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Memes for Your Marketing?

Memes for Your Marketing?

September 11, 2014

How often do you see a sign, hear a sound,  or read a  couple of words and instantly know the  story behind the tidbit of information? These are called “memes” (learn how to pronounce it here) and they can help you market your business.  

In every culture — and sometimes even universally — there are nuggets of communication wrapped up in phrases,  photos, gestures, or sounds, and we all collectively know what they mean: we “get it.”  These are passed from one individual to another; sometimes imitated, mocked, or parodied; and eventually they become part of our collective cultural consciousness.   

For example, imagine you shared a new idea with me. If I said, “sounds half-baked to me,” you know I mean your idea is incomplete or unfinished. If I gave you a thumbs up, I show that I like it.

We encounter memes all the time without even knowing it  For example, if you hear the first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in a movie,  it indicates that something intense is about to happen.  If you see a cartoon with someone holding his stomach or with a white tongue sticking out, it means he’s sick.


Call us at 410-235-7070 to schedule a Quick Start to find out how you can use memes in your business strategy.


Memes have been compared to genes, in that they travel from one person to another carrying  information. You’ll find a ton of them all over the Internet, but memes are  so much more than dancing babies and LOLcats with cute comments.  

In fact, memes were around long before the Internet.  “Kilroy was here” was a small  piece of graffiti drawn often during World War II. The graffiti indicated that American troops had been there, and it ended up all over the world. Eventually, it became a sign for being in remote or unique places, and the phrase was even rumored to have been found atop Mount Everest. But, as with many memes, “Kilroy was here” faded over time.  


Other memes change over time. The phrase “CC me” once meant “carbon copy me” — literally, to make a copy by placing a sheet of carbon paper between the original and another sheet of paper. (Note to readers under 30: this was a long time ago.) Now, “cc me” means to include someone on an email.  

A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words

Photos can carry memes too. Visuals are a powerful means of generating emotion, and visual memes can be an effective means of reaching your audience.  

Consider the following split-test for Highrise, a small business CRM used to keep track of contacts for your business.

Adding a picture of a person increased the response rate to the ad by 102.5% in the A|B testing posted on Basecamp’s Signal vs. Noise blog.  Subsequent testing with various people showed that response rates didn’t change depending on the person in the image — the response rate lift came from adding any smiling person. That's because a smiling person is a simple, universal meme. Smiling user = I’m happy with this product or service.

Memes can make bold statements, take a stance, or convey a message through humor.  Consider these photos from some of our Business GPS blog archives. What do they convey?