Where Did Memes Come from and How Do I Use Them?

You’ve seen them floating around, filling up your social media feed, we are certainly guilty of throwing a few in there too! Memes are an idea or concept that spreads, in the way we are most familiar with, through the internet. They often appear as a strange mix of old dorky photos or videos and ironic humour. Memes stand out as a statement both visually and in the message they’re sending out, purely because they are so familiar. Memes use viral imagery to communicate with a global audience.

But how did this seemingly basic form of communication survive the futurisation of the digital age? Where did Memes come from and why are they so flippin' popular? How can you use memes to communicate your message?

The word ‘meme’ actually came from the controversial scientist, Richard Dawkins, stating how ideas are like organisms, constantly mutating and breeding, replicating and jumping from one mind to the next.

He wrote about it in his book The Selfish Gene,

We need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. ‘Mimeme’ comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like ‘gene’. I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme. If it is any consolation, it could alternatively be thought of as being related to ‘memory’, or to the French word même. It should be pronounced to rhyme with ‘cream’.”

Keeping Dawkins’ theory in mind, it’s easy to see how the name has been applied to what is now easily one of the most common forms of appropriation. The internet meme as we know it takes popular media, replicates it and adds a new layer of meaning to spread across the internet. It jumps from computer to computer, mind to mind.

Like Godzilla stomping all over the place, a meme is sometimes cringeworthy power that cannot be stopped.

Similarly to Godzilla, memes can also be pretty silly and can help to lighten the mood or simply add a bit of pop culture to an otherwise standard topic. Humour is a great way to simplify information, breaking down barriers of industry stereotypes.

Memes are a great tool for businesses on social media. Because of the way that a meme grabs the attention of its viewer, they are a good way to communicate industry ideas. They are also a great way to reach a larger audience, a particularly funny meme or one that rings true for a lot of people is likely to be shared multiple times - getting your original post out to an extended network.


With the popularity of memes, it is often quite easy to find one that suits what your theme. Just by typing in your industry and then ‘meme’ into google, you will uncover a plethora of pre-made memes that you can scroll through and have a chuckle at until you find the one you want to use. Alternatively, if you have a very specific thing you want to say, there are a number of meme generators that you can use to create a meme yourself. This way you can say whatever you want in meme form.

Memes can be fun for both you and your audience. Because of their relatability, you can often find some comic relief in other people’s interpretation of your industry. It can be a reminder that you’re not alone in a frustration or victory that you often come across in your work or personal life.

There’s nothing wrong with being able to laugh at yourself (and sometimes your customers too.) Memes just make it more fun.