From Meme to Marketing: The Power of Viral Meaning-Creation

 

memes-what-you-think-it-memes-princess-bride

This morning whilst enjoying my leftover steak dinner turned steak omelet (waste not want not) I was also going through the Sunday paper coupons (as is a typical suburban Sunday morning activity – so I have observed).

Whilst perusing the pages of discounts for new, necessary hair care products and butter substitutes I came across this full page ad / coupon combo that made my consumer anthropologist nerve center tingle:

BlHWYafIYAAgUfh

This is just one of a long list of once random internet memes that have been adapted and adopted by brads for their marketing draw.  This is a practice aptly labeled “memejacking”.    It has been going on since internet memes started becoming “a thing”, as detailed in this 2012 article on the top 10 internet memes masquerading as marketing .  But what struck me was how this meme had moved from the “internets” to a Sunday paper coupon.  Proving memes are now no longer relegated to the hipster “inside joke” set but now have as much mass appeal as vanilla ice cream.  But don’t let the idea lead you to believe memes have lost their luster.   Quite the contrary.  Memes are all about transmission of meaning and the internet has become the ideal mode for spreading them.

This about.com article defining internet memes and explaining the origin of the term  does a great job of putting the evolution of internet memes in context. For example:

“The “meme” word was first introduced by evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, in 1976. “Meme” comes from the Greek word “mimema” (meaning “something imitated”, American Heritage Dictionary). Dawkins described memes as a being a form of cultural propagation, a way for people to transmit social memories and cultural ideas to each other. Not unlike the way that DNA and life will spread from location to location, a meme idea will also travel from mind to mind.”

That same article points to some other great examples of internet memes from our recent history, like the classic “rickrolling” phenomenon that began in 2007, featured in this UK news story from “around then”

And who among us with their short-term memory still intact can forget

i-can-has-cheezburger

which rapidly evolved to own its own funny-animal-pictures-with-anthropomorphic-phrasing focused media property, icanhascheezburger.com . I daresay our dearly beloved Grumpy Cat should be grateful to his trailblazing predecessors in ridiculousness.

So, why are these internet memes a marketer’s dream? Obvious to most who are internet savvy or not living under a rock with no electricity, but laid out nicely in a a recent article on memejacking: why it works so well and how to do it :

They’re already established. Based on the previously mentioned definition, memes are not memes unless they’re already a popular, spreading theme throughout society. By using something that’s already popular and attaching a branded message, you’re leveraging the success of something that’s already gone viral without starting from the beginning. It’s easy street at its best.
They draw traffic. One of the most frustrating aspects of any marketing campaign is trying to drive traffic to a specific website. Memes do it for you. Regardless of their form, when they’re attached to a link, visitors are likely to check out the message behind the meme. They also attract likes and followers, increasing social network presences across the board.
We live in a culture that likes to share. Social media users of today are accustomed to going online and sharing the information they find. Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or another network, each one is designed to help users engage one another through sharing. If you’re meme attracts attention, it’s likely to be shared unlike any other marketing form.
They’re practically designed for social media. Along with being easy to share, social media networks tend to prioritize images and videos. Users want to see information that’s easy to process and sends a message without a lot of thought. This is a basic tenant of memes.
They couldn’t be easier to create. For any marketer, content creation is a regular activity that requires intense effort and thought. There’s no way around it: marketing campaigns are driven by targeted content. Because memes are simple to create and easy to share, they could become a staple of any successful marketing initiative.

An anthropological colleague of mine, Grant McCracken also wrote a more intensive “field guide” for marketers to help them understand how to leverage memes.  He did a couple of years ago it in the form of  a book entitled Culturematic , which I found to be a fun dive into the topic of the memetic experiment.  Indeed that very book inspired this very blog as it’s own experiment.  My goal was to write a blog a day for a year and see what comes of it.  Suffice to say, I am glad i did it and that this Narcissistic Anthropologist now has a successful outlet for her sociocultural musings.

