Memes have become a cultural phenomenon. According to highsnobiety, memes ‘pair the right culturally relevant image with a witty caption’ (2017). They’re relatable, easy to share, and (turns out) incredibly lucrative.
If you're wondering why Gen Z-ers never seem to want to work ‘real jobs’ it’s because we know that somewhere in this country at this very second, a kid is posting funny cat videos and making millions.
It makes sense, doesn’t it? Given the last few years of absolute societal chaos, funny pictures and videos are in full demand. When it comes to social media, people don’t want to think, and memes are the perfect source of a quick laugh. Even more than that, they’re also a good way to connect with people. Some people- including myself- maintain friendships solely through exchanging memes.
But Memes are more than just passive entertainment; in this day and age, they’re big business. They’re like bitcoin; nobody really understands them, aside from the fact that people can get rich off of them and college kids talk exclusively about them.
Like that high school teacher that tries way too hard to be ‘hip,’ many brands are discovering that memes are the key to reaching wide audiences- especially young audiences- and they’re willing to pay top dollar for this type of branded content.
Who would’ve guessed that these silly images or videos with clever captions would become a highly profitable form of advertisement?
Even presidential candidates have reached out to meme influencers and the media companies they’ve partnered with for sponsored content, including a campaign for Michael Bloomberg, former NYC governor (Buzzfeed 2020).
Some Meme Accounts have made it so big that they’ve been bought by media companies for millions of dollars.
Eventually, the account went from a single creator to a team of creators and was backed by IMGM Media and Comedy.com. As of 2020, IMGM was bought by Warner Music Group for 85 million (manofmany2020).
Warner Music Group wanted to obtain the company due to its large following and its ability to target large numbers of Gen Zs and young Millenials (manofmany2020). Today, the account has 16.6 Million followers on Instagram.
Other meme admins have experienced their own success. Take @fuckjerry for example- What started as two dudes- Elliot Tebele and Elie Ballas- posting funny car pics and captions on Tumblr grew into a media company that now generates millions of dollars in sales (Inc 2017).
Jerry Media produces a lot of branded content. According to Digiday marketers can expect to pay at least $24,000 for a piece of sponsored content. The company also launched its own card game What Do You Meme. Tebele and his team charge a “CPF” or cost per follower, which is generally around $1 (highsnobiety). Today the account has 16.7M followers.
The world is in the hands of 23-year-olds from Canada, Tumblr dudes, and pretty much any young person with an internet connection and a sense of humor. These creators who set out to just make silly captions for photos can now make millions of dollars and build their own media companies. What a crazy time we’re living in!