WDAY.com |

North Dakota's #1 news website 10,650,498 page views — March 2014

Published April 09, 2012, 11:41 AM

Areavoices: What is an internet meme?

Many may be familiar with the term meme, but some of you may not know what it means or perhaps you have heard the term only associated with general internet silliness. We all have been influenced by memes in some manner.

By: Sundog, Areavoices.com, INFORUM

Many may be familiar with the term meme, but some of you may not know what it means or perhaps you have heard the term only associated with general internet silliness. We ALL have been influenced by memes in some manner. In today’s post, I am going to define the word meme and show you why it might be important to you and perhaps your business.

Merriam-Webster defines meme as “an idea, behavior, style or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture. “ It is pronounced as though it rhymes with dream. I have heard some call it a unit of cultural information. Even though the word meme itself may only just be coming into popularity, the idea has been around for a very long time. If you have ever witnessed a Star Trek Vulcan salute, told a knock-knock joke, or repeated the Wendy’s old catch phrase “Where’s the beef” you have been a part of a real world meme.

The word meme was first coined in the 1976 book “The Selfish Gene” by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. You may ask yourself what an evolutionary biologist might have to do with a Vulcan salute, but it actually makes sense. Charles Dawkins and proponents of memetics assert that meme’s, or units of cultural information, can act much like the idea of human evolution. Analogous to the evolution of genes, a strong meme will propagate, replicate and often mutate. Weak memes will die out.

Over the past 100 years, technology has exploded. Along with that, so has our ability to communicate ideas, behaviors and styles. The advancement of communication has allowed us to bring our cultures closer together than ever before. Memes have really gotten interesting since the advent and adoption of the internet. Over the past few years, popular internet sites like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and 4chan have spread internet memes like wildfire.

One example of how an internet meme can influence marketing is Dos Equis’ “The Most Interesting Man in the World” ad campaign. While this marketing campaign was successful on its own, there was a meme element that has added to the campaign. Individuals on the internet now take an image of the actor who plays the most interesting man in the world, adds text to the image (also known as an image macro) and then posts it to the social media of his choice. This has resulted in a plethora of user made images that essentially have Dos Equis branding and spread throughout the internet on a daily basis.

If people in the marketing business are interested in culture, influencing culture and, in some cases, creating culture, then they should be interested in understanding memes. There is a crossroad between marketing and technology that is happening right now and the meme is a part of that equation.

Tags: