Thought Leadership
  • Content marketing

Memes of communication

Emma Braham
14th November 2019

Memes have quickly become a primary form of communication throughout media platforms. Here's why they're important and how your business can use them…

  • The history of memes

  • Meme culture

  • How you can use them

Romeo and Juliet. Beyoncé and Jay Z. Mac and Cheese. There are just some duos that rise to the top of their playing field. The internet and its memes are a part of this category. And while their story isn’t one of family feuds or Drunk (in) Love, meme culture has redefined what it means to communicate— and how it’s done.


Origin Story

It’s only apt that the original meme was created by a man who’s a bit of a meme himself. Richard Dawkins is an evolutionary biology professor with white hair and grey suits. And he started the biggest cultural phenomenon of internet history. In 1976—that’s right, eleven years before the internet was created— Dawkins published a book entitled The Selfish Gene where he compares ideas to genes, claiming that both are able to spread, adapt, and mutate based on their environment. He created a unit that measures this replication and called it “mimeme”, stemming from the Ancient Greek word meaning “imitated thing”. Dawkins later shortened it to something a little catchier: meme.

From Void to Viral

It wasn’t until 14 years later that the meme, as we know it today, took root.


In 1990, Godwin’s Law ignited the first viral image—a graph illustrating how the longer an online discussion takes place, the more likely someone will mention Nazis or Hitler. Six years later, John Goodell was tasked with illustrating his company’s 3D character animation software in a movie-to-gif process. He did it with Dancing Baby jamming out to Blue Suede’s classic, Hooked on a Feeling. As Dancing Baby flew through chain emails, Deidre LeCarte—a Canadian arts student—entered a competition with her best friend and sister to see who could gain the most web traffic. Her mono-purpose webpage of dancing rodents received 60,000 hits in four days. A few months later, it reached 17 million. LeCarte created a cult classic, sold an empire worth of merch, and signed her Hamster Dance to a contract with Disney…oh, and she also won the bet.

From there, the early 2000s hit. Email and text skyrocketed as primary forms of communication and, as smartphones began to develop, the social media era boomed. It is through these platforms that Grumpy Cat began to brood, the Most Interesting Man found something to say, and Willy Wonka stung us all with his (painfully accurate) sarcastic remarks. The age of memes is here.


Why memes?

Everyone knows that when it comes to celebrating birthdays, expressing emotion, and taking your friends down a peg, memes are the superior form of communication. However, they have recently developed into something more: a coping mechanism. With the recent rise of anxiety and depression in this tech-driven world, joking through pain has never been easier.


Memes are simple ways of sharing yourself, without having to do too much work—perfect for making a self-deprecating joke or responding to political rants online. On another note, memes are simply more digestible. It’s no secret that attention span has taken a major hit lately. My friend made a shameful confession recently that even watching an entire YouTube video can be too much. In terms of media, memes are short, sweet and a way to not only hold, but gain, attention.


It’s also important to remember that the internet is a big place. And a common thread through all of it? You already know—memes. They’re like one big, internet-wide, inside joke. As a company, you’ll want to be on the inside of that joke. Using memes as a form of communication plays off a bond that’s already there—that sense of “community” that comes from laughing together. Memes are a great way to enhance that and build a unique relationship with the consumer. Look at BuzzFeed, for example. Even though a Pew Research Center study found that only 4% of millennials trusted BuzzFeed, it is still used as a major news source for that demographic. With every headline, they have a meme. With every fact, a gif accompanies. BuzzFeed provides easy ways to understand big topics.

Also, memes are addictive.


How you can use them

  • Here’s a list of the classics. Beware: nostalgia is great, but too much of it can look bad. 

  • Figure out your audience and what generation of tech they associate with. Did they originate with Myspace? Or are they growing up on TikTok? Go to them.

  • Scroll. Be on social media and keep up with the trends.

  • Don’t go overboard with the memes and don’t use them at the wrong time or place.

  • Make sure it’s the tone you want. Contrary to what I’ve been saying, a meme might not be the best way to communicate in every situation.

  • Have fun and make yourself laugh. As long as you keep it genuine, you’ll be set.

The time has come. You can appreciate the art of meme. Now, go create one of your own



Memes have become a primary form of communication throughout media platforms. Contact Roger Barr at Mediablaze to discover how your business can use them.

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