We’ve all seen memes circulating on social media, and even if we don’t know what the term means, chances are we can relate to them. They are fun and often thought-provoking, as they capture the zeitgeist and resonate with many people simultaneously. The key to a successful meme is its relatability, wit, and entertainment value. The memes that become the most prevalent are those that can capture a common sentiment and create a humorous take on it.
The word “meme” was coined by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene as a way of explaining how cultural information spreads. He compared it to the way genes are replicated and passed from parent to child, in which case “memes” are ideas that can spread from person to person within a culture through imitation.
Besides the ability to be replicated, memes also need to have some level of longevity, as the neural space that hosts a given meme is limited, and when it’s filled with another one, there will be less available for the original one. Longevity is further increased by the “preservative” properties of the memes, which increase their longevity and resistance to competition or proselytism from competing ideas.
Memes can also be a great tool for businesses and brands to use when trying to reach their target audience, but it’s important not to let them get out of hand or lose their meaning or purpose. Humor is highly subjective, and it can be easy for a meme to fall flat or even offend people when used in the wrong context.