What could a new memes platform mean for retail?

Discussion
Source: MemeStream/iTunes
Mar 20, 2017
George Anderson

While shopping trips with my now adult children were mercifully few when they were in their later teen years, I clearly remember them snapping photos of clothes and other purchases to share with friends on Instagram, Snapchat and other social media platforms. As I’ve found over the years, social media posts like those made by kids can affect peer perceptions of a given retail chain both for the good and bad.

Hashtags, which are used to categorize content, have become commonplace on most social networks today. Less common, but growing in use are “memes”. Google the term meme and you’ll find it described as “a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by internet users.”

Popular memes — often including photos or videos of cats, in my limited experience — can be found throughout social media. The person posting the meme will typically add their own copy to make a given point. Photos of Gene Wilder playing Willy Wonka, for example, have been used to describe what it’s like for some to work in retail. One includes the character with the copy: “Oh, you’re just looking? Please continue to unfold every shirt I just folded.”

A new social media app called MemeStream has recently launched a content platform that provides users with an easier way to use memes in communicating with others. The app’s users are able to “view, post, and caption photos” for others to see.

MemeStream is the brainchild of Sophia Latessa, the 16-year-old CEO of the company, who raised investment dollars to pursue its development. Today, Ms. Latessa oversees a team of six.

“Memes are important in today’s world because they spread culture and patterns of behavior across borders much faster than was possible in the past,” she said.

“They are an essential way to communicate ideas and culture. No matter your location in the world, certain memes are recognizable, and technology has allowed this to happen,” she added. “MemeStream will facilitate this global conversation further.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do memes represent more of a communications opportunity or threat for retail businesses? Do you know of any retailers making good use memes today?

Braintrust
"Controversial and outrageous merchandising to foster meme creation requires looking at our current models quite differently."
"Since memes usually feature a snarky comment, it would be better for retailers to shy away from them."
"Kudos to entrepreneurial 16-year-old Sophia Latessa. Memes are like other social media platforms when it comes to retail — an extension of the brand."

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13 Comments on "What could a new memes platform mean for retail?"

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Tom Dougherty
BrainTrust

It’s hard to see memes as threats. But they certainly add another, albeit inefficient, means of reaching customers and loyalists. Another social network to manage. Sounds like a nightmare to me.

If the retailer’s goal is to increase visibility by getting shoppers to create memes that support visitations then they need to rethink current old-school merchandising strategies.

Controversial and outrageous merchandising to foster meme creation requires looking at our current models quite differently.

Max Goldberg
BrainTrust

Since memes usually feature a snarky comment, it would be better for retailers to shy away from them. Trying to use memes to sell will backfire. There are many other ways that retailers can try to harness the power of social media.

Jon Polin
BrainTrust

Kudos to entrepreneurial 16-year-old Sophia Latessa. Memes are like other social media platforms when it comes to retail — an extension of the brand. That is to say that retailers who do a great job satisfying their customers and connecting with those customers emotionally can use memes as an additional tool to engage customers in a positive way. Retailers who fail to satisfy customers better watch out, as memes represent one more tool for dissatisfied customers to paint the retailer in a negative light. It continues to be a great time to be a social media manager.

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)
BrainTrust

Memes are but one manifestation of the combination of images, creativity and commentary, and it is this combination that gets the author noticed, which is the ultimate goal. It is not going away and we can expect to see more tools that make such authoring possible.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

Most memes seem to have harmless intentions, however I can also see the day when one is shared that capitalizes on a detrimental news item regarding a specific business. I suppose anything can be abused. I guess my paranoia is showing.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

Memes work when “regular” people start them and they go viral because people are fascinated by what the “average Joe” says about topics in the media or topics that lend themselves to a snarky remark. They’re not something retailers can generate on their own as a sales or marketing strategy without looking like it’s intended as a sales or marketing strategy! Retailers need to let these happen organically by their customers. That implies having the right products shoppers want and merchandising them in interesting, unique ways that make shoppers stop and think about what they are looking at to entice them to create a meme on the spot.

Tom Redd
Guest

Just another place for kids to waste time and some marketers to waste money. When kids really need something serious to wear — or a real style — as they age, they will turn to the website and to the store associates. All this social crud in the middle is for time wasting and people who have a thing for cats.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

It’s very inspiring to see a 16-year-old CEO, Sophia Latessa, come up with an innovative way to leverage memes. While memes have taken off and are omnipresent across all the social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc), they can certainly serve well to help “socialize” the brand, however, it will be a while before they are seen as a formidable method of commerce.

Controversy or any publicity is good publicity. There is no such thing as bad publicity. The Kardashian retail and social empire was built upon this.

So the meme commerce strategy as a brand extension, as an entrepreneurial low-risk move and insofar as it provides a bridge to Generation Z is a win-win proposition.

Patricia Vekich Waldron
BrainTrust
Patricia Vekich Waldron
Retail and Marketing Expert; Former IBM Executive
8 months 25 days ago

I’m most impressed with the 16-year-old MemeStream founder and her staff of 6 … GenZ is out there and social is how they show up.

Min-Jee Hwang
BrainTrust

After reading Sophia’s views on memes, I agree with her statement on how it is part of our modern culture and how it allows for global communication of ideas and culture. But I completely disagree with the notion that memes are important and essential to today’s world. They are a notable part of our culture but more than anything, they’re an amusing distraction that jokes around current events. We could do with fewer memes in the world to be honest and in terms of business, it doesn’t do much past connecting with the younger markets better. An occasional meme here or there would be acceptable and more effective than constantly trying to connect with generation Z and Millennials.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

This is yet another channel or way that people are communicating. Next year they will probably be a half dozen others (or maybe more). Just like the traditional social channels (if there is anything traditional about social) such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc., it’s just another channel. This may or may not take hold. No matter what, retailers can’t fight it, and shouldn’t. I’ve heard a few retailers complaining about social platforms. Why? Embrace all of them — and take advantage of them!

Nir Manor
BrainTrust

My 2 cents on memes is that they should be used very carefully, and tested within a target audience prior to using. If the content is right and can be naturally connected to the brand, they can generate attention and conversion. However, if it is not spot on, they can backfire on the brand and damage its “cool” image.

Sophia Latessa
Guest

Thank you all for your comments!

I agree with Jon Polin. When memes are used with tact, they can be a great way for retailers to connect with their customers. Companies are already hiring comedians to run their social media pages, and since memes usually consist of funny content, they make the perfect vehicle for this new type of subtle advertising. Retailers might even reach the point where customers will, through submitting captions, make their ads for them using MemeStream.

Companies from Pepsi to Taco Bell are already using memes to reach their audience. Norwegian Airlines even capitalized on Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s divorce to sell tickets to Los Angeles, posting a meme captioned “Brad is Single. Los Angeles from/one way £169.” In other words, memes can be a hugely effective way of marketing if done correctly, and as meme culture continues to grow, one can expect more companies will adopt this form of advertising.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Controversial and outrageous merchandising to foster meme creation requires looking at our current models quite differently."
"Since memes usually feature a snarky comment, it would be better for retailers to shy away from them."
"Kudos to entrepreneurial 16-year-old Sophia Latessa. Memes are like other social media platforms when it comes to retail — an extension of the brand."

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