Internet memes (“meems”). What are they? They’re widely mispronounced (don’t feel bad, I thought it was “me me” too). They also equate to every marketer’s dream: viral ideas, behavior or concepts that explode all over the internet into a frenzy of shares, likes, tweets and most notably, copycats.

There are good memes (that involve Ryan Gosling) and bad ones (like planking or Rebecca Black), but we all participate in the madness that makes them go viral. So how do these concepts get so much exposure and why do we care? Digging into the depths of a meme can teach us a thing or two regarding our own campaigns, whether it be email, content or social marketing. Let’s learn from memes:

You Tell ’em – Content Marketing

The phrase “content is king” may be overused, but the concept isn’t overrated. Becoming a storyteller of sorts when it comes to content marketing is vital if we really want to resonate with our audience. However, is catchy content enough to retain our readers? Bob Knorpp from The BeanCast said it best in AdAge: “We need to show people a richer story. We need to show them why they should be compelled to come back again and again and why they should share it with their friends. We need to think less like a movie and more like an episodic sitcom – an unfolding story that is greater than the story of each individual episode. This is the secret sauce of going viral.”An excellent example would be the series of infomercial videos by Blendtec. In each “Will it Blend?” video, Tom Dickson, founder of Blendtec, attempts to blend unique items in a mixer including a cell phone, a video camera, and most famously, their “Cochicken.” The videos, piquing inquisitive minds, kept audience members coming back for more to witness the wacky and wild blend ups. Was this successful for Blendtec? Dickson is quoted as saying, “The campaign took off almost instantly. We have definitely felt an impact in sales. Will it Blend has had an amazing impact to our commercial and our retail products.”

Quote Me On That  Embracing Competition

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and by now, co-creators Graydon Sheppard and Kyle Humphrey of the meme Sh*t Girls Say must feel like the prettiest ‘girls’ in the world. The YouTube videos of Graydon in drag spouting stereotypical phrases have spawned an uncountable number of Sh*t (someone) Say(s) videos. The competition includes: Sh*t Fashion Girls Say, Sh*t San Franciscans Say, Sh*t Nobody Says, and even Sh*t People Say About Sh*t People Say Videos. As you can see, the list is never ending and everyone wants a ‘say.’ While the Sh*t Girls Say knockoffs aren’t made by the original creators, the exposure only prolongs the life of their meme, expands their audience, and keeps the concept going strong. In an interview with The A.V. Club, Sheppard was asked about the copycats cropping up. “It’s absolutely flattering!” he says. “I mean, the Sh*t Black Girls Say guys credited us in the actual video, and below. And the other ones are all referencing back to us, so it only serves to bring more views to our videos. I’m not at all threatened. It’s fun to see people’s takes on it.”

 Tap That – Understanding Your Audience

It’s hard to believe that actor Ryan Gosling is human, but (sigh) he actually is! Celebrities grace our computer screens all the time, so why is the “Hey Girl,” Ryan Gosling meme, (from the F*ck Yeah! Ryan Gosling Tumblr blog) so ‘goo-goo for Gosling’ popular? It appeals to the right audience within the right social media platform.

Pictures of Gosling donning personal messages that start with “Hey Girl,” resonate (i.e. tug at the heart strings & humor chords) of its readers. More than half of Tumblr’s demographic is under the age of 25, and this particular meme, with a swoon-worthy celebrity, taps into their desires and keeps them coming back. The original Tumblr blog has spawned off equally popular Tumblr blogs including, Feminist Ryan Gosling, Handmade Ryan Gosling, and Silicon Valley Ryan Gosling.

If You Can’t Beat ’em, Join ’em! – RelevancyNot all of us will whip up the next big meme, but joining in on the fun (while giving appropriate credit), not only shows that your business can sell a product, but remain socially relevant and creative too. Jiffy Cabs created a newspaper ad using the meme “Socially Awkward Penguin,” a series of pictures depicting a penguin with text narrating life’s awkward moments. The ad stating, “Taking cab alone… Don’t know whether to sit in front or back,” honed in on the humor of a meme while tying it into their services. Who doesn’t appreciate some humor and relevancy amongst the sell, sell, sell?


So tell me, which memes do you find successful and which ones do you think should just go away? (My favorites: Sh*t Fashion Girls Say (2), and Xzibit Yo Dawg).

© 2012 – 2018, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

Related Blogs

Ready to apply what you've
learned about Email