A meme as defined by Merriam Webster Dictionary is “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.” These pictures, videos, slogans, and more have swept the internet and made us all gawk and say “Erme Gward Intrenert.”
However the implications of these images are much greater than a LOL-ing cat with words in front of it.
They have impacted our culture; they have already changed marketing strategies, political discourse, and causes.
In terms of marketing, memes have changed everything. High quality commercials have been subdued to quarky lower budget silly internet videos, because of the popularity and reaching power of memes. This is best exemplified by the Old Spice Guy commercial, a commercial taken in one take and one camera.
The video featured football player Isaih Mustaffa as “the man you wish your man could smell like” a quarky, funny way of saying he’s hunky and you should but old spice. The silliness and accessibility of the video caused it to spin off not just into more Old Spice made commercials, but parodies, tributes, macro-memes (pictures with text in front of them). They ranged from do it yourself kids in towels to page three super models with copies of the Sun.
All resulting in more sales of Old Spice. As AdWeek reports on July 27th 2012 that sales went up a whopping 107% after the commercial. So others have followed, with user made Cheeto commercials and DollarShaveClub.com commercial.
If you can get a video to trend and replicate itself through fans, you get uproarious amounts of brand recognition as well as opportunities to win people over to your products.
Second it has also changed our political discourse. After each subsequent debate there were meme’s based off of words and saying said by candidates, primarily Mitt Romney. From Binders FULL of Women to Horses and Bayonets an audience was captivated.
However the action of gaining and disseminating knowledge through memes makes a sound bite and an overly large focus from the public to the image and saying. This amount of focus makes the other messages or even the message of the words on the macro-meme itself lost in translation from English to Internet.
Finally memes often delegitimize the causes they’re trying to help. The internet is an empowering place, but it can empower people to do dumb things... Take the meme Ridiculously Photogenic Syrian Soldier a man who as Foreign Policy Magazine on August 15th 2012 calls “A Weapon of Mass Seduction.”
This meaty image shifts the focus of the conflict from the brutality of war and need for intervention to a scene of the Expendables 2. I mean a strapping good looking guy walking away with a rocket launcher- doesn't scream I need help or there are humanitarian problems in Syria, or really any message other than, “Hey girl, want some of my falafel? ;) .” Images like this hurt causes through distraction, by shifting our focus from pain to humor.
Meme culture it seems has captivated a generation with funny looking pictures, videos, words and more; but it been shown that our love and use of memes has impacted the IRL in marketing, political and social sectors of our daily lives. So though we may give up on a meme after a time they’ll never give you up…;)