Whatever your POV on internet memes or marketing, you must acknowledge one thing – that internet memes are a powerful example of the power of human creativity and the immeasurable value that our digital connection to one another can have to communicate new ideas on a global scale.  It also proves the value of humor in mobilizing the masses.    I don’t know that i have an appropriately anthropological answer for what that means for the future of marketing-kind or mankind, for that matter. But I do believe that we have an opportunity to think about how memes can help us shift our frame and change our game.   This phenomenon tells me that getting people’s attention isn’t so complicated and doesn’t need to be [fraught with fear or anger to call people to action.

A point to ponder as you continue about your day, and seek to find meaning in the messages that will cross your path.

For the marketers out there, I encourage you to seek meaning in the meme.  There is undoubtedly something appropriate for your brand out there – and it likely comes from the heart and mind of one of your most coveted influencers.  It goes to show that sometimes you don’t need to dig too deep into the magic of marketing science to find gold.  Sometimes the most innovative communication is right on your computer screen during a Facebook break.

meme-marketers

About these ads
Categories: Uncategorized, Anthropology, Culturematic, pop culture, Consumer Culture, Consumer Anthropology, Marketing, Art and culture, Technology, Culture, Advertising | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Getting to Know Joe: An Ethnographic Archaeological Snapshot

My friend just recently got divorced and is spending some re-grouping time at his Dad’s place, nestled quietly in a sleepy corner of the Hillsborough river in Tampa, Florida.

This neighborhood has yet to be the object of gentrification conquest, despite its waterfront “vibe” – leaving it to be enjoyed by the mostly retired if industry folks like Joe who call it home.

This was my second visit and I really enjoyed getting to know more about Joe as I documented some of the artifacts of his life.

Joe’s life work was as a systems engineer for a utilities company. One of the very first “computer geeks”, he spent his time writing code and developing computer systems in the era of punch-cards and mainframe rooms the size of a small residence.

He has been married and divorced four times and has been living the “bachelor” life for many years. He is proud of his adult kids and mostly pays homage to them by displaying their artwork. He volunteers one day a week and spends the bulk of his time practicing and performing Karaoke. He has a goal of reaching 3000 songs,for which he has never repeated a single one. He has raised his goal twice (once at 1000 and again at 2000).

He is frugal like most older folks not blessed with lottery winnings . ;). He is set in his ways and likes to transfer new products into previously used containers that he is used to. He is very organized and regimented. He eats specific things at specific times and keeps a tightly curated grocery cabinet and fridge.

He knows what he likes and what he doesn’t. Fortunately, he has learned to like having his son living with him and loves having guests.

So, Thank you, Joe, for allowing me and my small family (wife and two dogs) into your home this weekend. We enjoyed the beauty both inside and out.

Here is a photo-snapshot of Joe’s world.

!

20140401-092706.jpg

20140401-092735.jpg

20140401-092758.jpg

20140401-092816.jpg

20140401-092840.jpg

20140401-092856.jpg

20140401-092911.jpg

20140401-092920.jpg

20140401-092949.jpg

20140401-093008.jpg

20140401-093019.jpg

20140401-093035.jpg

20140401-093044.jpg

20140401-093125.jpg

20140401-094045.jpg

20140401-094115.jpg

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Talking Walls of Wynwood: The New Face of Creative Miami

Imagine South Florida, in all it’s hot, sticky, sunshine-laden sunburned glory – filled with pastel colored houses and apartments to repel the UV rays, cruise ships, retirees, the oceanfront and an ever-growing melange of cultural communities.  The Latin influence is strong there – in a way that gives the city a truly ethnic vibe that makes you feel like you are on a cultural immersion vacation – which this Narcissistic Anthropologist just loves!

A friend was telling me a popular phrase there is “I love Miami because it’s so close to the United States”.  I am sure that in some way this was initially meant to be a complaint by one of the slow-to-adapt natives (of which there are few, btw…”natives”, that is), but I revel in the awesomeness of that designation.  Miami truly has become its own cultural destination – whether you are recently immigrated looking for a taste of home or a local / tourist looking for an authentic cultural experience to hang on to in this dangling peninsula of transients and bronzed south-beach “beauties”.

