Creating Great Content: Using Memes and Gamification, Part 1

July 6, 2012 Deb Griffith

Time and again, we’ve all heard that “content is king” in creating your online messaging. So you’ve enlisted your internal “experts” to produce blogposts, tweets or images to share on your website or social media channels. But what are some other ways to include interesting and engaging content that readers will share, like or comment on? Consider memes or gamification.

Just What is a Meme, Anyway?

A meme is “an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.” So by definition, a meme is a viral element that should be designed to generate a curiosity or interest in the reader that inspires them to pass it along. In other words, creating buzz. If you’ve spent any time on the Internet, you’ve invariably viewed (and maybe even shared) a meme or two. In most cases, a meme starts with an original element that gets replicated and expanded to include multiple applications of the original idea. And most of the time, successful memes are photo or video based. Some of the more popular organic memes have included:

  • Ridiculously Photogenic Guy – A simple photo of an attractive runner was photoshopped, captioned and shared all over the internet in a variety of offbeat places.
  • LOL cats – Who doesn’t love pictures of cats? Well this enhances the photo a step further with the application of silly, phonetically spelled captions of the ridiculous.
  • Bed Intruder – Lifted from a real police report, the victim’s and witnesses’ on-camera statements were auto-tuned and set to a backbeat that was irresistible, and generating over 100 million views on YouTube. The subsequent parody extensions include an a capella version from Liberty University’s Christmas Show.
  • Cigar Guy -- A simple picture of Tiger Woods duffing a shot directly at a camera (which was pretty remarkable in itself) went stratospheric when an interesting character was spotted in the front row of the gallery – a guy in a wig, mustache and cigar. Photoshopped Cigar Guy images quickly swept the internet, applied in iconic images from the past and today.

Creating Your Own Memes

When creating a meme, the critical element is for it to appeal emotionally to the reader. The best memes evoke humor, absurdity or novelty. So think about something that is unique to your product or company culture and be creative in coming up with something offbeat. Or you can capitalize on an existing meme that you can take to the next level. T-Mobile has done a good job to identify something that is popular and then make it their own:

  • The T-Mobile Royal Wedding Dance – Playing off of the groundswell of a couple who posted video of their unorthodox wedding entrance, T-Mobile applied the same concept to the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. The original “Wedding Dance” video has about 75 million views on YouTube, and T-Mobile’s parody has racked up more than 25 million. Not bad.
  • Angry Birds Live – As the Angry Birds phenomenon was sweeping the world, T-Mobile created a “real life” version of flying birds and exploding pigs, for more than 14 million pairs of eyeballs.

Companies that have succeeded in creating memes of their own:

  • Burger King’s Subservient Chicken – This one goes all the way back to 2004 when Burger King was promoting a new menu item, “Chicken any way you like it” and launched a dedicated website to serve up a chicken that followed the commands suggested by the viewer. Burger King reports more than 400 million views in the first 6 months of the launch, and in increase in chicken sandwich sales of 9%.
  • Direct TV’s Petite Lap Giraffes -- Direct TV’s campaign featured a ultra-rich guy who only likes the best, but chooses Direct TV for the best service at the best prices. He’s so rich his pet is a Petite Lap Giraffe. The subtlety of the campaign never mentions the critters specifically, but an online search yields a website where you can find out more about the animals, view photos (including the commercials) and even pre-order and share via Facebook and Twitter a PLG for yourself.

Granted, these are big-budget examples of how to create an effective viral campaign, but hopefully they can give you ideas to create something quirky for your business. There are also websites that can help you easily create a photo meme image for yourself:

Or you could come up with a way to leverage two recent memes:

  • What-people-think-I-do/What-I-really-do – a 6 pack of photos with captions that define different perceptions of a person’s profession or hobby. You could feature one of your products or services as it applies to different end users, or in different situations.
  • “Stuff Girls Say” – A video with quick edits of one-liners delivered by a variety of different people in different settings, often contradictory or stating the obvious. The fast, witty pace of the dialogue engages the viewer. You could create a series of one-liners to describe your product or show customers talking about one of your services.

To stay on top of recent fads and memes as they are happening, be sure to check out:

Stay tuned for Part 2: Gamification        

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