Picture the scene, the year is 2030 and it’s the morning of the general election and the English public has chosen their leader. The news, one of the few stables of television to stand the test of time still distributed to the content market which has evolved into a differentiated ecosystem with no single dominant player. As people watch the newly elected prime minister carry out the signature wave outside number 10 with a nervous look etched across their face, the headline frames the screen ‘The look you give when you realise you have to implement the policies you promised’.
How has the meme culture evolved?
As a founding partner of Zarity Media, who own one of the biggest conglomerated meme networks in the world, I have a rare insight into the often disordered and scattered world of user generated content.
Meme culture is a world of speed, humour and punch. Messages are condensed to their very essence. Being first to a joke is key, so many forums break news before members have heard it through conventional channels. 30% of our audience use our channels to keep up to date with current affairs.
Most importantly, the world of memes is democratic – popular content will rise and gain more exposure, unpopular content will die and through their ubiquity.
The word meme was coined back in 1976, to mean a shareable artefact that spreads through culture. Typically, we associate them with humour, relatability, biting sarcasm and all things absurd and surreal. Though this will likely remain the backbone of meme culture, memes are increasingly being used to address more serious subjects, opening up the memescape for a greater variety of marketer led conversations.
Memes are playing a significant role in de-stigmatizing mental health.
Every day we speak to over 40 million people across our network, but we publish more than just funny cats and SpongeBob. Content ranges across politics, sport, music, fashion and gaming.
By producing content that we know our audience can relate to, we also open doors into subjects that affect many of us in the modern generation, including discrimination, prejudice and particularly mental health.
Statistics show that in today’s society more adults than ever report suffering from depressive episodes, most prevalent between the ages of 18-25, the category that also indexes highest with memes. It would be remiss to ignore such an important subject, especially given who is consuming the content, so it’s no surprise that mental health memes are amongst the highest engaged content on our network.
Memes are playing a significant role in de-stigmatizing mental health, as seeing hundreds of thousands of people relate to a post of Kermit addressing his anxiety helps to give comfort to sufferers that they not alone in dealing with these issues, and begins to break down the taboo.
The change in perception around memes has also seen a shift in the mentality of brands towards meme marketing
The change in perception around memes has also seen a shift in the mentality of brands towards meme marketing. Brands are starting to leverage meme marketing to reach out and connect with audiences in their own space. Learning to speak and communicate in the language of memes is a skill in itself, and young people with an intuitive grasp of the medium are in high demand.
At Zarity alone, we have three content publishers who carry out that very role. Gen-Z are very discerning and overt promotion will lead to them tuning out, so advertisers must be smart. When done in an authentic and recognisable way, targeted memes can lead to your brand being re-shared and reposted to millions of people over and over again.
The best example of this is Wendy’s, who have a scathing twitter account that’s always quick to bite back. Their tweets, created by a young and trusted team of digital natives, are often funny enough to be stolen and reposted as memes, usually with a caption like “WENDY’S ARE SAVAGE AF LOL”. Though the tweets aren’t all menu related, they ensure that Wendy’s remain an active part of the digital conversation, and at the front of consumer’s minds.
There may still be some way to go until the news at 10 announces the new Prime Minister using a meme, but what with social issues, mental health and corporate messaging all beating a path into the memescape, it doesn’t seem impossible that conventional media will follow.
By Luka Zak, Founding Partner of Zarity Media. Zarity Media is a Social Media and Marketing Group, owning some of the digital landscapes most recognised meme accounts including Pubity, Memezar and Dad Says Jokes.