In 1976, when Richard Dawkins coined the word 'meme,' little did he probably imagine that in years to come, it would become a more popular search term than 'Jesus' (as per Google Trends). It was much later, with the rise of the Internet and social media, that it became de rigueur for netizens to have their social media timelines flooded with typically humorous viral images, videos, texts – a 'meme' – with the undisclosed tagline - 'share me'.
Naturally, with the huge interest and engagement seen around it across social media platforms, brands wanted a piece of this pie. Marketers realised that this 'quick consumption mode' provided them with a free hand to use comedy and satire, unlike conventional media. A viral meme could put them on every screen, in every pocket, effortlessly. With around 560 million internet subscribers in India spending 17 hours per week on social media (as per India Times) what could be a better opportunity for brands to attract audience?
Brands across categories and boundaries latched on to this wave. There was no stopping them. Who was to ask 'How much meme is enough meme'? Who was to answer?
afaqs! reached out to industry experts to find out if meme marketing has reached a stage of overkill.
Naila Mateen Patel, executive creative director, Mirum India
Meme marketing is fun, relatable and gives brands an opportunity to seamlessly enter conversations. But it is also a double-edged sword as it needs superior creative talent, a truly relatable brand message and marketing muscle to ensure it does its job. Has meme marketing being overdone? Certainly not. Has it been tastefully done? Not always. And therein lies the true challenge. When advertising is not tasteful and leans towards crass, even a few campaigns seem too many. Memes have become intrinsic to the online behaviour of Gen-Z and brands need to find innovative ways of using the subculture. In my view, meme marketing in India is yet to create truly great campaigns. The good ones we have, are few and far between.
Aditya Mehendale, group creative manager, Schbang
Meme marketing is definitely not a new social phenomenon and can be traced back to the beginning of memes themselves. It’s natural for brands to want to leverage organic internet behaviour and memes are shining examples of social media’s creative best. It puts the power in the individual to add their own to a topical event through a common template and brands have mimicked this over the years to give themselves a human voice.
I don’t think there's an overkill. Meme formats keep evolving with time and brands that are quick in taking to a new style get a lot of social love. Netflix is an exemplary instance of this. The brand consciously traces memes that emerge from the back doors of the internet and before they become mainstays on the more popular social media platforms, hijacks the trend. Fevicol, Kaya and Uno are other notable examples. Social media is centrally about being organic and memes in their dressed down avatar cut through audiences and lend an authentic, humorous and quirky tone to everyday social conversations. I don’t think anyone can complain about that.
Akansha Negi, senior creative maven, Windchimes Communications
Going by the current trend of getting brand content viral, I don't think that meme marketing is overdone. Yes, it can undoubtedly be distasteful and borderline offensive in certain areas, but at the same time, it creates a powerful impact on the audience's mind.
Memes for a more significant part don't just bring out the humour, they also serve as a big doorway into a much larger active audience which is within the age group of 20 – 35 years. Apart from humour, brands can also provide helpful content, making it a much distinct and effective way of marketing to the user.
People don't like watching sales or brand content on their feed. So, brands can smartly present their product wrapped in a meme. Memes work better as they attract the audience and offer a contextual topic in the form of entertainment, which results in a call to action.
Amod Dani, executive creative director, Leo Burnett Orchard
Pick up your phone and check out any of your WhatsApp groups (except the official ones) and you will see that they are flooded with a flurry of Memes. No matter how you pronounce them, memes are here to stay. They are extremely contextual and ride brilliantly on pop culture. And whenever a good one pops up, which it often does, you see folks brandishing it proudly on their phones. Memes are making brand conversations extremely engaging, relevant and contemporary. Today’s brands need to speak the language that’s being used and shared across today’s platforms. These are bite-sized conversation starters that induce sharing. Memes are not overdone, and brands who craft them smartly, speak in the right tone, use the right context, will always stay relevant.