That’s right. One of the ways to get people to notice your content is to turn it into a meme. Even the things that get hate will be circulated enough until it becomes a meme, which means more people will look at it, and the chances of someone who likes it finding it increases. So, today I want to talk about memes, and how the usage of memes can help your brand online, either by turning your stuff into a meme, or creating memes yourself.
There are three categories of memes that I want to shine a light on:
1. The unintentional meme of something everyone hates
Comic Sans is so hated that memes of it are hilarious to look at. The above image is a screenshot of an April Fools joke page that Google made for a fake extension that turns every text on browser pages to Comic Sans because the research “shows that users thoroughly read every piece of content displayed in Comic Sans” according to the heat map on the left.
User The Christmas Pyro sums up the meme’s charm in a comment on this image:
“Just like a car accident. It’s horrible but you just can’t take your eyes of [sic] it…”
However, if your portfolio site uses Comic Sans, please change the font. Just because we can’t pry our eyes off it, doesn’t mean we like it.
Comic Sans is an example of something ugly that people can’t stop mentioning, even though nobody likes it. The font originated in 1994 when designer Vincent Connare created the font for Microsoft after noticing how out of place the Times New Roman font looked in the speech bubbles of the Microsoft Bob virtual assistant. It was originally meant to be used for children’s computer programs, but its inclusion with the Windows operating system saw its popularity explode in all sorts of spaces from personal word processing to the corporate office (“Comic Sans”, 2018). Since then people have been criticizing it as a bastardization of good design when it’s used on professional or serious documents.
Even though the Comic Sans meme was unintentional, you can use this “meme strategy” by creating a website that is so hideous, nobody can stop talking about it. One example of a person who did this is Ling Valentine with her car rental business website LINGsCARS.com. It has been hailed by many as being “so bad, it’s good” even on news websites like NewsWeek.com, helping it reach some levels of fame. This is hard to pull off, however, because it’s likely you’ll end up a joke in the end, so I recommend that you leave this one up to chance.
2. The shareable meme you can make yourself.
The key to the What People Think I Do meme is that it is relatable and easy to make yourself. It used to be everywhere a few years ago, with one of the earliest instances being spotted on a Facebook post from 2012 about science students, but there were a few precursors to the meme with less panels. This meme spread because of how easy it is to make and the chuckle it gets out of friends and strangers due to the humor related to professional occupations. It also helped that some popular internet users helped it gain traction with their own submissions (“What People Think…”, 2018). I even made one for myself
but we don’t talk about that. Admittedly, I didn’t make the image above even though I should have, but occasionally creating and sharing a meme on Twitter related to what you usually create content about will generate you some likes and follows. People like funny people that they can relate to, so use memes sparingly to show that you have a sense of humor. The meme above is from the point of view of a web designer, and although it’s filled with jokes, you get some idea of what web designers do and how they feel about what they do. When making your portfolio, try to put out your best foot forward on whatever it is you do – make people think you do what you think you do!
3. The “fabricated” meme.
Not many people have thought about the fact that The Mannequin Challenge of 2016 was one of the most genius acts of viral marketing ever. The song featured in almost every single Mannequin Challenge video is hip hop duo Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles”. The great thing about challenge memes is that they are participatory and nobody wants to be left out, so you will see large groups of people doing it and posting it online for views and praise. To become popular from a meme is genius because it is also subtle, like in the case of this challenge where the background music was what was being promoted. This challenge may have initially gone viral from a video made by high schoolers, but the concept is nothing new – the Improv Everywhere comedy troupe did a similar prank where they stood still for one minute in Grand Central Terminal in New York City on January 31st, 2008. The video of it has since received over 36 million views on YouTube (“Mannequin Challenge”, 2018).
Another popular form of challenge meme is the ones that individuals do, and these challenges are often seen in the art community on YouTube. If you can come up with an original challenge yourself that other people love, your name will spread far and wide over the Internet.
Now to get technical, what makes memes so effective? Well, according to Patrick Davison’s chapter “The Language of Internet Memes” in the book The Social Media Reader, memes are “malleable” and “replicable” because of the three components of memes which can be replicated or adapted: the manifestation, the behavior, and the ideal (Davison, 2012, p. 123). He explains what these components are like so:
“The manifestation of a meme is its observable, external phenomena. It is
the set of objects created by the meme, the records of its existence. It indicates
any arrangement of physical particles in time and space that are the
direct result of the reality of the meme.
The behavior of a meme is the action taken by an individual in service of the meme. The behavior of the meme creates the manifestation. For instance,
if the behavior is photographing a cat and manipulating that photograph
with software, the manifestation this creates is the ordered progression of
pixels subsequently uploaded to the Internet.
The ideal of a meme is the concept or idea conveyed. The ideal dictates
the behavior, which in turn creates the manifestation. If the manifestation is
a funny image of a cat and the behavior is using software to make it, then the
ideal is something like ‘cats are funny'” (Davison, 2012, p. 123).
Going by these definitions, we can say that the manifestation of the Comic Sans meme is the words typed out using the font. The manifestation of the What People Think I Do meme is the composition of images and text in the format of the meme, and the manifestation of the Mannequin challenge are the videos uploaded to social media. These three manifestations are varied and cover a lot of most memes. The three are easy to share and reproduce, so they are appealing mediums for the avid Internet user.
The behavior of the Comic Sans meme can vary widely as it depends on how one wishes to structure the joke, but it usually involves using the font for something one shouldn’t either intentionally or unintentionally like on the Pope’s retirement photo album or on the slides of the Higgs boson particle discovery presentation. For the What People Think I Do meme, the behavior involves coming up with the subject, finding images that represent the six phrases, arranging the images on a black background, and adding white text under the images. For the Mannequin Challenge, the behavior is way more involved because one has to coordinate a group of people to stand still while someone films them. Then the video is edited, and the “Black Beatles” song is added over it.
Finally, using Davison’s framework, the ideal of the Comic Sans meme is irony if used intentionally, or obliviousness if done unintentionally. The ideal of the What People Think I Do meme is the make a self-deprecating joke about one’s profession or hobbies, and, lastly, the ideal of the Mannequin Challenge is that making a ground stand still together is a difficult but fun cinematographic challenge. The ideal is probably the most important part of a meme because it influences everything else about how it’s made and why people will understand it.
“Comic Sans”. (2018, April 11). Know Your Meme. Retrieved from http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/comic-sans
Davison, P. “The Language of Internet Memes.” The Social Media Reader. Ed. Michael Mandiberg. 2012. Retrieved from http://veryinteractive.net/library/the-language-of-internet-memes
“Mannequin Challenge”. (2018, January 04). Know Your Meme. Retrieved from http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/mannequin-challenge
“What People Think I Do / What I Really Do”. (2018, April 13). Know Your Meme. Retrieved from http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/what-people-think-i-do-what-i-really-do