Yesterday I spent the entire day in Issaquah, WA while my boyfriend and I waited for a Ford dealership to install LoJack on our new car. To entertain ourselves, we browsed through local furniture stores, (briefly) walked through Cougar Mountain State Park, and watched a movie, Dark Shadows. The movie wasn’t very good. In fact, a vitaminwater ad shown before the movie has made more of an impression on me:
As far as I could tell it featured not one, not two, but a grand total of three Internet memes: lemonhead cat, success kid, and nyan cat. Not to mention the man planking on the fire hydrant at the beginning of the ad. The ad reminded me of my first assignment for account planning class: evaluate the consumer insights in a particular ad campaign. My group chose the Wonderful Pistachios ads, which are filled with pop culture references and an Internet meme of its own: the honey badger.
The main thing I learned from account planning is that when an account planner reports research findings, the most important thing is reporting the consumer insights. These are the ideas that will make the ad resonate with the target audience. To me, both the vitaminwater ad and the Wonderful Pistachios campaign were clearly targeting a young, trendy audience, and the insight is that this audience enjoys feeling that they are in-the know. The memes in the ads are supposed to be some sort of inside joke that only someone with special insider knowledge would understand. The brands want to send the message that only hip people who understand these references would purchase their product.
Of course, Internet memes aren’t some big secret that only a select few can access. They are, after all, publicly accessible on the Internet. But these brands understand that to those who are conversant in meme there is a sense of exclusivity attached to using memes. By using memes in their ads, they are trying to become a relevant part of this community.
Have you seen memes used in other ads? How does it affect the way you view the brand?