Trying to understand memes: The complexity of internet humour
If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past decade, you’ve definitely encountered a so called ‘meme’ on your Facebook timeline, your Instagram feed or in a WhatsApp group chat. A meme basically is an image or video, created and shared on the internet, with the sole purpose of making you laugh. The phenomenon is far from new, with the meme origins dating back to the internet’s earliest days. The format is however livelier than ever before.
What the fuzz is about
A meme can be about practically anything. Its purpose is to make its audience laugh, so if you can think of a funny joke, you can bet it’s ‘memeable’ as well. Some popular meme topics are e.g. politics, relatable situations, internet culture, public figures, hot topics, so on and so forth.
The widespread use of the meme format results in memes being made on very niche topics and culture-bound subjects as well. For example, there’s countless of Facebook meme groups specifically for students of a specific faculty with jokes that can only be understood if you share the same knowledge as the others. This exclusivity can really make people of the same group bond, since humour is a great way to unify people.
Part of the meme’s popularity definitely has to do with its widespread applicability, but that’s far from the only quality the meme has.
Make people laugh
People like to share funny stuff. Think about the bad joke your uncle tells at Christmas Eve. Sharing funny stories is fun, and making other people laugh makes us feel good about ourselves. This is a key motivator for people to share a funny meme with others. It basically makes them feel good. The fact that sharing it often is just a few taps away only adds to this perk.
Since the meme has been a worldwide phenomenon for quite some time now, it’s impossible to fully understand the format. The meme is in constant change and evolution. Unlike other forms of media, the meme is very accessible and shareable. You don’t need to be a storyteller, comedian, marketeer or designer to make a half decent meme. You can just create it on a smartphone app, on snapchat or even on TikTok. Within a few minutes, your creation is on the waves of the world wide web, ready to be shared with others. This makes memes often the first platform to respond when a new hot topic arises.
Memes of memes of memes
Since memes can be made on practically anything, they can also be made on other memes. This meme-parody-cycle can continue to go on forever, and the phenomenon is very popular with millennials. The results are often memes which are VERY hard to make sense of as an outsider. For example, the letter ‘E’, without any context, was a huge meme a couple of months ago.
It was a combination of the face of YouTuber Markiplier, pasted on the body of Mark Zuckerberg at his hearing, combined with the hair of Lord Farquaad, a fictional character in the Shreck movie, and the letter E on top of it. The image made fun of how far and absurd internet humour had become, and it didn’t make much sense at all. These types of memes require lots of knowledge on meme and internet culture, so don’t be bothered if it made you lift your eyebrow.
If you’d like to get involved with the meme culture, I’d suggest you take a look into PewDiePie’s YouTube show ‘Meme review’. It might take a couple of episodes to get the hang of it, but it’s the best way to go. Websites like knowyourmeme.com and Reddit will also definitely help you take your meme game to the next level.
Can I meme my brand?
In short, yes you can. You should be very careful with it though! If your demographic is rather old, memes might not be the best idea. As I mentioned above, memes are in constant evolution. If memes are new to you, you probably want to have someone else to look into it. Some meme formats are very outdated and won’t work for a bit, yet some meme formats would probably work really well for your product, which could result in high interaction on your post and your post being shared with others, increasing Brand Awareness.
Research is key, since you don’t want to be posting Nyan Cat in 2020. It also is an art to seamlessly incorporate your brand in a meme, without making it too commercial. Remember, a meme is supposed to make people laugh. Make sure it remains the key purpose.
A safe bet for company memes are relatable memes. Those are jokes of funny, irritating, or remarkable everyday situations your audience can relate to. They’re very accessible, even to the new meme enthusiast and are overall well-received if they’re at least chuckleworthy and not too far-fetched. There are a couple of brands who have highly profited since they became the centre of a meme format themselves. Flex Tape, for example, used to be memed a lot because of its overenthusiastic salesman. This is however rare, so I wouldn’t put my money on it, but who knows!
Long live the meme
Memes are subjective and in evolution, so these were my subjective remarks, tips and general ideas as of June 2020. I’m sure that in a couple of months, some of the points I made here won’t be as valid anymore, yet that’s the beauty of this ever-changing format. The meme has a bright future to come and will continue to make people laugh all over the world.