The Evolution of the Internet Meme Culture: From Humour to Marketing

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No, this isn’t a joke and you did not misread the title. This article is all about the internet meme culture.

If you have been on the internet long enough, you would have probably seen a meme somewhere online. The internet meme (pronounced: /miːm/ MEEM) rose to fame along with the hike of social media platforms. Initially, they were just used as a form of entertainment. However, according to Grazia Daily, memes have evolved to become a key form of cultural expression. In fact, there is a lot more to the internet meme culture than we realise. Memes can be used to poke fun and entertain – but also bring awareness about local happenings and trending topics of discussion.

If you are keen to learn more about how the internet meme culture has evolved, then keep reading!

(Pssst… we’ll even share some examples of how some companies have joined the internet meme culture to raise brand awareness)

A Brief History of the Internet Meme Culture

If you have no idea what a “meme” is, we will break it down for you.

According to The Conversation, The internet meme culture found its roots in Richard Dawkin’s famous book entitled The Selfish Gene. Published in 1976, Dawkins identified the meme as a “unit of cultural transmission or imitation”. The word “meme” came from the Greek word “mimema” which refers to the idea of being imitated.

The world’s first meme, the smiley – : – ) – made its debut in 1982. It was during that time where punctuation markers were used to express emotion. Over time, other permutations were formed including the sad face, confused face as well as the angry face.

Fast-Foward: The Internet Meme Culture Today

Memes have come a very long way since the usage of punctuation markers to express emotions. Today, the internet meme culture takes shape in several multimedia formats. These include but are not limited to images, GIFs (Graphic Interchange Formats), as well as videos.

Since the rise of social media, the internet meme culture has expanded across multiple platforms. Memes are created, used and circulated by users across the internet and social to spread awareness about popular culture and local happenings.

Today, some common memes include the Grumpy Cat (see visual above), Pepe the Frog, the Distracted Boyfriend as well as surprised iconic Pokémon character Pikachu across meme websites like 9GAG and SGAG in Singapore.

The Internet Meme Culture in Singapore

Memes are extremely common and popular across social media platforms in Singapore. Today, memes are usually utilised for the purpose of poking fun at local happenings. These include the breakdown of Singapore Mass Rapid Transit (SMRT) trains over the years, haze in Singapore, as well as the latest Go-Jek driver vs passenger incident.

In addition, meme content also includes other forms of international popular culture including movies such as the Harry Potter movie franchise and Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War (2018).

Comedy in Social Media Marketing

Apart from being a form of entertainment for users on social media, the internet meme culture has also found its function and practicality in social media marketing. It may seem silly, it is true!

The internet meme culture has become the language of the millennials. It has evolved to become an essential part of lifestyle and business.

If you are still sceptical about the use of memes for social media marketing, you might be surprised by what you are about to read. We’ve highlighted 3 reasons why the internet meme culture has boomed in for businesses.

Memes Entertain and Inform

Some businesses have picked up on the fact that everyone loves a good laugh. When it comes to social media marketing, being too serious might backfire.

In partaking in the internet meme culture, not only are businesses able to entertain their audience, but they are also able to pique users’ interests, facilitate discussions and sharing on social media, increase brand recall, raise brand awareness and also increase the click-through rates. Furthermore, circulating content that is relatable could easily influence your impressionable audience to take action in your brand’s favour.

Memes are Visual

Furthermore, memes are visual – a simple meme could relay plenty of information to users on social media. They are eye-catching and its easier for a business to convey a message to their audience. After all, humans are visual creations.

Ask yourself: would you really want to read and share a 1000-word article about a brand’s latest products when you can just share a meme about it? Between entertainment and information, the latter is probably more attractive and appealing.

Creating and Sharing Memes Take Almost No Time at All

Also, creating your own memes for your social media content requires minimal effort on your part.

There are numerous meme generators online. Most of them are free and user-friendly. All you have to do is choose your visuals and template, craft some text, put it through the generator, and BOOM – you have your meme.

In addition, sharing your business meme takes less than a minute on social media. Just press “share” on Facebook and Instagram or “retweet” on Twitter.

Memes are cost-effective, far-reaching, engaging and also comical. When used correctly, they can deliver key messages about your brand and products in an effective and professional manner.

See Memes in Action

Many companies produced a variety of memes to gain followership, showcase their products, and raise brand awareness on social media. Scroll down to view 4 of them!

1. Barkbox (@barkbox)

2. Mothership SG (@mothership.sg)

3. Nickelodeon (@Nickelodeon)

4. Wendy’s (@wendys)

Should I Start Using Memes for my Business?

The internet meme culture is dynamic and entertaining, but is it really worthwhile to venture into?

Like all other social media marketing tactics, if you do decide to create some memes to showcase your products, make sure you tread softly. Using too many memes might be overkill. After all, you would want your audience to take your brand seriously.

There is a fine line between comedy and marketing. Always make sure that you keep your target audience, product, and desired end results of your memes in mind. After all, the internet meme culture will not appeal to everyone. 

Learn more about the development and use of the Internet Meme Culture in business and marketing by clicking here for Forbes’ Aidan Cole’s commentary.

Alternatively, if you need some ideas for your social media content, then click here for 7 creative ones.