Play It Forward, Chapter 2: The Common Denominator of Viral Memes

I’ve talked about the “Downfall” based viral meme in the past, where people alter the meaning of a screaming Hitler tirade by changing the supers.  For a short time back in April, these were pulled from YouTube over some misguided intellectual property rights fussiness.  I found that particularly ironic given that these memes helped me discover and purchase this remarkable movie, largely based on Bruno Ganz’s remarkable performance.  They are back now, covering everything from Brett Favre’s waffling to the waning popularity of the gag itself.Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago Advertising

Those topics are critical to the success of this kind of meme, which goes far beyond parodying the Third Reich. By commenting on issues, these types of viral memes help people identify like-minded audiences.  Lately, xtranormal, with its ability to generate customized animated clips, has become the meme-generator of choice for this kind of viral.  A few weeks back, I received the same clip regarding the University of Michigan’s ham handed handling of football coach Rich Rodriguez’ firing.

Topicality fuels viral memes like these.  But more than that, it’s topicality that’s relevant to a specific communities.  Upset about Lovie Smith’s playcalling?  There’s a meme for that.  Think Obama is awesome or awful?  There’s a meme for both.  And if you’re feeling particularly creative, you can generate your own clip which, if it’s entertaining enough and pertinent to a group of your friends, will be quickly passed along.

Identifying the group you hope to reach can really drive viral success.  Sure, it’s awesome to have tens of millions of hits, but if you craft the right message and get it to a few thought leaders in your targeted group, they will self select the qualified leads who would be most interested in viewing it.  The common denominator in any popular viral meme is a well-defined community.  That may not help sell aspirin given the large, wide range of that consumer market, but it can be invaluable for anything with a narrower, more defined target, and thus a better defined community.

When you deliver a great creative idea to influential people in your target community, your video focuses in from a broad dim streetlight that falls over everything to a powerful spotlight shining on your exact issue for your exact audience.  And that’s compelling branding.

Having a community share in the task of finding your brand’s ideal audience and capturing their digital information is the real promise of video broadcasting on social networks.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


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