By Brett Zielke
More and more, we as a society seem to be migrating to communicating in the digital age with something that massively predates it–photos. As the world speeds up, people are sending screenshots of an image instead of dictating what a sign or note says to a person.
Now, not long after this shift came the birth of something equal parts controversial and hilarious: the meme. I swear, one day these weren’t a thing, and the next day they were the only thing on Instagram’s feed. With their creation came a shift in how we shared opinions, feelings and our stance on issues. As memes grew in popularity, they morphed from a place of humour to a place of opinion. This isn’t to say that people are only sharing memes that reflect their political leanings, but there was a time when you didn’t see that at all.
One relevant example of this has been the use of memes during the Covid pandemic. We have seen many people using memes to share their opinion on different divisive aspects of the virus with quick and cutting results, such as the effectiveness of masks, lockdowns and the anti-vaccine movement. Sharing a quick meme to Instagram or Facebook stories identifies what side people fall on in the great debate, at times making humorous observations, but other times spreading dangerous misinformation.
This has helped to illustrate the ease with which people can spread and accept misinformation, especially if they take what they read at face value without doing further research– something that’s trending during this pandemic.
As a result of the pandemic, we have seen how memes can be used as part of an effective communications strategy. There are several keys that need to be understood in order to effectively integrate them into your strategy. Firstly, know your audience, and what resonates with them. For example, commentary that connects with Millennials, may not work as well with Gen Z.
As well, it is important that whatever meme you build is quickly understandable at a glance. As such, it is important to use an image that is relevant, and tie it to a current trend, while keeping any writing on it to a minimum.
Also, it is important not to oversaturate your page with them, as this can lead to your campaign losing sight of what your brand is, or what the campaign is truly about. Sometimes, less is more.
It seems that most communication is heading towards visual means, perhaps indicating that the ability to communicate well through the written word will simply increase in value. But it could also help to create further division throughout society via quickly consumed misinformation.