How Brands are starting to leverage memes to take advantage of cultural sparks: Case – The Harlem Shake

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Memes can turn regular people into celebrities at lightening speed, or take celebrities to global icons. The obvious recent example is the Korean artist PSY behind Gangnam Style (see here). However, there have been countless famous and not so famous examples that have ignited the creativity of netizens. Just think about all the versions made from Beyonce’s Single Ladies (see here and here and here), or of Fenton the run away dog (see here and here and here).

What is great is that Brands have started to see the opportunity to be part of these cultural moments by developing content that builds on the humor of the meme. In doing so they become more a part of the online community as a credible and respected contributor (if the content is done well and fits with the vibe of the meme that they want to riff from). A recent example comes from a meme called the Harlem Shake. This is a meme of a group of guys from Australia that did a bizarre dance with one guy in a motorcycle helment off of DJ Baauer’s Harlem Shake (see the original below). As the meme gained momentum, brands such as Red Bull, Lynx, and joined the fray (see their work below).

Here is the original by the boys in Australia

Here is a follow up version from PHLon NAN that started to build the momentum

Then the guys from the production company Maker Studios uploaded their version

Followed by a version by the University of Georgia’s swim team

Followed by SeaWorld San Antonio’s version

Red Bull then did its version

Lynx did their version

And did their version

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