Extra, Extra: Are Memes the New News?

Jackie Kollar
May 31, 2017

In 2017, I should not go over the definition of a meme or attempt to explain the components of a meme.

(If you want that, Marc, our in house memeologist, breaks down the need-to-know details here.)

But we’re here to talk about about using memes for more than a cheap laugh. Would you believe me if I told you that you could deploy memes as a way of contributing to (inter)national conversations as well? 

Meme origins and culture is constantly evolving, as does the topic areas and formats. And in order to keep up with popular culture, live events and online chatter, it only makes sense that we’re seeing a large amount of memes reflect current topics, events, arguments and controversies.

Because I just can’t bring myself to do it, I’ll give everyone’s ears and eyes a break from the plethora of political memes and focus on two incidents that are equally as horrifying, and played into each another quite nicely back in April.

We’re talking Pepsi and United Airlines.

Case Studies: In other words, some major mistakes

For those of us who may need a little refresher, Pepsi released a video spot featuring Kendall Jenner and what appeared to be appropriating imagery and messaging from a number of recent, relevant political protests. All for a (lame) attempt to sell product. (By the way, people still drink soda?)


And while Pepsi thought they were setting the stage for peace and unity, the only thing that became united was the internet’s response. Major fail.

During this mishap and media frenzy, our good friends over at United Airlines decided to steal the show by dragging a man off an overbooked flight. Cool.

So obviously these, as all as everything else horrible in the world, ended up trending on social media and turned themselves into the next trending stories. Stories that quickly turned themselves into memes. One part hysterical and one part factual.

Because let’s face the sad reality of the meme industrial complex—with attention spans becoming smaller than goldfish, we’re scrolling through Instagram and Twitter way more than we’re purchasing newspapers or tuning into our local radio stations.

In that sense, memes have become optimized as vessels not only for creatively shaping conversations, but for breaking stories with reach and efficacy that rivals that of traditional news media outlets from the very beginning of a news cycle.

Without further ado, lets take a look at some VIP meme accounts that find the right intersection of comedy and newsworthy content into their social streams.

Subject 1: Pepsi




Subject 2: United Airlines




Bonus round

And then, there are a few unicorn meme accounts taking both events and, because of their back-to-back occurrences, combining them into one gorgeous, stunning meme.



What have we learned?

Southwest, what do you think?