Memes, Marketing and Communications: Developing a Strategy for Representation and Fair Compensation for Meme Creators, Frank Gargione

Social media users value memes; encountering, sharing, and creating them on a daily basis across multiple platforms. The meme format has affected the ways individuals communicate, has informed their politics, and has changed the look and sound of mainstream marketing. Behind these humorous images are creators whose work is being shared, altered, and co-opted by social media consumers as well as aggregators, curators, and marketers who use memes to sell products and advertising. Meme creators exist outside the mainstream and represent a diverse cohort in terms of gender, race, sexuality, education, and geography. Largely, they are struggling to generate income from their work and unable to access the individuals and brands that might pay for their authentic voices and creative talents. Based on a comprehensive overview of the history of memes and their impact on communication, culture, and politics, the current study is designed to yield findings and insights to inform a strategy for increasing acknowledgment and compensation for memers. Additionally, the overall research objective was to identify and understand the perceptions and attitudes of memers, marketers and consumers regarding the impact and value of memes and the memetic tone that has seeped into mainstream culture and marketing. The research utilized a mixed-methods design, and twelve (12) qualitative In-depth Individual Interviews (IDIs) were conducted with both memers and marketers, and a quantitative online survey was completed by 122 social media-user consumers. The research was designed with the goals of establishing the level that respondents value memes; consider memes as art; and perceive the role of memes in communication, activism, and marketing. An additional goal was to identify the level of respondents’ interest in a hub, database, or management system where memers could feature their talents, interests, and availability to the marketing community as an opportunity to secure legitimate creative work and fair wages. Findings indicate that social media users value memes; creators would be responsive to such a database; and marketers are generally open to working with memers.

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