Memes, or "viruses of the mind", provide a very helpful framework for restoring some key notions in marketing that have been diluted by misuse of the term "brand". Among other crimes:
Fundamentally we neglected the fact that brands do not belong to us and do not reside in the HQ’s of organizations but rather exist only in the minds of consumers. This has lead to a number of assumptions that are counter-productive and have effectively neutered the power of the brand.
Memes encourage us to think in terms of the inherent essence of various products and the fact that, ultimately, their self-replicating nature cannot be controlled by marketers. Products are ideas launched into the world of minds, Mr. Huntington argues, and the powerful ones spread naturally by virtue of their strength.
Any idea, belief or attitude is a meme. Consequently the halo of such attributes that we are used to calling the brand is essentially a meme. All products, services or organisations therefore have memes with some stronger than others and therefore better at transmission, replication and defence from competitive memes.
The key to success for any product is to launch into the world - and remember it is purely a world of minds - a powerful meme about itself. The initial catalyst may well be advertising but the measure of its power is that it becomes in large part self replicating, that consumers spread and augment it themselves.
I think these thoughts and the "meme" meme really help us to think clearly about everything from positioning, product innovation, authenticity, and word-of-mouth. From one of the articles linked below, designer Shepard Fairey echoes some of these principles:
In a world in which there are so many kinds of media, insinuating one's brand name into people's everyday lives via word of mouth has become an increasingly powerful force. In a world in which technology has become such an invasive presence and anonymity is so easy, word of mouth and "real" interaction are welcome changes. As Fairey put it, "The best campaigns are ones where people see it and they ask people about it. And it starts a chain reaction."