand the connotations that come with a meme before utilising it. You need to know where the meme originated, the different incarnations it went through, and make doubly sure that you don’t offend your followers by utilising it.
The Best Approach to Meme Creation
First and foremost, you should do some target audience research and identify the kind of ideas and perceptions that your followers appreciate. The importance of this cannot be overemphasised, because if you offend your followers, you could lose them, and if the news of you meme-fail spreads, it could cause irreparable damage to the reputation of your brand on a greater scale.
Secondly (and this point is no less important), you need to be able to make the meme applicable to your industry, to what you do and what you stand for. If you cannot relate a meme to these things, don’t force it, because even though a forced meme might not be as bad as an offensive meme, it still won’t do your brand any favours.
How Do I Physically Create Memes?
There are numerous free meme generators on the net that offer readymade templates of the most popular memes. Have a look at these two: meme generator and quickmeme. If you’ve identified a popular meme that you want to use, it also helps to Google a meme generator for that specific meme. Yes, a lot of the time they do exist.
Anything Else I Should Know?
Be witty. The most successful memes are. The definition of being witty: the ability to make a clever observation in an amusing way.
Also try to stick to the format and layout of the original meme in so far as it is possible. The connection to the original needs to be maintained or both you and your followers will miss out on the joke.
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