Internet memes are fun. Yet there is a shelf-life to memes. They are inside jokes that we share with friends, but they lose their charm after a while. The charm usually begins to fade when everybody tells the same joke. It's not funny anymore, it no longer provides a that same sense of community. This mainstreaming of the joke usually coincides with advertisers jumping on the bandwagon and trying to capitalize on the popularity. After that, its a downhill slide into the oblivion of the pop culture trash heap.
When I first saw this, I thought it was genius. Two clever blokes had created their own rocket to launch mediocre alcoholic beverages into space. It seemed to be the next logical step in our exploration of the final frontier. Brilliant! However, I soon discovered that this was not the case. In fact, this is an "earned" media campaign dreamed up by the good people at Anheuser-Busch.
Before I get into my thoughts on this, let me just clarify the idea of "earned" media. Essentially, this concept refers to advertising that is shared either virally or through the newsmedia, not through traditional paid advertising slots during commercial breaks.
This appears to be a growing trend in low quality alcohol marketing as video of guys "icing" each other with Smirnoff Ice also made national headlines and was described as "the nation's biggest viral drinking game." Though Smirnoff denied involvement in this viral meme (perhaps because it encourages immoderate drinking), questions still exist as to the truth of this claim.
Why is internet meme-ing becoming the marketing campaign of choice? The target audience for these beverages, college age men, are spending increasing portions of their day on social networks and they are more likely to be exposed to advertising on facebook, than on tv.
We heard in a group presentation in class this semester about how advertising firms are using these sorts of techniques on children, but the range of target audiences exists at all ages. Companies are banking on our networks to build awareness for their product and inspire people to buy into them and share the experience.
Don't be surprised to see a kitten standing on its hind legs and drinking from an open bottle of Colt45 the next time you log into lolcats.com, and if so, does that signal the end of memery as we know it? Will tumblr sites go the way of other pop culture icons?
Not to negate the rest of this post, but probably not. (no fear cat lovers, your precious lolcats are most likely safe). However, it does have lasting implications regarding the nature of communications in the 21st century, the power of networks, and how we create and project our own interpretations of our individuality. Will this affect what you post on your social pages in future? Will you consider the source of an item more closely before you share it with your friends? Or is this a big deal outta nothing?