The Sex Pistols – God Save the Meme

6 04 2009

We think of memes or ‘viral’ as internet phenomena but whilst the internet is particularly suited to the spread of memes this kind of effect was observed long before the internet came into being. 

Fashion and music are areas where this is common and there are also crazes like the Rubik’s Cube the mechanical puzzle invented in 1974 but which exploded in popularity during a few months in early 1980 eventually selling over 300,000,000.

Whilst we can not promise to deliver memes as part of a PR campaign we should be able to recognise them and to facilitate their development.  Punk Rock which crash landed on youth culture in the seventies was memetic in its spread; starting as an underground idea but quickly crossing into the mainstream leaving a lasting stamp on fashion, music and design.  The punk explosion was also partly the result of Malcolm McLaren’s  innate understanding of the media and his ability to manage the message and provide press, radio and TV with strong themed stories surrounding the ‘Sex Pistols’.

The creation of memes is often beyond our control but when we recognise the opportunity PR people are well placed to propagate their spread.  (Adapted from the book ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ available  from Amazon and other book sellers).



2 responses

6 04 2009
Wes Upchurch - Public Relations

I agree. The Internet definitly didn’t start viral marketing… there’s plenty of examples where things went “viral” that had little to do with the Internet, such as “Yo Yo’s” and “Pokemon”.

Like viral applications on the Internet, they spread because they were addictive and got people talking. Many factors exist which can determine whether or not an idea goes viral, including interactivity and popularity. These concepts carry over well from the real world to the Internet world.

Often these are the results of public relations professionals working behind the scenes, but more often this phenomenon’s are a cool product or application and a lot of luck.

15 04 2009

Great call here. There is so much to learn from our history. It’s sad when people think history is old, boring stuff with no possible application to the technology of today. Thanks for making this connection.


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