Viral Yet Volatile: Meme Marketing and the Modern Web

BY: ON THURSDAY, MARCH 27, 2014

Much of the Internet marketing sphere, for businesses both big and small, is still relatively young. As the web continues to shake and shift at a rate that we can hardly begin to comprehend, trends in marketing come and go faster than we can forget them. For this reason, the recent surge in meme marketing and our tendency to piggyback every other viral trend represents an enigma for modern marketers.

While often presented as something shiny and new, the principles and practices behind meme marketing have been at work prior to the inception of the Internet as we know it. Likewise, the tendency for companies to hop on the proverbial bandwagon and market based on breaking stories and sensations is nothing new, either. Regardless, the verdict is still out on the long-term viability of viral marketing strategies for many SMBs and c-suiters alike. Although it seems like every other business on the block has taken a sip of this particular marketing Kool Aid, have we really taken the time to understand exactly why?

Much of today’s Internet marketing is laser-focused on the short-term and instant gratification for their user base. And why not? Given the short attention span of the modern user, such tactics make perfect sense on the surface.

The problem with meme marketing and its ilk is this: memes and viral sensations are forgotten just as soon as we find time to capitalize upon them. Whether crafting an image macro or coming up with some sort of clever, topical tweet, the timeless adage of “time is money” still applies. While the aforementioned acts may not seem like much in terms of effort, time and cash, they certainly add up over time as your marketing efforts focus almost solely on the now.

The end result? Marketers chasing trends like a dog chases cars exhausted with little purpose or end-game. Without the proper care and consideration, it can become quite the vicious cycle from a marketing perspective.

Memes, Marketing, and Moderation


Yet let’s not be too hasty. Meme marketing and short-term buzz most certainly do have their benefits. There’s plenty of meme marketing that has worked great for businesses. For example:
  • Meme marketing has the potential to instantly familiarize your business with an audience. That is, an audience familiar with your meme or trend but perhaps not your business. Such marketing has the potential to break down walls on the basis that your user is “in” on the trend.

  • Image marketing has been on the rise exponentially since the smartphone and tablet era. As we’ve seen with the popularity of pieces such as infographics, image content is quick and easy to digest; however, it’s even easier to share.

  • Likewise, the sharing of memes and trending topics have become so widespread amongst users that it’s almost expected. By taking part in the community of trends and viral sensations, users perceive you and your company as being “in.”
On the flip side, meme marketing certainly has its drawbacks:
  • Memes may be difficult to tackle for many businesses and industries, especially those looking to be taken “seriously” in the traditional sense. If a user doesn’t know much of you or your business, meme marketing may look horribly out of place.

  • Many businesses fail to be transparent when they’re trying to jump on trends or newsjack, therefore making themselves look lazy or even foolish. The more your business relies on such marketing, the more you run the risk of looking like you’re just chasing money without much of a mission.

  • Once again, we have to consider time versus effort versus money. Businesses of all shapes and sizes should focus a significant degree of their marketing on evergreen content, that is, content that does not “expire” in the traditional sense. Such content is a goldmine for SEO and can represent the cornerstone of a business’ online presence. As trends are so quickly forgotten, is it truly worth the effort to obsess over them?
It’s fair to say that there’s probably an in-between ground when it comes to meme marketing. In moderation, newsjacking, memejacking and trendjacking are all viable ways to garner some buzz. Such marketing, however, should be used sparingly and not as a crutch. In a sphere with so many options and intricacies, no business should simply rely on a single means of Internet marketing.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All


Another consideration to take with meme marketing is this; not all businesses need memes or trends to market themselves. Despite what every other marketing blog around might be feeding its readers, memes and trends are not the cure-all, end-all for businesses on the web. If you’re in a field or industry that’s scarce on jokes or the scope of meme marketing just doesn’t make much sense to you, there’s no real pressure to create meme content for the sake of it. As mentioned earlier, the principles behind topical marketing are and continue to remain sound; this was true before “viral” and “meme” were the buzzwords of the day.

The Bottom Line


Meme marketing often comes to pros versus cons with most of today’s businesses. The benefits don’t always outweigh the potential drawbacks or consequences; meanwhile, there’s no reason for businesses to feel pressured into such marketing if it doesn’t make sense. While the viral web certainly has its place for SMBs and c-suiters alike, there’s no need to surf such channels simply for the sake of it.

Image via Shutterstock

About the Author

Brent Barnhart

Brent Barnhart is a freelance content writer specializing in topics such as Internet marketing and content marketing for small businesses. His goal is to help business owners find their voices online and improve their content strategies. You can reach Brent or find out more at brentwrites.com.

Comments
comments powered by Disqus