Mastering Memes & Creating Viral Marketing Campaigns

Memes, by definition, have a high virality rate. But what is viral? It means more shares, more engagement and more people viewing the message – often as a result of the value the content offer the users; which, in the case of memes, is often of the comedic variety. Online advertisers and marketers are constantly striving to create compelling content that will not only convey their brand’s message, but also go viral.

Ben Huh, CEO of the Cheezburger Network, described a meme as an “alternate media universe, where things echo off of each other, and people get very creative and strange and [it’s] a bit of a meritocratic process of finding out what’s good.”

According to the NPR article that attempts to define the broadly defined meme term, British scientist and author of The Selfish Gene originally coined the term meme in the 1970s. Dawkins described a meme as something that spreads from person to person within a culture – like a toy craze or a pop song.

The widespread “success” of memes has supported the theory that content is more likely to be shared by users if it has a comedic or engaging value. Looking to tap into the web user’s comedic consciousness, SpotHero, a parking service aid based in Chicago, has gone so far as to intentionally create poorly designed ads.

The conversion numbers for SpotHero’s MS Paint-inspired ad are unavailable, but Plenty of Fish Ad Blog performed a similar experiment and found the poorly designed ad a click through rate of 0.137%, while the slicker, normal ad posted a rate of 0.049%.

There are hundreds of blog posts offering instruction on how to create a viral marketing campaign, but what if you flipped this idea on its ear – instead of creating viral marketing content for a campaign why not just incorporate proven viral content into a marketing campaign?


Scumbag Steve, made famous from the image above, is one of the first internet “celebrities” to throw his tan, checkered hat into the advertising ring. With the help of Imgur, a popular photo sharing site, Brisk has started using Scumbag Steve as a spokesperson. Let’s not forget about Jennifer Aniston’s smartwater campaign featuring lip syncing YouTube sensation Keenan Cahill (top).

Will we soon see more intentionally poorly designed ads and memes woven into advertising and marketing campaigns? Memes in advertising and marketing have already transcended the Web as Comedy Central has incorporated the popular “Not Sure If” image in its TV spots for Futurama‘s seventh season. Is it only a matter of time before more brands take advantage of memes in their quest to create viral marketing campaigns?

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