Are cats the new Pizza Express? The value of social currency

Estate agents used to say, that if Pizza Express opens in a new area, it’s a sure sign property prices in said area are about to rise; and smart property investors should pay attention.

So I put it to you, if a meme spreads across YouTube, it’s a sure sign that a new trend is forming; and smart brands should pay attention.

Admittedly, there are vast differences between social memes and the property market, but there is also one clear similarity: they are both traded on currency.

Online memes carry social currency, content that can be traded, shared and associated with, as a means of improving – as Pierre Bourdieu put it – “one’s sense of community…helping to form one’s identity, and providing status and recognition.”

And if online social media memes carry social currency, then think of YouTube as The Royal Mint. A quick look at YouTube’s currently most viewed video today reveals that ‘Simon’s Cat in ‘Catnap’ is the top trending video.

With 922,292 views and 26,005 Likes on YouTube alone, the adorable cat cartoon, by animator, Simon Tofiled, has already reached 11,680 people via Twitter. A scan of YouTube also reveals that there are currently more than 1.6 million cat videos currently circulating across YouTube and a glance at the social media staples such as Mashable, will reveal that advertising agency, John St. in Toronto has, in the last two weeks, heralded the age of ‘catvertising’ – advertising that harnesses the cat’s current trading power as social currency.

So, if cat-related content is the latest social currency, should brands be chomping at the bit to invest in cat-related advertising and marketing campaigns?

Probably not. As PR Web wisely pointed out in a recent post, for a brand to adopt a meme, that meme needs to reflect an “image, idea, or phrase that best sums up your brand or product”. It also needs to “focus on the problem that your brand actually solves”.

Millions of memes circulate across the social web every day, as millions of consumers trade on the social currencies that help them form identities and feel included within their communities. When a brand hits upon a meme that bears relevance to their product or service, the result can be marketing gold.

Shoe-horning a brand into a meme that has no relevance to the brand promise or values is about as wise as purchasing a property on the promise that a Pizza Express is on its way to the area.

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