A recent study has shown some fascinating results.
Memes are a wonderful part of internet culture. The term was originally coined by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in his book The Naked Gene, referring to a part of culture that remains as a snippet for generations to come. Recently it has become an Internet term for all the culturally relevant images, videos, and pieces of content in the digital world.
Watching memes has become a fascinating past time for digital pioneers everywhere. Not only can they provide valuable insight into how people really feel about the world at large, but they are also a way of studying the sociology of the entire world.
Although Underhood is usually a blog about marketing, there are some interesting notes and pieces of research to acknowledge about the internet as a whole. This is an article that acknowledges that research and will hopefully be able to show that memes can provide some genuine insight into the world at large. Let's talk about gender politics in memic culture.
Recently a study came to light from a book called Memes in Digital Culture by Limor Shifman. In it he studies the top 30 viral videos of all time, and two amazing statistics came into the public sphere. The first of these is that only six of the videos had female protagonists. Of these six, several were music videos, and the rest were about beauty and make-up. An example of these can be seen below:
That video, Paper Planes by M.I.A, went viral with over 69,090,000 Youtube views alone.
The other point is far more shocking in how black and white viral videos are. Of those six viral videos portraying women, all of them showed women as sexual and traditionally good looking objects of desire. Of the 24 uploaded that showed men as the main protagonists, all of them showed flawed masculinity. Take the video below as an example:
The above video is of the incredibly talented Tay Zonday (his career launched off this video) and shows how he is not the typical idea of the masculine male. The same goes for the videos Charlie Bit My Finger, David After Dentist, Chris Crocker's Leave Britney Alone, Star Wars Kid, Numa Numa Guy, Angry German Kid, etc. They are all ideas of flawed masculinity. They are not traditionally masculine.
The same debate is open to Youtube channels. Bar musicians, there is only one female Youtuber on the top 20 most subscribed list. That is JennaMarbles, a Youtuber who adheres to the traditional female stereotype. The top three male channels, however, (PewDiePie, HolaSoyGerman, and Smosh) all adhere to a new male notion of the lovable geek. They are all eccentric, they are all nerds, and they all shout a lot at their cameras.
What is interesting is that Youtube and viral videos are reversing the male stereotype whilst adhering to the female one.
What does this mean for marketing?
What can be drawn is not so much the content or the gender but rather the demeanour of the person. Each of the viral videos is quirky, and this adheres to the best Youtubers as well. Is it gender or personality? Ultimately it has to be the latter. Personality drives Youtube rather than because they are male or female. These are Youtubers who know their audience and do well because of that, videos that go viral because their quirky humour appeals to a vast group of people. It is content rather than context that ensures popularity online.
So for marketing, keep videos original and interesting, quirky and relevant. That will bring people in.