A meme is an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture. While genes transmit biological information, memes are said to transmit ideas and belief information. A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena (via Wikipedia).
Memes are the backbone of marketing communications. That said, there is little discussion of them in most typical client/agency workflows In marketing textbooks. In media kits. Even in our brainstorming sessions. We speak much about targeting, awareness, image building etc. Yet til recently, the notion of tapping into, harnessing and creating memes is rarely discussed amongst marketers or creative folks.
Social media platforms and smart phones are making the notion of memes much more relevant to creativity and communication strategy. Main reason is that these tools and platforms allow us to track the development, evolution and spread of memes as they act as conduits of communications. In addition, these tools allow memes to spread and develop at a pace never before experienced in human history, with little regard for geographic borders or socio-economic divides.
Memes can be trite and amusing- think Planking, or historically ground breaking- like the Arab Spring demonstrations for democracy. Memes can mutate and assume new purposes and identities- the conservative movement in this country is comprised of several evolving memes, from the Anti-abortion to the Anti-tax/spend, Neo-Cons etc. Whether serious or amusing, the important thing is for us to be cognizant of their specific roles in our communication plans and tactics.
At Budding Culture, we’re fond of the social model-
Tribes + Passion + Memes = Culture Movement
Because when communities are fired up to share ideas, culture evolves.
Along that line of reasoning, the challenge for us as marketers is to creatively and effectively leverage memes as part of our brands’ communication strategy. A challenge we’ll be writing more about in this space.
How do you leverage memes in marketing communications?