And if  you travel a bit away from the beach into midtown, you have the opportunity to go even further down the rabbit-hole.   As the evening shade begins to cool down the pavement, you can stroll down blocks where the walls, sidewalks, and any municipal surface (including the bike racks,  garbage cans) are covered in art and the air wafts through, lightly scented with hints of marijuana and Gucci Rush.  It’s the only part of town where you can start off enjoying Latin-inspired tapas in a restaurant where the walls are filled head-to-toe with Shepard Fairey Murals, take a short stroll  around an expansive outdoor courtyard that doubles as a painted wall gallery, purchase a book on street art sculptures, have a cocktail outdoors on the bleachers of a “takes all kinds” (including dogs) watering hole complete with a life-size Jenga set while sharing some smoke with another human who knows no strangers, go hear a live Cumbia / Electronic music performance and then end up eating grilled cheese at a food Truck with Gallagher (yes – I mean the American comedian from the 80s who wore suspenders and smashed watermelons).

Wynwood is like Brooklyn, West Hollywood and Miami made a test tube baby that consisted mostly of their “good” genes.   And I for one am a new fan.  It is a far cry from the Miami I knew as a teenager growing up in South Florida and I couldn’t be more pleased with the creative haven.  As as far as I can tell, it has become a city to at least try out for a little while for both the cultural creatives and young , aspiring  and acculturating bourgeois. I definitely encourage a visit on your way to your next cruise or after a day at the beach.

I would like to thank my friend Andy for giving me a heartfelt tour.

Here is a “photo walk” of my evening in Wynwood – starting at a nearby “quintessential” creative high-rise residence and then hitting the streets:

IMG_3518 IMG_3520 IMG_3522 IMG_3527 IMG_3530 IMG_3533 IMG_3535 IMG_3536 IMG_3537 IMG_3538 IMG_3539 IMG_3541 IMG_3544 IMG_3549 IMG_3553 IMG_3554 IMG_3556 IMG_3561 IMG_3565 IMG_3566 IMG_3574 IMG_3578 IMG_3581I highly recommend a visit.  If you are making plans, here are a couple of websites that have more info:

http://wynwoodmiami.com/home.php

http://www.wynwood.com/

Categories: American Culture, Anthropology, Art, Art and culture, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Culture, hipster culture, pop culture, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Were we worth saving? – Year 2055

thenarcissisticanthropologist:

For the record I believe we are worth saving.

Originally posted on Mind of Andy:

“We were to be the first life form to wipe ourselves out. But what would be unique about us, is that we would do it knowingly. Now what does that say about us? The question I’ve been asking is, why didn’t we save ourselves when we had the chance?  Is the answer,  because… we weren’t sure if we were worth saving?”

Another beautiful, yet melancholic quote from the movie Age of Stupid, set in the time 2055.

View original

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

More! A Nostalgic Snapshot of 80′s Consumer Culture

As I was sifting through the magazine rack at my local thrift store – searching for “stimulus” for an innovation ideation (say THAT ten times fast) session – I came across the type of rare gem that made my narcissistic anthropologist day. It was this issue of Soap Opera Digest from July of 1984.

20140303-192651.jpg

I was 7 years old that summer. I remember my child and tween days well. Lots of neon “fashions”, hair crimping, after school specials like the one featuring A “roid rage”-afflicted young Ben Afflec or PCP-crazed Helen Hunt and the mall – for both conspicuous-consumption-oriented shopping at stores like The Limited and touring pop stars like Tiffany and Debbie Gibson.

Madonna may have been the up-and-coming “Material Girl”, but my Mother was THE ultimate perpetuator of the 80′s consumer lifestyle and the ideal marketing target.

Mom, I know you are going to read this. Please know that my objective (and potentially mildly offensive)
analysis also comes with “with love”.

Caveats aside, I came to this conclusion when I flipped to the back page and saw the following ad for More Red 100′s – my Mom’s brand of cigarettes (which she was loyal to until she quit smoking in the early 2000′s) – which explained EVERYTHING!

Just look. I will tell you what I see but would love to hear other interpretations and anecdotes from my generational-bubble brethren:

20140303-192156.jpg

Here is what I see: elegant brunette beauty (she’s serious about her career-driven affluence- she doesn’t just want to “have more fun”…she’s earning it), wearing all white (because she doesn’t get dirty when she’s working it and she vacations where it’s very warm and sunny- notice the tan complexion and pantyhose), waiting with two snifters of brandy (because it’s the classy way to get drunk) at an outdoor cafe table (because she’s been to Paris).

