From the proliferation of Grumpy cat pictures, to twerking, to the dissatisfied facial expressions of Olympic stars Ashley Wagner and Mckayla Maroney, the internet meme has become a sensational force. With the power of the internet, the dissemination of culture can take but a microsecond, and each day an impressive amount of bandwidth is devoted to flashing cultural reference points around in the form of internet memes. Although memes are closely associated with the social media pages of Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, the history of memes goes back considerably further than the first Google search.
What is the history of the meme?
In the days before the internet, the term “meme” was coined by evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, in his 1976 work, “The Selfish Gene.” Dawkins postulated that the term referenced any cultural entity that was capable of replication and dissemination.
Whether musical trends, fashion statements, or use of the vernacular, memes self replicate and evolve in response to human creative interaction. In coming up with the name meme, Hawkins borrowed on his knowledge of evolutionary biology by tapping another self-replicating organism, the gene. Hawkins likened the evolutionary change of the cultural message to Darwin’s Theory of Evolutionary survival of the fittest as a way of explaining how one meme might proliferate while others fall into obscurity.
Looking back on the evolving meaning of his term as it is applied to the internet; Hawkins noted in 2013 that an internet meme is the deliberate altering of an existing meme through the agency of human creativity.
This “hijacking of an original idea,” is further differentiated in cyberspace as being quantifiable because it leaves a digital footprint that can be followed and analyzed.
Where is the value in a meme?
When it comes to marketing, advertising leaves very few internet rocks unturned in their search to get their commercial message out, and internet memes are just the latest method.
As mentioned, the digital footprints that are left on the cyber landscape are easily tracked, traced, and analyzed to garner a better understanding of the impact that their advertising campaign is having.
Known as memetic marketing, internet memes are a cost effective way to generate interest in a product or service. If marketers want to create a buzz (fast) and watch their ideas go viral, then hijacking a meme for that purpose is seen as a trendy, cutting edge way to accomplish that goal.
To reiterate, a meme spreads like wildfire, and some meme stars get more than 15 minutes of fame. One of the most recent trending memes is Sochi Olympian Johnny Quinn, aka The Incredible Hulk. The American bobsledder quickly spawned a following with the hashtag #Quinning after he Tweeted a photo of a a Sochi hotelroom door he busted through with his bobsled.
Questions and Final Thoughts
What is your favorite meme of all time?