In today's internet landscape, you can't go far without running into a meme. You've likely encountered more than a few, even if you didn't know to identify it by that name. Memes – pronounced "meems" – are any concepts, ideas or trends that spread throughout a population and catch interest, and the easiest medium through which they spread is the internet.
Previously, memes typically only had influence on the Web, but a report from HubSpot says marketers are finding ways to incorporate these images and jokes into visual marketing campaigns.
Have you ever heard of Success Kid? This image of an 11-month-old toddler holding a fist of sand at the beach was uploaded by his mother to a Flickr account. In the years since, it has been repurposed time and again by internet users worldwide, with "Success Kid" placed in different scenarios purportedly celebrating some sort of successful endeavor – examples are here and here.
Virgin Mobile jumped at the opportunity to ride the Success Kid wave, and in February 2012 the company began a billboard campaign in the United Kingdom featuring another young toddler making a similar gesture, celebrating his parents' new cable package.
Success kid is just one of many memes to be repurposed by major corporations as part of a targeted internet marketing campaign, and Hubspot says it can be valuable because the images are already viral and recognizable, they attract social media links and Web traffic, and they are remarkably easy to create.
Hubspot advises marketers to only piggyback onto memes that make sense for their brand and ones that their audience will appreciate. It's important to understand the root meaning of a meme before parlaying it into a marketing opportunity – otherwise marketers may unintentionally connect their brand to a less-than-savory viral trend.