In the last week, when you were on one of your swipe-up marathons on Instagram or Twitter, you may have noticed a new meme on the block. In these memes, Dominic Toretto (played by Vin Diesel) is in another film or tv series universe and defeats the antagonist with the power of- you know it!- family. As funny as the meme is, we can't help but ponder upon the agenda behind the sudden inflation of the 'family' memes.
If you actively follow the escapades of Dominic Toretto and family, which is, by the way, the seventh highest-grossing film series by the way, you might know of a new sequel has been released this year. Even if you aren't a fan, you must be well aware of that fact now. The movie, which is yet to be released worldwide, just got all the free, crowd-sourced promotion it needed with the help of a simple tool, or art as some calls it- memes.
But what is a meme?
According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, A meme is an idea, behavior, or style that spreads by means of imitation from person to person within a culture and often carries symbolic meaning representing a particular phenomenon or theme.
In the current world, memes are spread across the internet mostly for humourous purposes."Humourous purposes" is the keyword here. Brands, wanting to jump on the what's-popular-now wagon, have tried using memes and have failed in creating an impact simply because they couldn't understand the nuances present subtly in each meme template. But there are success stories too.
When Joe Biden was inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States, among the crowd was a humble figure sitting on a foldable chair, bracing himself from the cold by wearing a pair of cozy woolen mittens and an army-green coloured jacket. If you follow memes religiously like most youngsters, you will know that I'm talking about the United States senator Bernie Sanders. As memes emerged, some brands soon caught up with the hype and created memes promoting their brands effectively because they kept the humour intact.
This is an example of how brands use trending memes to promote their brands. On the other hand, there are brands who turn themselves into a meme. Nusret Gökçe, more popularly known as Salt Bae, is a Turkish chef who turned into an internet sensation because a video of him sprinkling salt on a slab of meat went viral. Soon, people across the world, including celebrities, started visiting his restaurants to experience Salt Bae's prowess themselves. As of July 2021, his net worth is around $50- $60 million USD.
We can't talk about memes and not mention Elon Musk, can we? An entire article is required to talk about the hand-in-hand journey of Elon Musk and memes. So, let's take one example- Tesla CyberTruck. The truck is expected to hit the market by late 2021 but the truck has been popular on social media since its unveiling in November 2019. The reason? The event didn't happen in a conventional way. The truck which supposedly had bullet-proof windows shattered when a metal ball was thrown at it. Whether this was done intentionally or not can be debated. But the impact it had cannot be. Memers (people who create and distribute memes) all across social media were excited about their new template and meme consumers were enjoying a fresh meme. This effective marketing tactic has people waiting for the vehicle to hit the markets for over one and a half years now.
A study was conducted by a group of researchers on the effectiveness of memes marketing. They found that the values like utilitarian and hedonic brought by internet memes can indeed impact the "purchase intention" of consumers. Plus, the added factor that creating a meme literally takes nothing out of your wallet is why brands dip their toe into "meme marketing" from time to time. But meme-marketing isn't synonym with success, as some brands learned after embarrassing themselves. Brands have failed to understand the humour behind a meme template before using it, resulting in their audience getting confused. An example of this is when McDonald's used a meme template to cater to their young audience which backfired.
If done well, this trending marketing tool can effectively grow a brand's business and increase its followers.