Marketing and it's Flaws in the Digital Age

This is a sub page of Marketing in the Digital Age.

Marketing in the digital age can be hard to navigate, with so many different outlets for creativity and so many subgroups and sub-genres of groups original advertising and marketing tactics are being constantly distorted. With this wiki we will examine how memes work and don't work for advertisers and the proper ways to market to these creative users in a medium they understand and respect.

An Introduction to Memes


Over the course of the past few years, Internet users have been searching for new ways to express themselves both visually and textually. The product of this search has been realized in the “meme”. The genre of "memes" has become increasingly popular and as the fad has grown, so have memes. From its beginning with cartoonesque designs, memes have progressed into using moving clips from popular TV shows as well as movies to express one’s opinions on common social situations and marketing positives as well as negatives. They provide different ways to express how one feels about situations that may be frustrating, or amusing and provide a way to express that frustration or emotion with other people. Users do so by using popular culture references, popular ads, and ads that haven’t been so successful with selling but provide comedy in the mess-ups they have created. Although anyone can read or use a meme, those who are familiar with technology tend to be more comfortable using the memes. This is important for marketers to realize and have a strong sense of use with technology in order to properly use this way of social commentary as guerrilla marketing since this seems to be a popular method for younger audiences and those most likely to use these sites. By having memes show the positives and negatives of marketing and popular culture a marketer should be able to have a stronger grasp on the ideas of successful and unsuccessful marketing in a digital medium. Since so many young people are online at any given moment this is a prime location for someone in the marketing field to expand their customer base and gain more users without having to actively go out and see them in person. By using a meme and more digital marketing, a user can become quite successful in getting their product across by properly using rhetoric to obtain more clients.

Purpose of Memes

People are online for a vast majority of the day. Whether this is using social media or doing scholastic work or just using more leisurely sites, memes provide a commentary on all of the above. Some memes include ideas about social media and how users behave on the sites, other memes focus on jokes about chemistry, science, English, and other scholastic fields, and some memes are just about life and the everyday struggles that people go through. The purpose of all of these is to relate to other users and hopefully share in one experience or another. The use of bonding through the Internet is not a new concept and this is where marketers can really expand their uses for the Internet. While many advertising agencies use social media to promote themselves and clients, memes do this in a funny and clever way that is less formal. If someone understands a joke on a meme they feel included and this is pivotal to a marketer so that they can further their client base. By using memes in social media and in general marketing the purpose expands to more that just serving the need for inclusion but it also goes into the sales aspect of a company and goes to more than just something only seen on the web. Memes in marketing can go to print, television, film, etc so that the meme is the focus of a campaign can help redirect the purpose of a meme into a selling tool as well as a tool for inclusion.

Inclusive and Exclusive Properties of Memes: What to Look out for

For those who understand memes, the memes can be about anything within popular culture, or one specific culture that the creator is a part; this could include television, music, online communities, movies, etc. By including some and excluding others, memes allow for a subgroup of people to come together in their understandings of the memes and create an Internet community based on the anonymity of the creators and thus the community is stronger because there are no social hierarchies. Advertising has the power to bring in new slang, new slogans, and new ways to comment on social behavior. Memes take those ads and convert them so that the digital user can apply them to more than just what they see on TV or in a magazine. Instead they take the slogan and add it to a funny clip from a movie, or to an everyday struggle that could be considered a hassle and makes it humorous and thus includes the user and intended audience because it allows them to feel included in a group even if the group is full of anonymous users. The anonymity can once again help marketers because users are associating with the meme and not the creator of it. With this, the company does not look like a big business, but instead a regular user. For those who are included and get the puns and jokes they feel more connected to the group and creators and commentators of the memes, while those who do not get the jokes presented are excluded.

As mentioned before, anyone can use a meme and they can be used for any situation. This is key for marketers because anyone can help with the creation of a meme and one meme could have many uses for one marketer. They can add users to their own products, persuade users from one product of a competitors to another by using their own slogan against them or a funny picture that changes the message, and ultimately make their own products and company shine to a group that isn’t as persuaded with print ads or television commercials. Memes can range from a wide group of users to a small collective group, thus including and excluding certain users. For example, Indiana university has it’s own memes that relate to the daily struggles and successes on campus (bus routes, basketball, etc) and there are also memes that everyone can enjoy (chemistry cat, Philosoraptor , I Haz Cheezeberger Cat, etc.), some of which will be discussed in later as well as the idea that users take popular marketing slogans and change them to fit into cultural commentary that can be humorous or provocative.

However in order to enjoy these you must be able to access the Internet, which excludes a portion of the population who do not have access. One popular meme site is “What Should We Call Me” These are moving memes that are from popular commercials, ads, television shows and movies. These memes are for those who have a strong understanding of references such as “Mean Girls”, “Real Housewives”, and other reality TV series and movies. The jokes that are presented in the meme are lost on those who don’t understand. For example, in What Should We Call Me, there is a meme that talks about running into your best friend at a party and it is a moving meme of someone dancing to Gangnam Style. Those who enjoy that type of music or at least know of it would understand the joke but others would not. This is important to note for marketers because one needs to have a firm grasp on what is popular and trending with their intended audiences. The people who use these sites are generally well educated in popular culture and they all know the general ideas behind each (or most) of the memes they see. They use them in social media, while conversing with friends, and even in blogs or different online accounts. This is critical to marketers and advertisers because this is the kind of free media that allows people to associate with their brand because people are talking about their brands in a humorous and thus positive manner.

