Memes monopolize our daily lives with messages that have a concentrated mix of topicality, virality and humor, but do you know everything about them? How can you use memes for your brand? Find out more by reading our blog!
They make us laugh, they tell us about our daily lives, they respond to all kinds of situations and places. It is the ultimate weapon in digital communication. The Swiss Army Knife of every Twitter user. In this blog we will talk about memes, how they have emerged, how they are used and what is their development in the current context of social communication through social media. Let’s go with this!
What is a meme
The origin of the word «meme» was given by Richard Dawkins in 1976, a concept he created to define ideas and cultural patterns that replicate and develop. In his sociological development, he derives the meme to a habitual practice that adapts to a social use as, for example, was blowing out candles on birthdays. That said, we may think that this definition is a bit exaggerated for what a meme is today in our social interaction. Dawkins went so far as to say that a meme is part of the cultural DNA of a society, and although today at a general level it may be a bit outdated, in the digital context it has been an indispensable format for communication since the first forums such as 4chan.
Today, the meme can be defined as a digital format that can be in origin any kind of thing (video, audio, image, illustration, photograph, movie clip…) placed in a certain context to talk about something, mainly current, in a humorous tone and with the characteristic of being viral, which makes it accepted by the community, and at the same time volatile, which does not need to be maintained in time in perpetuity.
It is important to highlight that a meme can be born from anything. In these last few days, we can see how a clip from the last season of «The Boys» with Homelander as the main character is used. This clip out of the television context accompanied by a text written by the user understands what a meme is. But not all are famous images of series or movies, there are even memes of stock images such as the famous girl (nicknamed disaster girl) or the guy who goes with his girlfriend hand in hand and turns to check out another female walking past (distracted boyfriend).
Nowadays, the meme responds to a very important communication issue: synthesis. We are facing a context of shorter and shorter content and the maximization of the quantity of content against the length or density of content. This is something we already talked about in our blog about TikTok and how video had evolved to maximum simplicity and dynamism. In the case of the meme, it responds using the same practice of saying more with the less. Complex feelings and situations contextualized in complex political and economic moments can be expressed with humor in just one image.
That is why, regardless of age, the meme is a digital format that breaks the barriers of the generation gap and is equally useful for everyone thanks to its simplicity and universality in language.
Moreover, although we will discuss this later when we talk about the relationship between memes and Twitter, the meme currently responds to a question of identity and certain memes end up being a common image of social movements of all kinds, whether political, sports, sexual identity or culture. So far this universal virtue has been based on being so simple that anyone can make their own and participate in the conversation and, at some stage, it has been a tool for social communication against the political, economic and business class that until now had also used social networks from a formal and informative point of view.
Memes are to Twitter what gin is to tonic. Right for each other. Although probably the largest repository of memes in the world is Reddit, Twitter is by far the one with the most real social capacity. Its use in this network is born from the public traffic of the main forums, putative parents of the social network of the little bird, such as 4chan in English and Forocoches in Spanish.
The meme was born to troll, hence classic memes as troll face, with the sole purpose of teasing someone, make a joke, and that is where after all the development of the meme to what it is today, remains latent for twitter and its users. In this social network, where the minimization of content was a priority from the beginning with its limitation of characters, today the meme is a communication tool of the highest level of intelligence and sense of humor.
The fact that Twitter has maximized the use of this format and that it has become what it is today, has also made the meme part of the news, not only to refer to it, and as we have been saying, it has become part of the social identity of many users. A case in point is the Pepe the Frog, originally a simple caricature made with Paint to express feelings in a comical way, but used by the American Alt right as a political symbol that identifies them as a cross of honor among users.
This is not the only case, and it is increasingly common to find similar elements in memes that identify a style of thought or social tribe within Twitter. But above all, what we can highlight about the meme on Twitter is that it has become the universal weapon of the people as a form of opinion and interaction against the political class and, best of all, is that even with all the media and cabinets they can’t fight memes.
Application to brand identity
Once the meme language/format has become the canon of social communication, many brands have seen a need to adapt to it, thus empathizing with their customers. Many brands have been able to talk about situations by empathizing with their customers, which has been a skillful way of approaching them.
But other brands have also preferred to misunderstand the concept and they are shooting themselves in the foot, using the format to laugh at unpleasant situations lived by their customers instead of empathizing, getting closer to them and going in the same direction, as is the case of Ryanair in Spain.
The strange thing about this is that in their original account in English, they use the meme format to get closer to their customers and build new ties.
We hope this little guide has been useful and helped you to understand what a meme is, why it is so viral now and why it must be your ultimate communication tool from now on. If you want to know more, contact us or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin or Twitter and we will let you know when we have something new to tell you. See you!