She is long and lean and lovely like her cigarette – which with it’s cigar-like appeal, along with the aforementioned brown liquor, also demonstrates a certain masculine “carnivore” vibe that was the instigator of the rampant capitalism that made the 80′s so much “more”.

It reminds me of making my mom vodka and tab (we learned young back then) while she lounged in the sun on a plastic lawn chair in the back yard, slathered in Johnson&Johnson baby oil.

I remember spending week-nights before going to sleep at the foot of my parent’s bed watching Dynasty and Dallas and Knott’s Landing.

I remember our suburban duplex McMansion neighborhood, our leased Cadillacs, knock-off Eames lounge chairs, shag carpeting, walls filled with Joan Miro prints from the “Art of the Month” club and Formica dining room table.

I remember my parents, who had both been born to working class recent immigrant Jewish families in the Bronx, jet-setting off to their lucrative wholesale garment rep jobs in the city every day. They often came home late at night in limousines after having entertained clients. They spent every penny they had on stuff and on house parties (as well as “partying”) and a live-in nanny/ maid to take care of their young children while they earned and enjoyed their newfound middle-class living.

Then the 80′s ended and excess gave way to recession. My parents started experiencing theirs a little prematurely but the rest of the nation was to catch up in a couple of decades.

Their consumer lifestyle was a tale from the movies filled with characters from American Hustle. It was a grand party and everyone wanted “more”.

I have been known to say that I might have rather been a “Huxtable” instead. But truth be told I am glad I had my parents. It enabled me to get grounded in my anthropological roots and develop a love/hate relationship for consumer culture that would be my passion and career for years to come…and counting.

Categories: American Culture, Anthropology, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Ethnography, Marketing, middle class, pop culture, Suburban Living, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Riding your Unicorn into the Real World

Originally posted on So-Called Millennial:

2013-09-15-Geny1.jpg

Lucy, the unhappy GYPSY.

If you follow the adventures of the Millennial generation at all, you are probably aware of our generational struggle against unmet expectations.  Recently, HuffPost College ran an articleusing the term GYPSY: Gen Y Protaganists & Special Yuppies.  It’s a good synopsis of how Gen Y attitudes toward their careers, and lives in general were formed. It’s also peppered with precious sketches of stick figures, rainbows, and unicorns.

The gist of the article is a familiar one:  Gen Y was raised to expect the most out of life, but are doomed to live below their wildly high expectations. The emergence of social media like Facebook and Twitter has fueled comparison with peers, a modern phenomenon known as Fear Of Missing Out or FOMO.

Finding your Unicorn

As a 29-year-old millennial I’ve already gone through the brunt of my Quarter-Life Crisis. I recently read…

View original 710 more words

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Love: There’s an App for That #millennials

thenarcissisticanthropologist:

Some more perspective in Millennials and love from So-Called Millennial. I particularly appreciate the analysis on love and “risk”…

Originally posted on So-Called Millennial:

Happy Valentines Day Art Print

Image courtesy of Allison Johnson Creative

I thought the title of this post was rather clever, but upon googling it I found that The Bold Italic has already used it, so I thought I’d at least give them a shout-out. The tech panel event they hosted called “Love? There’s an App for That” has already passed, but if you’re located in the SF Bay Area check the other upcoming eventsThe Bold Italic will be hosting.

Alright let’s get down to business! I’ve been studying the many facets in which millennials demonstrate pragmatism and practicality, and I thought it would be interesting to examine how this trait influences their ideas of relationships. I know– love and practicality? They don’t seem to go together. And if you read on, that may be something millennials need to do some soul-searching about.

This week Time Magazine released an article called Millennials in Love:…

View original 1,118 more words

Categories: American Culture, Anthropology, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Culture, Generation Y, Millennials, pop culture, Rituals, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Millennials in Love: Why They’re Not So Different From Their Parents After All

thenarcissisticanthropologist:

So excited to have gotten the call to participate in the dialogue in this article….

