I didn’t mean to get hooked. It’s something I don’t like to tell people. But when I get a bit tipsy, and Call Me Maybe comes on, my secret is out: I kind of have a little bit of an obsession with Carly Rae Jepsen. My flatmate and I have been sharing Call Me Maybe memes over the past month or two, so I began to wonder what features made this song so adaptable into a meme and see whether this actually a set rule which applies to other memes.
For those who have missed the hype, Call Me Maybe is a song recently released by Carly Rae Jepsen. She shot to fame after Justin Bieber tweeted about her – which shot her song to the top of the charts globally.
Subsequently, a series of video and image memes sprung up around it, and it’s the latter of these which I’d like to explore.
The image memes, a selection of which are below, played with the chorus: “Hey I Just Met You, And This is Crazy / But Here’s My Number, So Call Me Maybe?”.
Examples of this meme:
Breaking it down:
So what elements make this meme be so flexible and accessible to such a wide audience? I’ve broken down the features below:
Its actually not the whole song which is the meme for this song – but usually just the chorus, which is editing the chorus of “hey, I just met you and this might sound crazy but / here’s my number so call me maybe” using a snowclone. On top of this, people need to get it. A lot of people need to get it. So the joke needs to be simple.
The chorus line in Call Me Maybe is self contained as a joke irrespective of the song as a whole being referenced. Unlike other music-based memes, like Rebecca Black’s Friday where you need to have watched the clip to understand why the meme is funny, Call Me Maybe is self-contained. Once you’ve seen a set of the memes, irrespective of having seen the song, you understand what the joke is. The comedy in this is the way that the line it is adapted to the image – this means, of course, that what you’re reworking is text which can be adapted far more easily.
Ultimately, the line took on a life of its own as a meme.
Memes are only created or spread if there is a huge base to start the meme rolling, from there it spreads exponentially. Call Me Maybe had the benefit of it being a number one hit – other memes grew out of a wide audience being exposed to it (Friday was originally blogged on The Daily What), or via huge online communities being exposed to it, such as reddit.
For brands looking at this, this category might be called “money and advertising” which might be supplemented with or replaced by “pure luck”.
And a lot of people need a way to get involved easily. Accessibility helps if the joke is self-contained and simple for the joke being translated across genres so more people can appreciate it. However, accessibility also refer to the way in which someone interacts with the meme, as they are an active medium, not passive. This action could be facilitated by the ease of someone editing their own image, the ease of tweeting someone or something, or the ease of hitting ‘share’.
5. The lols
Ultimately, memes are funny. They are spread because they’re poking fun at the human condition (for example, the What People Think I Do / What I really Do meme) or they’re gentle satire. It’s wordsmiths combining well-known cultural references as an image and creating a new meaning in doing so. The Call Me Maybe meme is ultimately, silly wordplay, with a nod to popculture (like the Darth Vader example) or current affairs (such as the poor-taste Lindy Chamberlain case meme).
Mainstream memes are more likely to go viral if they have:
- Simplicity – the key element of the meme is easy to understand
- Self-Contained – it can apply to any situation or genre
- Reach – a jumpstart from a celebrity always helps
- Accessibility – it’s easy to get involved in the meme, whether it’s creation or sharing.
- Lols – it’s got to be funny – it helps if it relates to the human condition.
Does this work for other mainstream memes? Some elements work for more internet-centric memes like Rage Comics, and some for brand created campaigns which have gone viral, such as Old Spice Guy. As a whole, is it possible to recreate these elements intentionally?
I don’t think it’s really possible to recreate these elements from a brand perspective very easily. Firstly, it involves handing over your brand to the collective of the internet, which in itself can be dangerous as we’ve seen on numerous occasions. Secondly, the community itself needs to want to create this content – there are very few brands with fans so engaged that they’ll actively participate in a community around this brand.
Admittedly, a few industries might have an easier time of this – travel communities, pet communities, both book and film communities (which organically happens with fanfiction) and, I daresay, softdrink communities would have an easier time leveraging their communities to create something to be spread. However, the crux here is that for a meme to work, it needs to be self-contained, and beyond the initial burst of memes created in homage to a brand, how would it fly – and then, once it’s become self-referential, would a brand want to be associated with what the internet creates?
I’m not convinced a meme which is create and spread would work for a brand, and if it did, for it to be successful, it would quickly lose any brand references in order to fly.
What do you think? Have you seen brands attempt to create a meme? Did it work?
Til next time!