Advertising Memes – How To Hardwire Your Prospects To Buy From Only You

“Meme” is a Greek word. Marketing terms refer to a “packet”, which is information that is easily understood. To cut through the clutter and confusion of advertising today, only the most compelling and easily understood “packets” will succeed.

Marketing memes are real. They can be used to control your mind. This is not science fiction. Geoff Ayling explains all in his book, “Rapid Response Advertising”. It’s one of my favorites books.

Our brains use memes as a kind of “instant recall” template. A meme can be a slogan, a jingle or a visual association. A successful advertising meme, regardless of its form, gets under our skin and influences our actions.

Creepy, right?

Perhaps. Perhaps. But I can convince you that memes can be used to make a difference. Developing the right memes for your products or business can mean the difference between failure and success.

Here’s an old meme:

“I like IKE!”

Ike is a great guy. His image was consistent, at least in public, he was likable in 2 elections. This was partly due to his charisma and appearance as well as his credibility. But it was all connected by the 3-word hear-it-say-it meme. Ike won in 1953 by a wide margin, ending the 20-year Democratic White House. He had never held an elective office and was therefore not an experienced legislator.

Ike’s election was a triumph of populism… it may have gone well even without the meme, “I line Ike!” It’s hard to deny the power and associations that the slogan invokes.

Another famous meme is:

Hot pizza delivered right to your door in just 30 minutes or less, or you get it for free!

“We are number 2. We strive to be better.

Both cases don’t mention the name of the company in the meme. But the associations are powerful enough that most Americans recognize these memes, even though they may have not seen them in years.

Here’s another:

“Take the Pepsi challenge!”

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This is what I remember from the 1970s and 80s. When I was a youngster, this was my favorite soda. Pepsi was my preferred choice, although I tried coke. However, I also liked Pepsi. In just a few short years, Coke lost a significant market share to Pepsi. Pepsi repositioned Coke to be old-fashioned, uncool. The company spent a lot of money trying get Coke back. One of the most successful marketing campaigns in history.

Let’s face the facts, there is little chance that your company or product will have a meme as popular as these. You can also use memes in subtler settings. In order to create a powerful and compelling reason for customers to buy from your company, a meme is ideal. You can use a combination of memes to give the illusion that your product is superior to your competitors.

Your MINDS are what differentiates you from your competitors.  Most business owners would be surprised at how unaware the public is about the value of their products and how easy it is to forget their advertising.

Understanding and using Memes in marketing messages will give you a fighting chance to stand out from the crowd of “me too” marketing. This is, despite how proud you may be of your current marketing efforts.

Marketing is not a very diverse field.  However, there are some companies that use them and have won in the marketplace.  The Avis car rental Meme “We are number 2 – we try harder” catapulted the failing company to number 2.

Another successful meme is The Marlboro Man.  The tagline is “Come To Where The Flavors Is – Marlboro Country”. That’s fine. But the real power lies in the layering and combining of images that depict rugged Americanism and male power.  These memes were ingrained in America’s collective consciousness and made Marlboro number 22 in cigarette sales.  It was a failing brand that was unremarkable and turned it into a multi-billion-dollar brand.

Although I would not want to be involved in a toxic product such as cigarettes, it is worth considering the meme.  A few liquor companies have attempted to borrow the Marlboro meme with some success.  Whiskey is, for most, quite similar. Yet, effective memetic advertising has created brand-preferences within the minds of consumers that allow certain brands to take over.  The drinker will know what whisky he prefers when presented with 20 different brands.  His preference is less based upon his real preference than it is on the mind-control marketing of memetic brand.

Powerful stuff indeed.

We are a team of professionals with each having two decades of experience in start-ups, sales, marketing, finance, HR, large scale project and profit centre management and running mature cross functional operations. At we are big believers that knowledge transfer is critical to our industry’s evolution. We love to share our experiences and learnings through our online resources.

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