Originally posted on Ideas:

There’s nothing quite like a new generation setting out to breed. It’s an exercise in feverishness and fretfulness, in urgency and appetite, a sweet and simpleminded leave-taking of the senses in the pursuit of, well, a lot. Sex, certainly—plenty of that. Then there’s companionship, and security and the esteem of your friends—to say nothing of yourself—and the basic thrill of thinking that maybe, just maybe, you’re in love. Only a handful of years earlier, the same demographic was nothing but a swarm of pre-sexual children. Then the mating software booted up, but it was constrained by bodies and minds way too young to do much about it. And to the extent that anyone tried, there were parents, teachers and society as a whole policing their behavior.

Then all at once the limits are gone—the young breeders jump the traces and are set free to have at it. Soon enough, their…

View original 1,403 more words

Categories: Anthropology, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Millennials, sociology, Trends, Uncategorized | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Why Coke’s “America The Beautiful” Superbowl Ad Brought Out America’s Ugly

coca-cola-super-bowl-commercial-america-the-beautiful-non-english-muslim-islam1

Let me start by saying that I may be a few day’s late to this party having been engaged in other life event activities over Superbowl Sunday and not having turned on a television until last night.  Why?

soundof music football

That being said, I am aware that I apparently missed a doozy of a backlash against one Superbowl ad in particular: Coke’s “America The Beautiful” spot:

And before I had even had a chance to view it (I will admit it was this morning), I had already consumed an onslaught of media about the outrage this “highly controversial” ad had sparked.  First, I read This article from rawstory.com  showcasing the trending Twitter dialogue of outrage featuring hashtags like #SpeakAmerican and #Boycott Coke – with sociopolitical commentary from both conservative “White America” and immigrants.  They talk about everything from accusations of Coke’s Amnesty and Gay agendas to the idea that any ad talking about America in any way ought to speak in English.

I found the aforementioned blog in a discussion started in the Multicultural Trends group on LinkedIn  by my friend Tom LaForge  ,who is Global Director of Human and Cultural Insights at Coca-Cola.   Even in this business-oriented context we are redirected to This blog making a case for the vitriolic reaction  in a pretty articulate and really enlightening manner.   Pointing to the idea of the founding fathers coming from England and, essentially, the American dream and our concept of America being firmly rooted in English.

What I see in the ad is Coca-Cola defining the America they believe in: the melting pot of multiculturalism and refuge that connects Americans based on this value of diversity, rather than the value of a common language, in the literal sense.  Essentially, I read it as the common “language” being about America representing freedom to pursue  your happiness – regardless of your native tongue.  I thought the response below from news anchor Brenda Wood illustrates this counterbalanced point of view well:

But the fact is, people don’t like to have their frames shifted – and are comfortable in the points of view that allow them to define an “us” versus “other”, and in this case the “us” being those seeking the American dream of accumulating wealth and power and the “them” being the immigrants, underprivileged and otherwise unworthy “huddled masses”.    This is classic Conflict Theory – a sociological macro theory about the nature of social order that basically says the only way societies stay intact is when you have oppressors and those being oppressed – with the wealthy and powerful being the oppressors.  It essentially states that this conflict and power struggle are what maintain social order – and that even attempts by those in power to create social change with charitable works is still in the best interest of the powerful.

What this means to me from an anthropological, cultural perspective is that many Americas who share values with “the powerful”, whether that be religious or economic, take the idea of the American brand / dream / ideal being about ultimate equality and sharing of multicultural values as an attack against the status quo and the deeply held values that drive their existence.  And this is as true for right-wing conservative operating from within the privilege of power to the newly arrived immigrant who strives to integrate into American society and follow a path for himself or his family to financial success and power.

“Wow”, you might say.  “That’s a lot of reading into a commercial for soda pop”.   But it’s not necessarily the anthropologists and sociologists inflating the conversation.  You can see it in the articles I have referenced in sentiments referring to the idea presented in this ad as “communists destroying our way of life” or promoting the destruction of the American family (there is a split second in the ad, if you watch very carefully, where you see a gay male couple roller skating).

