Dysrupt is a 💎✋ marketing firm and not above the occasional meme trend. With all the news of r/wallstreetbets, RobinHood, $GME, etc. we want to take a step back and deep dive on this often used internet term with an interesting history - *meme.
Meme as a term predates internet culture. Originally coined by Richard Dawkins in 1976 in his groundbreaking book The Selfish Gene.
Dawkins conceived of memes as the cultural parallel to biological genes and considered them, in a manner similar to “selfish” genes, as being in control of their own reproduction and thus serving their own ends. Understood in those terms, memes carry information, are replicated, and are transmitted from one person to another, and they have the ability to evolve, mutating at random and undergoing natural selection, with or without impacts on human fitness (reproduction and survival). - link
Dawkins himself defined meme as a noun that "conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation."
The Selfish Gene was groundbreaking due to meme kicking off a deeper investigation in **academia around the extent of evolutionary processes that are unrelated to genes.
Memes though are units of cultural significance. If they are repeated then they carry more significance than those that fail to replicate.
Here is a silly example: the cleaning crew in a hotel folding the toilet paper into a triangular shape is a meme. This happens worldwide now - even in some gas station bathrooms - and is an artifact of culture. It is a transfer of information in the network of humanity. This is a recent invention of culture which now carries a significance. Namely that the room was cleaned by a professional who spared no expense as they even decided to fold the toilet paper end into a small triangle.
In this light, the modern use of meme just being easily shareable phrases, images, gifs, etc. is a limited use of the term. It can extend to anything that is imitated within culture. Everything from the mundane - Fork, Knife, Spoon placement on a table - to the absurd - Qanon.
We are a marketing firm and the recent explosion of meme stocks has been a fascinating watch in the power of community and how it empowers a movement. If you are in the business of brand building, you are trying to gain attention and direct it to action.
r/WallStreetBets created a movement of directing a group of disjointed individuals via the glue of memes. These memes allow the group to have a shared language and jokes that bond via an in group mentality. Their “units of imitation” are simple to replicate and share.
The brazen ridiculousness of all the terms makes them even more mockable which requires sharing and imitation and bonding of the in-group.
Budweiser made a meme with its “Wassupp” ad. TikTok’s Duet feature and many other product features on platforms are meme engines. (Memegins?) Share buttons are littered throughout the internet. Every piece of content screams to be replicated.
Yes r/WallstreetBets has a lot of weird language but after about 15 minutes you’ll start typing 🚀 🌕 with little thought and will start judging the 📜 ✋ in the midst who cost you tendies.
Easy to imitate and through the imitation the group improves upon the original idea. The successes are repeated and become even more shareable and immitatable. This is the evolutionary process Dawkins keyed into. Failure is easy to define as it is just content that is not replicated and shared.
The flywheel is that the sharing and imitation increases further sharing. Understanding how to bring this to your brand, your community, can be key to kickstarting your own movement.
Bad stories are forgotten. Good stories are remembered. Great stories are retold.
The retelling and sharing within culture is the power of brand advertising.
In fact, this might be the easiest way to differentiate between brand and direct response ads. Direct response ads are judged on product sales and perhaps help define a brand.
Brand ads should be judged on the great story criteria - are they retold? Shared? Imitated? Sales will come from causing this replication.
* How to pronounce: meme rhymes with gene.
** Aaron Lynch in his book Thought Contagion defined 7 patterns of transmission for memes: Quantity of parenthood, Efficiency of parenthood, Proselytic, Preservational, Adversative, Cognitive, Motivational.