Marketing, Jacking and Mining Memes

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One bubbling trend in online marketing is meme marketing.

Heck, there’s even a Pinterest board dedicated to the topic.

Memes are ideas, behaviors or styles that spreads from person to person within a culture. It’s a very popular online term within the tech community to discuss “viral” groupthink.

Now guerrilla marketers and companies want to create their own memes.

But that’s really just the latest version of viral marketing.

As we know, unless you have the just the right formula of relevancy, creative hook, real group interest, luck, and a damn good news day, meme launches have an extremely small chance of success.

Just consider how many witty remarks you have made online, and how many times those remarks got retweeted or reshared more than 100 times.

It’s not that you shouldn’t try these out-of-the-box methods, but know what you are facing.

So right out of the gate, meme marketing seems to be a respun version of viral marketing to bamboozle companies into shelling out dollars. Perhaps it may be better to include this tactic as part of a wider series of guerrilla marketing strategies.

“Meme Jacking” Lacks Strategy

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Hubspot published a post last summer about how to meme-jack, which is a hybridized term playing off of David Meerman Scott’s newsjacking concept. Meme-jacking entails riding the coattails of someone else’s meme, for example Gangnam Style.

The article was tactically well grounded in its precepts of audience relevancy and marketing. But is meme-jacking a good strategy?

Memes are great for relevancy IF you have an obvious tie to the meme OR you’re an online pundit whose writing/content basically lives off of commenting about news and other people’s ideas.

Otherwise, they have little brand value.

It’s hard to make a clear statement to customer when you are also writing to amuse or participate in a second idea or concept. You instantly diffuse your brand message.

As a result, meme-jacks don’t do much other than entertain and serve as a reminder about your value proposition.

Basically, you cannot or are unwilling to invest in unique content and ideas. So you resort to hijacking something else.

Relying on meme-jacking should be a big warning sign about the strength of your overall marketing strategy (again, excluding pundits).

Meme Mining

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Other companies and news outlets increasingly use big data filters to determine hot trends and ideas to mine.

What this basically assumes is that you have enough social listening power to harness the chatter in your community(its) of choice.

One could say they are mining or farming memes, seeking out the next best thing.

Larger enterprise like Dell already do this with their social media command center.

The Huffington Post does the same, assigning stories to reporters on topics that bubble up in social communities. Then the Post becomes one of the first big publications to report on a topic, a big part of the site’s growing popularity as a news venue.

Generally, meme mining seems like a much smarter approach to using emerging trend data to create meaningful product and information experiences. It provides actionable intelligence based on your community.

This would be an area to explore further…

What do you think of the meme marketing trend?

22 Replies to “Marketing, Jacking and Mining Memes”

  1. Whenever I see a company jump on a meme, unless the have absolutely perfect execution, I end up thinking that they must not have had any good ideas of their own. This is one reason that I find lip synced/dubbed viral videos so confounding. What the heck does dancing around to a catchy song have to do with selling software, or shoes, or consulting services?

    Now, like I said, some organizations pull it off so well that you have to give them respect, but most of the time, it, like you say, just dilutes their brand and, in my opinion, strains the attention of their stakeholders all in an effort to get social shares and inbound links.

    1. I think that’s the issue. It often looks weak, and unnecessary, almost out of left field. You have to be thoughtful about these and decide whether it really makes sense. That’s why I think memes serve companies better from an intelligence standpoint rather than a pro-active marketing approach…

      1. @twitter-92096544:disqus Thanks, my man.

        @geofflivingston:disqus Oh, come now. You could totally reorient your business around Good Guy Greg or Gangnam Style or something like that and still succeed, couldn’t you? ;)

  2. If participation in the meme aligns with the business/brand, I don’t see any harm in it. Memes are popular because they resonate. If the brand is genuine, they will get the meme, and their contribution will be worthwhile. I wouldn’t call this meme-jacking, as the meme is part of the culture.

    Of course, those brands which are clearly corporate shills will be the ones actually doing the meme-jacking, as they’re not in it to participate so much as to imply a false reality (like the rest of their marketing spin) around their value proposition.

    Advocating meme-jacking is akin, in my mind, to advocating car-jacking. Take something that isn’t yours, in which your interests are monetary and self-serving, and take it as your own.

    1. So, here’s the truth. The term jacking makes me think of the 80s when I was a boy. There was one connotation with jacking, only one, and it was beating off. Every time I hear the term, I have a negative thought about it. Like someone is a jerk off for newsjacking! LOL!

      1. It’s New Jack City all over again!

        Or should I have made a Johnny Mnemonic reference? Matrix? “Tank, load the meme-jumping program.”


        Sent from Tmo SGS2. Please excuse typos, brevity. Thanks.

  3. Does most of this come from the notion of making a fast buck? All the marketing books, blogs, etc I read tell me that it takes time and effort to gain exposure/engagement and here we are taking the Hollywood approach to sharing our ideas, product, whatever.

    I can see the mining approach working provided it fits the niche you are working within.

    1. Yeah, I think it’s quick reactive marketing trying to leverage current news. It’s really a not so savvy approach. Look at Red Bull, they make the news with their guerilla marketing. A better approach.

  4. I think that trying to create a meme or viral marketing campaign is like searching for the Holy Grail. Focusing on being consistently good is a more feasible and practical goal that could have real rewards. Trying to create a new meme would be like saying I am going to give some one the “Rachel” haircut from Friends, too much pressure and almost certain to fail. Does that mean that you didn’t create something of quality? No. The risk for companies that is that memes can quickly get overplayed and people may tune out on your message.

    1. I agree with that. When you consider how Red Bull creates viral campaigns a) they have a lot of misfires and b) they’ve basically turned marketing into a media company. The result is they are in the professional entertainment business. So it’s a different approach. A marketing department in the traditional sense cannot replicate that.

  5. It’s rarely done well unless by accident. And therein lies one of the issues. If you’re trying to be funny, you more than likely aren’t. Same concept as creating a viral video.

    But more importantly, as you said, it’s not a strategic approach unless you’re simply trying to build awareness. If you have a truly awesome product/service, you shouldn’t need a meme. The “so and so is not impressed meme” was driving me up a wall. :)

    1. Well said, Lisa. Trying to be funny is hard. Being a funny dork because you are awkward… Oh, wait a minute.

      Meme’s are community driven. That’s what makes them special.

  6. This could be a double edged sword because sometimes brands are so quick on the “what’s hot” trigger that they say and do stupid things. There’s a lot more potential for harm (or just eye rolling) than grabbing the brass ring. To some of the other points here, if it’s relevant to the brand then it’s something to try. I prefer to stay in my own lane and let the meme-makers be in theirs!

    1. I agree. In many ways the risk far outweighs the rewards. It’s kid of like watching people line up at a poker table to get rich. That’s why I don’t play poker!

  7. Personally I think it’s all just smoke and mirrors. But, if I had to choose a strategy involving memes, I would say that meme mining is the way to go. At least in that instance you still have an opportunity to add value. Either way, dude, you and me, Gangnam Style video! Let’s do it!

  8. I am not a fan of memejacking at all. It is a short term strategy in which people hope to hit a home run and it is not without risk. Do it poorly and you are inviting a crowd of people to mock you.

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