The Meme Effect
There have been many internet crazes since the inception of the World Wide Web in 1989. Most are short-lived and seem to blow up overnight but fade almost as quickly. Some of these fleeting fads include the ice-bucket challenge, planking and the outrageously obnoxious supermarket-based spectacle that was gallon smashing.
But other online crazes have proved far more steadfast. Some have even earned a permanent place in the hallowed halls of internet phenomena. The selfie trend is one. Motivational posters also count. Memes are another.
The most popular form of internet memes are captioned photographs that were created to be funny and make people laugh. For the most part, these funny memes are light-hearted, but memes can also be philosophical, nonsensical and sometimes just downright mean.
The Meme Gene
Richard Dawkins is a British evolutionary biologist who coined the word meme. He wrote about it in his 1976 bestseller The Selfish Gene. Richard theorized about cultural propagation and the notion that ideas, beliefs, and behaviors could spread from person to person. He even used a virus as an analogy to describe and define the word meme.
Here is an extract from The Selfish Gene:
“We need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. ‘Mimeme’ comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like ‘gene’. I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme. If it is any consolation, it could alternatively be thought of as being related to ‘memory’, or to the French word même. It should be pronounced to rhyme with ‘cream’.”
But then the internet then does what it does best, which is repackage an idea to suit its own needs. Today the concept of a meme is widely associated with grumpy cats, triumphant toddlers and even Richard Dawkins himself. Very few people would link memes to genetic conveyance.
What do you meme?
The earliest internet memes date back twenty years and the more popular ones are still shared today. One such enduring example is inspired by 1989 Genesis game called Zero Wing. The basic image and broken English paved the way for a whole category of memes based on bad grammar and mispronunciations.
The subject choice of memes mainly arises from social interactions. There are infinite memes around everyday life activities like work, relationships and socializing. Many memes use images with exaggerated expressions of emotions. The more extreme the more comedic!
Other memes take inspiration from pop culture references and have become a means to make fun of, and in some cases commend, celebrities, sports stars, and political figures. Basically, if you have a famous face you run the risk of becoming the next big meme!
Memes aren’t just for millennials either. Memes appeal to every age from the digital natives of Gen Y to the Baby Boomers. But most telling is how marketers have realized the value of memes. Memes are synonymous with ‘going viral’ – an expression sure to grab the attention of marketers, brands, and business owners. Meme Marketing is definitely a thing, and it is used as means of advertising with the hope that the viral nature of memes will lend itself to widespread exposure.
There are loads of different styles of meme out there and if you want to create your own it’s good to be aware of the options. Here is a list of the most popular memes out there and some tips on how to create them.
Photo + Text
This is the original style of meme and it is the easiest to create. Start with a photo, depending on the audience use one of your own image or someone you know (with their permission) and then add your caption. Another route is to use stock images. Design Wizard has a library of over 1.2 million images, all of them copyright free. You need to own the rights to the photo in your meme and if you don’t you run the risk of getting sued.
The true magic of memes lies in the caption. It should be short and witty!
Photo + Text Box
The latest wave of memes includes a separate white box for text, either above or below the image. This space leaves room for more words and even insert dialogue. These memes are perfect formats for greeting cards and event invitations. One particularly popular approach is to have the word Me: and suggest that whatever is happening in the image is your reaction.
Illustration + Text
Illustrative memes are simple to make but having the correct kind of illustration is important. They should be simple sketches with very little detail. Things like stick figures and basic shapes work best. Coaxed into a Snafu is one of the most famous illustrative style memes. In a case of art imitating art, they are often used to make fun of other memes.
Whether memes are intended for a few eyes only or they are part of a larger marketing campaign, they should be fun to make, send and receive. Stay on the right side of humor to get the best reaction!