I asked Tom Laforge (mentioned earlier – the Human and Cultural Insights guy from Coca-Cola) what he thought was happening and he had perspective that I think sums up the situation. He says, “concepts like America are continually evolving.  All culturally defined artifacts are. Errors: assuming the definition you like does not evolve or is shared”.   So I suppose the idea a company like Coca Cola could be powerful enough to change a definition as enormous as America hits a pretty deep cultural chord.

Even more to the point, Tom says, “change can be scary, especially to something that is part of your identity.  Change has always been scary”.

But perhaps if Coca-Cola believes it can “teach the world to sing in perfect harmony” and this is a core belief that does and continues to drive the message of their brand, that it is an appropriately bold step for them to take in sparking a passionate conversation about change in America.

Naturally, I am very eager to hear what the rest of the blogosphere thinks…

Categories: American Culture, american History, Anthropology, conflict theory, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Culture, Marketing, Politics, pop culture, Racism, sociology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Breaking Breakfast News: Froot Loops Are All the Same Flavor

thenarcissisticanthropologist:

And here I sit, a dejected consumer anthropologist, believing I had mastered the system of flavor-by-color. For years I have coded my candy flavors by color: red, blue, orange- knowing full well that they didn’t deserve their “fruit flavor” designations but that the dyes and chemistry had earned them their own flavor category. Imagine my shock now that it has been revealed that one of my favorite candies – cereal (that’s a whole other blog) has been flavored with LIES!!!!!!

Originally posted on NewsFeed:

We hate to be the ones to tell you this, but: you’ve been eating a bowl of lies for breakfast … and you probably liked it.

Turns out that the delicious, multicolored O’s that make up Froot Loops don’t actually represent different fruit flavors. Reddit’s Today I Learned series recently unearthed a 1999 article from the Straight Dope, which confirms that “according to Kellogg’s, all of those delectable loops are flavored the same.”

If you fainted into your cereal bowl after reading that, you’re not alone. We’ve all been misled by those tempting lime green, orange, purple, yellow and red loops into thinking they are lime, orange, grape, lemon and cherry and/or strawberry flavored, when, in fact, they all the same flavor. That flavor? “Froot,” which according to Wikipedia, stems from “a blend of fruit flavors.”

The good folks at Food Beast did some scientific blind testing and…

View original 85 more words

Categories: American Culture, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Food, Marketing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com. The Adventure Journal Theme.

Creativenauts

Personal, design, inspiration, interests.

tumsen

Just another WordPress.com site

Echague

fotografias

ThePopularitéBug

Being a popular kid isn't easy,you have to be cautious about every move of yours because you know that all eyes are on you.Not just the eyes that look up to you but also the eyes that love to see you in pain.You might have your own list of followers but with this list there exists the "popularity starved crowd" who wants to replace you.But when reality bites these morons and they're back to square one,hurt and angry with themselves they try to make you the victim of their moment of high adrenaline,just to make you suffer because you're better.They try to clean their head by ruining your perfect life.What's more is right then you realize that none of your "friends" are what they appear to be.You're broken,depressed .You feel the need to talk to someone of your own kind,someone who won't judge you and that's when you can find me at thepopularitébug,I promise to do anything and everything to help you out of your problem!Amen.

Working Self

Creating Meaningful Work with Rebecca Fraser-Thill

AMERICAN MALE

Often described as a blog, an online magazine, a journal when examined further the description changes and it becomes a project, an objective, a mission. American Male is one simple thing. It is a collection of different thoughts and experiences so come share yours and be part of the narrative.

nydwracu niþgrim, nihtbealwa mæst

reactionary futurism, critical legalism

franceleclerc

World Travel and Photography

franceleclerc

World travel and photography

entitled millennial

"any man can handle adversity; if you want to test his character, give him power"

Thought-Dream Guillotine

A Brain Unfiltered

The High Heel Gourmet

by Miranti Borvornsin, the recipe and menu developer (specialize in Thai foods and Asian fusion) and custom confectionery designer for special events

this man's journey

my past , present and dreams for the future.

Archaeology, Museums & Outreach

Discussions to more effectively engage the public in Archaeology and Museums.

So-Called Millennial

Musings about so-called Millennials

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,400 other followers

%d bloggers like this: