Gucci Harnessing the Meme as a New Medium for Advertising

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Plenty of us have gone a little overboard when shopping for clothes. You start out going online to order a pair of work pants and then you find a matching blouse and some ankle boots on sale, and before you know it, the total’s five times what you thought you were spending. Seasonal wardrobe updates on a budget are no news, but comically celebrating them is.

Brands like Chanel and Acne Studios jumped on an emoji trend last year, working the digital images into fashion, but the big thing this year is memes, Vogue reported. And yet meme culture, with all its topics, nuances and sub-fandoms, has not appeared on fashion the way emojis have. Instead, memes are finding their way into advertising. Gucci is leveraging memes for fashion advertising. And that includes memes bemoaning pitfalls like limited cash.

With the new medium comes a distinct new attitude. To the uninitiated, meme culture might seem merely a mass of sometimes relevant, sometimes obscure jokes. And yet memes are saturated with millennial values, humor and even fears. Gucci’s new campaign is undoubtedly targeting the newly minted millennial adults, adapting its strategy to appeal to their tastes.

Take, for example, one cartooned meme created for the #TFWGucci project. (Note how naturally incorporated the hashtag or pound sign is now.) Gucci is launching its meme advertising for its Le Marché des Merveilles watches collection. One of the memes illustrates a cheerful looking monster in a green fur coat and sunglasses, shopping for Gucci watches in a shower of $100 bills. The whole thing is captioned “Me: i need 2 start saving money 4 the future gets paid.”

Another meme has an arm wearing a Gucci watch, whose hand has a to-do list of practical jobs like “Buy milk” and ends in “New watch” with only the latter crossed off.

Both ads capture a millennial sense of responsibility, which includes a humorous awareness of the tendency to procrastinate. The first includes the millennial pessimism regarding future finance (not really surprising in a generation burdened by student loan debt) and yet the kind of dark humor that turns hopelessness into a reason to not bother trying and just enjoy the moment. Addressing this attitude and harnessing it as an impetus to buy fashion helps Gucci appeal to customers who might be more inclined to shop off-brand products to save for financial struggles ahead.

This type of meme advertising is also subtler than a good deal of traditional advertising. Memes are generated not only by corporations but by many everyday users of the internet. Because images online are a dime a dozen and anyone can make a meme with some basic photo editing skills and simple software, advertising memes can slip into the wash of the internet and become part of a semi-organic system. Not quite so readily identifiable as corporate work instead of homemade, individual inspiration, meme ads may prove more powerfully suggestive if they masquerade among work created by private persons.

I'm a lover of words in all forms, sweatshirts in all conditions, and God in all circumstances. I particularly enjoy working collaboratively on the written word and wearing microfiber robes (preferably at the same time). Most of the time I don't get enough sleep, but I make a valiant effort.

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