Audience: Meme Users


The social media that the audiences use memes in provide a sense of community because people are conversing with others based on their sense of humor or same experiences. This bonds the community with humor and the anonymity that they can express themselves without having to fear repercussions. Bazerman states that, you are what you join: “As participants orient towards this communicative social space they take on the mood, attitude, as actual possibilities of that place- they go that place to do the kinds of things you do there, think the kinds of thought you think there, feel the kind of way you feel there, satisfy what you can satisfy there, be the kind of person you can become there” (Bazerman 13). Marketers want people to join in on their memes in a positive light because with this people become brand loyal even if they haven’t used the product. If they see their product on a meme or in a website like “What Should We Call Me”, they accept it and want to use it to again be included in that type of social system- even though it is anonymous who post them there are millions of users that can be seen on social media sites as well as talked about in groups.

Memes can appeal to large or small audiences and the audience that a marketer would want to appeal to can also be small or large. Memes provide a comfortable and relatable feeling to a marketing strategy while still having anonymity with it because no one knows who the users are and can better relate with an unknown face because the users can be more authentic. This will only help marketers in the long run by allowing more and more people to get attached to the product and become loyal consumers. Overall memes are something that should be used for specific marketing strategies, mainly online. While some can cross-promote on different media structures audiences that use memes help the marketer provide a different genre to their products and gain more people and thus customers. The pathos of the memes and how their are humorous or heartfelt really help drive the meme into a strong and lasting genre that any marketer could use for their digital advertising.

Memes are both inclusive and exclusive depending on one’s personal usage of the Internet and their knowledge of popular culture to understand the contexts. It also brings the audience together to form a sense of community because everyone comes together under the same meme because they have the same issues that they relate to. Overall, more and more memes are being created for issues that our society is facing. People are looking for ways to express themselves and they are doing so in more creative ways. The combination of text and image allows people to get their point across to the masses and while keeping their anonymity because they are using the basis that many memes are created with, but just adding their own words in order to express themselves.

Today, memes have become very popular amongst students. There are various websites which allow you to create and post your own memes like memecenter and 9gag.

Example of Successful Memes in Marketing: 1-800-Petmeds


People want to feel included, whether this is a new fashion trend, the latest in technology, or something within digital media (memes, social media etc.). This is an important aspect to remember for marketers because this is how many people within the field get their target markets or new markets to purchase their products. Users want something new and something that makes them feel included with the “in” group. By using what is popular in digital media a digital marketer, or any marketer in general would benefit from using these types of popular commentaries to boost their products. For example, the Facbeook page for pet medical supplies company 1-800-Petmeds uses popular memes that model general memes amongst others to explain why their fans should use their products. People like and understand the memes because these are everyday situations that they could be a part of themselves. These memes and marketing ploys are often successful and get a lot of “likes”, “shares” and “comments” on their page. These memes attract the pathos (the emotional appeal that a work has that can make a user laugh, cry, empathize etc. It is also allows the audience to better understand the writer's point of view) of the users and they find them humorous, and when pet users (who are the people who like the Facebook page) need someone for their pet medical needs they turn to this website because of the constant exposure and humor they saw on the page. They also constantly post these memes that fit to their pet-loving audience members.

As an example we have this meme from the 1-800-Petmeds Facebook page. The meme is of a group of dogs watching someone (who would appear to represent the viewer because it's from a person's point of view) take a bite of food and watching them eat. This is humorous for the audience because if they are on the Facebook page, chances are that they have a pet that does this and the audience is more likely to relate to the meme and thus the Facebook page. There are also comments on the page saying "my dog totally does this!" or "They all look so hungry!" and other comments about the page. By having these pictures up more people will be likely to be receptive of the page and this is when the marketers of 1-800-Petmeds can add in their own plugs about products they have or find effective for pet owners.

The Cons of Meme Using

They also have a clear purpose which is to show that they love their pets as much their user’s do. By including themselves with the audience they get a stronger connection to the users because they are using a medium that the users can actively participate on (typically social media) and express their appreciation or lack of appreciation of the meme directly to the site. Once again this allows for more inclusion because the audience feels more connected to the meme and although the meme was created anonymously, it has a direct user so the audience is connecting to the company which is what every marketer wants their company or product to do so their company can gain brand loyalty.

Example of an Unsuccessful Meme


While memes can be successful they also can be distorted. Since memes are basically visual social commentary they can take judgements of certain companies and products and they can exploit these to give an image that a company wouldn’t want. For example there is a meme that has an African-American man holding a plate of pancakes and has a Denny’s logo in the background and the text says “Is this food delicious, or am I just too damn high” . The text is saying that Denny’s food is delicious but usually only under the influence of a drug or alcohol. This is not the proper image that a company like Denny’s would want and a point that memes can not always be perceived the way that marketers would want them to be perceived. Because memes are allowed to be copied and distorted, if a meme is not successful at portraying a positive image for the company and is appealing to the users then it has a higher chance at becoming distorted and re-used to make fun of the product and company.


Advertising has the power to bring in new slang, new slogans, and new ways to comment on social behavior. Memes take those ads and convert them so that the digital user can apply them to more than just what they see on TV or in a magazine. Instead they take the slogan and add it to a funny clip from a movie, or to an everyday struggle that could be considered a hassle and makes it humorous and thus includes the user and intended audience because it allows them to feel included in a group even if the group is full of anonymous users.

1. Bazerman, Charles. " Citizenship in the age of the Internet and the age of Global Capitalism." Citizenship in the age of the Internet and the age of Global Capitalism. (2002): 14-34. Print.
4. Helft, Miguel. Young Internet Producers, Bankrolled, Are Seeking Act II . 2006. New York Times, New York. Web. 6 Dec 2012. <>.
5. Menegus, Bryan. Internet memes get ad deals. 2012. Slacktory.comWeb. 6 Dec 2012. <>
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