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Memes: what are their origins and how are they used by brands?

August 11, 2020

Memes. They have been a staple of our internet diet since any of us can remember. As social media usage skyrocketed in popularity, so did the meme. They have had a massive role in the propagation of trends and ideas, even in a political spectrum. However, where did they come from?


Richard Dawkins. Not always the most well-loved scientists by some, first, rightly, described a meme as ‘‘natural human spreading, replication, and modification of ideas and culture’  How ideas are passed from person to person through time. Sometimes like virus. Hence the term ‘viral’. The meaning of actual, scientific term has been altered over time, as digital memes are now modified by human creativity rather than natural selected.


Sila, Digital Ape’s proprietary tool, has analysed over 33mn posts and memes, 16bn+ video views, 4bn+ comments from around 8k key creators (influencers), which leads us to discover the latest online trends that are key in any audience-first strategy.

The Success Kid

Going back, some memes are used to further the brand or the causes of political parties. A favourite would be the Success Kid meme. Used in many forms, but it was utilised simply by the Obama Government to lobby for Immigration Reform.

Instagram Success Kid Meme Immigration Congress

The G.C.C

A great example of the use of the power of memes would be by Mentos. They highlighted  the many idiosyncratic behaviour of the Gulf resident, in many cases through memes. They then provided the mint as the fresh thinking needed when the environment around their target audience – The Arab Youth – sometimes makes no sense.

Mentos Fresh Thinking Meme


More recently, another meme has gone viral. It shows two astronauts discovering the Earth is made up of something other than what is expected.

'Wait. It's all Ohio? Always has been' Meme

Interestingly, some users have started to insert their favourite products for fun! This would be an ideal opportunity for the attentive digital marketeer to piggy-back the trend.

'Wait. It's all 5 Gum?' Meme

When looking at the data, it is clear that there was a meteoric rise in the meme within recent weeks. However, as discussed, it is most important to delve deeper and discover the audience of the meme e.g. country, age, interests, affinities etc.

Data Meme 'It Always Has been'


Memes continue to be an integral part of our daily, digital lives. Content that users feel is organic and authentic, will gain most traction.

At Digital Ape, given our abilities to track across billions of data points, we keep our fingers on the pulse of digital society. DA’s data scientists and Sila, together, deliver world-beating insights that define strategies that have grown businesses by creating profit, not just awards. By doing so, we are able to keep our fingers on the pulses of digital society and create great campaigns for multi-national organisations.  

More about Sila

DA has built a custom data warehouse service called Sila, powered by data science we turn that raw social data into actionable insights.

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