Memes demonstrate the absurdity of reality. Meme stocks like the r/Wallstreetbets GameStop rally illustrated how broken the stock market is. Meme coins like Dogecoin – which has a total market value in the region of £28bn ($40bn, €33bn) – stretch the concept currency to the limit.
Meme politicians succeed specifically because they are unqualified; their success proves a broader point, which is that politics is broken. Meme Brands have arrived with a similar mission. The absurdity of Liquid Death, a parody drinks brand, raising almost £35m ($50m, €41m) confirms the belief held by its customers – that capitalism is broken. There is a whiff of end-times about this era of pop culture. It is the closing sale, an everything-must-go-aesthetic.
For brands, this means being even more transparent about transparency. Meme Brands respond to purpose-washing. The aspirational aesthetic is giving way to realness. Paralleling the rise of TikTok and Reels, the polished grids of Instagram have given way to humour, jump-cuts and close-ups. Brands looking to connect to Generation Z should consider rethinking the rules that say your brand is precious, and that the way to building trust is through anything other than radical candour.
Grant Wenzlau is vice president of story at Day One Agency, a creative communications agency with the ambition of stopping the world in its scroll with stories that earn a place in culture.
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