Welcome to the Meme Economy!

It’s time to start investing in some dank memes.

For those who don’t know, memes are those dumb images/gifs, often with accompanied text, that still somehow make us laugh. The memes that I will be talking about emerge on the internet and are spread virally throughout social media. Examples can include Doge and Harambe the Gorilla. While memes have always been about lighthearted fun, some subculture on the internet take their memes very seriously.doge.jpg

(This right here is a meme. Just look how cute she is! Yes, Doge is female. Now you know.)

Occupying its own little secluded niche on the internet is a webpage called /r/memeeconomy. It’s a subreddit on the popular internet discussion Reddit and unlike other subreddits on the platform, redditors on /r/memeeconomy are not simply discussing the newest trends for their casual hobbies. Oh no, it’s much more serious. At /r/memeeconomy, users discuss the value of internet memes, investing their time and energy into memes in hopes of reaping huge returns in the form of Reddit “karma”, Facebook “likes”, or whatever internet upvote currency of your choice. They even have their own stock exchange called the NASDANQ. Cries of “BUY BUY BUY” and “SELL SELL SELL” can be heard throughout the trading floor.

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To be clear, no actually money is on the line when people invest in the meme economy. The meme economy started out as nothing more than a satirical concept in which memes are discussed with financial jargon to poke fun at both memes and the financial services industry. Despite this, many redditors have taken this concept very far, treating memes as if they are real financial securities to be traded. They gather on the forum to speculate on the future of memes.

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(They are not talking about BTC… they are talking about a meme)

Even though it’s a joke, there are comparisons to be made between internet memes and stocks on the stock market. The value of a meme (its comedic value and its relevancy on social media) is constantly changing. It can be bullish if the meme is funny and novel (or “dank” to use the proper terminology), but it can also be bearish if the meme is stale, overused, or has simply oversaturated the internet (or “normified” to use the proper terminology). Memes can also have corrections in value in the same way that stocks do. When a corporation or a famous person uses a meme, the value of a meme would drop precipitously since meme traders would fear that the meme would soon become over posted around the internet and become stale. Current events in the real world also have a huge impact on the value of memes. Because of the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, Olympics related memes have been highly valued for the past two weeks but investors must be careful with these memes because they will become next to worthless after the Olympics have pasted. In another example, 2016 was turbulent year in the meme economy due to the unexpected heatedness and outcome of the most recent election. Many netizens made lots of karma during that year investing in Trump memes. The adage of buying low and selling high still applies to the meme economy; make memes while they are still funny and dump them after they have run their course.

P = K -T

P = Profit

K = amount of karmas or likes generated

T = time in MS Paint creating meme

Unlike stocks, memes tend to have very short lifecycles. Even the most successful memes tend to follow the same lifetime pattern. Even Harambe, the most successful meme of 2016, has mostly faded away into irrelevance. After its “IPO” on some corner of the internet, a meme will go through its viral stage in which the value skyrockets into a bubble. Then the bubble will burst after everyone becomes tired of the meme.

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(The popular “hard to swallow pills” meme is on the rise, but its humor won’t last long)

Despite the ephemeral nature of meme humor, I argue that marketers should invest in memes to promote their brands. Akin to the redditors, professional marketers should also participate in the hilarity of the meme economy and use valuable memes for their marketing efforts, except using click through rate in place of karma as a performance metric. Humor in marketing has been done since forever ago but now its time to start using humor in different ways. Yes, marketing professionals should start making some OC memes to spread their messages. The practice is already known in marketing and it’s called “memejacking.”

With a few caveats to keep in mind, I believe that memes have some advantages over traditional media promotion.

  1. Marketers need to be fast and agile when memejacking – As we have established before. Memes are ephemeral. Typically, a meme is only funny when it is still somewhat fresh. Take advantage of memes when they are rising or at the peak of their virality. It’s not good to use stale or old memes because they are often unfunny or worse, annoying. Timing is key.
  2. It’s not worth offending people in hopes of going viral – Marketers need to be careful which memes to memejack. The internet can be a dark and often toxic place. Many of the memes may only be funny to select niches and even offensive to others. It may be best to be conservative when judging how memes will be received by the target audience. Marketers need to carefully monitor reactions and make adjustments when necessary.

With that out of the way, here’s a list of reasons why marketers need to start memejacking

  1. Very cheap and easy to make – To make an OC meme, just hope onto Adobe Illustrator and modify exiting meme formats for the target audience. Memes don’t have to look good, looking bad is part of the charm. Even lowly MS Paint can suffice in successful memejacking.
  2. Leverage virality – Marketers always hope their ads can become viral, but achieving something like what AB InBev had with “Dilly dilly” is rare. It’s easier to use existing virality than make virality from scratch. Using a hot meme is an efficient way to get a message passed around.
  3. A great way to reach out to younger generations – Memes are beloved by teens and younger generation. Memejacking may be a good way to target them but it may also alienate other demographics.

And on that note, I will leave you with some more examples. Happy meme-ing!

(Gucci has a little army of original meme makers for their social media marketing efforts.)

(Sometimes is good to just memejack.)

