To use official scientific terminology, a meme is a unit of cultural information. It can be a melody, a picture, or even a gesture.
This post is about exclusively Internet memes, which began to appear in large numbers after the Internet became public. The most interesting thing is that users did not immediately understand the influence of memes and what can be done with their help. The understanding came not so long ago, the term “Internet meme” appeared only in 1993, when Mike Goodwin’s article on memetics and the Internet was published in Wired.
Over time, the importance of Internet memes has gradually begun to be realized by both ordinary users and politicians with entrepreneurs. It was about seven years after that Wired article was published before that realization took shape into a clear understanding of how Internet memes can be used to your advantage. Marketing and political technology specialists began to openly talk about this on the Internet.
Now memes are a powerful tool for influencing the audience, with their help you can change the opinion of society about people and events, make the important out of the unimportant, emasculating the significance of the event with the help of funny memes, or draw attention to something not very insignificant, making a mountain out of a molehill.
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To illustrate the memes’ influence, we would like to give two examples of the use of memes in politics and technology.
Memes in Politics
Did you know about the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Australian Federal Parliament, Bronwyn Bishop? Unlikely. And in Australia, people who are far from politics did not know about it. But once in one of the newspapers in this country, information was published about the misappropriation of Bishop’s funds. Instead of driving her car for personal business, she rented limousines, yachts, and even helicopters using budget funds.
The readers of that article were particularly struck by the fact that the 80-kilometer journey, which would have taken only an hour by car, was made by Bishop by helicopter. Of course, she got from point A to point B very quickly, but it cost the federal budget $ 5,000. Immediately after the release of notes on the behavior of a politician, memes appeared in newspapers on the network.
It was memes that drew attention to the problem of misappropriation of funds; many users began to become interested in the essence of the meme after they saw it on the network, discovering the peculiarities of the behavior of officials. Bishop had to resign from his post. What would have happened if the matter had gone with an article and, say, a caricature, where Bishop is sitting on a pile of money? Nothing, they would have forgotten about it already next week after the article was published, as it happens very often.
This example because is very illustrative. Memes are becoming a subculture that develops and embraces more and more aspects of our life. But now one more case, already commerce.
Memes in Business
Another example is the perfect commercialization of a meme. Here we are talking about the fact that the meme has become a business, bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Grumpy cat – we are talking about a sad cat. Once on the Internet, in one of the entertainment threads of Reddit, the photos of this cat quickly became popular. This was followed by a video with thousands and thousands of views. The owners of the cat quickly registered the Grumpy cat trademark, created a website, accounts in various networks, and began to earn, and not bad. At the time of 2014, their business was estimated to be worth $ 100 million.
Anyone who wants to use the image of a cat legally has to pay its owners. Intellectual property and brand name, you can’t help it.
The most interesting thing is that for a long time the meme remained popular (now it is also recognizable, but the trend has begun to decline), thus supporting the business of the cat owners. This is truly the perfect commerce meme.
Memes and their creators as a modern subculture
It is necessary to emphasize that Internet memes have long become a subculture, and not only online. Its influence has spilled out beyond the network and is becoming more and more significant. Meme creators can also be called influential people. Not so long ago, memes appeared randomly. Someone somewhere heard or saw something, figured out how to beat, and made an Internet meme. If it is successful, it is easy to understand, then it becomes more and more popular over time.
The most memorable Internet meme is the visual one. This is a picture or video. Often memes evolve, such as Pepe the Frog. Here’s an example of the evolution of this meme.
One of the evolutionary branches is “political”, directed against former US President Donald Trump. Pepe-Trump had a rather tangible impact on the attitude of society towards Trump, at least in the active part of the Internet community. There is a non-zero chance that political strategists collaborating with Trump’s opponents worked on the image. The goal is to make the image of the current president funny.
The one who came up with and implemented this idea is undoubtedly an influential person, albeit an unknown one. This influence is possible not only in the light of politics but also in entrepreneurship. Many existing memes are put to the service of various companies, bringing in additional profits. It turns out that the creator of the “commercial” meme earned money for himself and for the company he worked for.
Influential memologists (we would call that not only the specialists in memology, but also those who create memes) can make good money. There are several possibilities here – working for someone or making memes for yourself. As for the latter option, now there are interesting opportunities to make money on memes using blockchain and cryptocurrencies.