Sources:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescommunicationscouncil/2017/05/08/meme-marketing-how-brands-are-speaking-a-new-consumer-language/#58f8fcfa37f5

https://sproutsocial.com/insights/marketing-memes/

https://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/33363/Memejacking-The-Complete-Guide-to-Creating-Memes-for-Marketing.aspx

https://www.socialmediatoday.com/social-business/2015-04-13/creating-memes-help-your-online-marketing-efforts

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/12/a-unified-theory-of-meme-death/546866/

https://www.theverge.com/2017/1/10/14223264/meme-economy-reddit-stock-market

http://www.adweek.com/brand-marketing/gucci-memes-itself-with-help-from-artists-in-strange-and-entertaining-instagram-ads/

https://www.reddit.com/r/MemeEconomy/

8 comments

  1. I really loved reading about the “meme economy” because I honestly had no idea it existed. Although I don’t really use them too much, I think memes are hilarious and I love seeing them emerge on Twitter especially. I’ve even seen people make calendars that outline what memes were popular each month, which just goes to show how short the life of a meme can be. I would definitely appreciate seeing brand use them, because it would show that they are people just like us that want to connect authentically with their customers (something I discuss in my blog post). I definitely think people would take notice.

  2. Haha, great post, was laughing along here and there. And Great Job Stealing my topic for my next blog post, Nice Job James! (FacePalm) JK, it’s good to see a person who share the same humor. Anyway, it’s an interesting perspective looking at meme, and it remains me a self-created stock market game that we made in elementary school. Basically, every participant is a stock, and your price fluctuated based on whether you got a good grade on you next test, if you got a detention your stock will drop such and such. Didn’t know memes were also “trading” frequently. I do like the point that companies using memes to target their consumers. However, often time the company just cringe too much on the memes, like you said using stale memes. Do you think companies may have a meme department, that just “live and sleep” on Reddit and catch the latest memes and use it for marketing? Cuz I would apply for that job.

  3. I love seeing memes on social media, but I had no idea about the meme economy…I think that you made a great point about using memes in advertising. Sports social media accounts, both college and professional, are known for being meme experts. Although I don’t think memes should dominate a company’s advertising strategy, I do think there is a time and place where they can be very effective. I am interested to see what level these memes reach. Your examples show clothing brands and restaurants, but I wonder if it will ever reach corporations or even political campaigns. As funny as they are, there can be an association with of a lack of intelligence with memes. All that being said, I definitely pay attention to what companies use social media in a millennial-friendly way (i.e. using memes like the Jimmy John’s tweet) and they definitely leave a positive impact on the image of the company I have in my head.

  4. Great blog post and pretty crazy that we can have a conversation about the “meme economy” in the first place! I do think that companies have to be really careful with co-opting memes for business purposes, as when it goes awry it can make them look horribly unhip and, as you, said actually annoy their audience and turn them away from their product/services. And as we know, there is no backlash like internet, meme-driven backlash. I remember one particular cringe inducing example of Wendy’s trying to co-opt meme culture portraying a so-called “Memer” in an ad in some kind of bizarre attempt to connect with young audiences. It’s already challenging enough to keep up with what’s still “fresh” as a bored internet browser, I can’t imagine the responsibility of using it in tangible marketing! The risk is high, but so are the rewards.

  5. This is a great post since it is pretty relevant to our class (we all use memes in our blog posts at some point!). I had no idea the meme economy was a thing but I think it’s interesting how people have assigned value to a meme and how they have a lifecycle on the internet. I think you are right when you say that marketers should start posting memes because they are easily shared on social media and it can help promote brand awareness. Everyone uses social media and especially on Facebook and Instagram people tag each other regularly on posts, which helps spread the message. I think the important thing that marketers have to take into account when creating memes is that they have to be relevant so that people can relate to them and feel identified with the message.

  6. I think the most interesting aspect of memes is how short their lifecycle is. I think you touched on this nicely when you mentioned how easily they are made and shared. A meme will come in and out of popularity so quickly because so many people share and use it that it becomes overused extremely quickly. Marketers need to know this because a company risks looking out of date or old if they use memes on their social media that are out of the popular cycle. Also, many memes can come off as a bit offensive, so when using them in a business setting you need to be careful to research all the underlying themes under a meme. The economy moves quickly and underlying jokes that are associated with memes may not be known. This can be very dangerous for business social media account

  7. I loved this post because I love memes and am interested in finance, but had no idea this existed. I am definitely going to look into it on my own after this! I also didn’t really realize that companies were utilizing memes in the marketing, or “memejacking” as you said, but I think it’s really smart as long as it’s well done. I haven’t seen much of this, but I can imagine that if I were to come across one I thought was actually funny I would be impressed with the company, but if I saw one that was poorly executed or just not funny, I would be annoyed. Either do it right or don’t do it at all! In any case, it’s a great opportunity for people to advertise themselves in a relevant and popular way. Great post!

  8. Harambe will never be forgotten. Actually though, I’m in a facebook group where it is often mentioned despite the fact that in the greater internet world his memory has all but disappeared.

    Honestly I think my favorite part of this post was learning about the NASDANQ. In regards to your suggestion for marketers, one great example would be Old Spice. I have seen them multiple times on IMGUR with fairly successful memes that genuinely seemed more interested in entertaining their audience than pure customer acquisition.

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