Life moves fast. Memes move faster. A defining feature of internet and youth culture, there’s always something new connecting with people and helping people better connect with each other. This summer, we’ve been enjoying many of the viral internet memes with origins in youth culture. As we see more and more brands exploring viral content as a communication tool with trending memes, the inherently fast nature of this culture can both generate wins and pose risks. This week’s 52INSIGHTS gives the lowdown on memes and youth communication, and sheds light on some of our favourite meme moments of summer ‘22 so far.


The power of a meme lies in its transmissibility and unique knack for being cross-cultural.” Saint Hoax

An internet meme can be a picture, video, piece of text, something that is replicable and adaptable, and carrys symbolic meaning of a particular theme or cultural phenomenon, allowing it to spread widely. A crucial element of this communication format is how they’re shared - 31% of young people are sharing them in both chat apps and social media. The origin of many memes come from fast moving social platforms like Reddit, Twitter, and especially now, TikTok, which is leading a new creative language.

With many young people currently lamenting “how bad Instagram is” this week (as the platform scrambles to prioritise TikTok-esque video) the source of influencing trends continues to shift - memes can start on one channel and spread into other platforms. They grab your attention, as put by Samir Mezrahi, creator of Kale Salad meme account; “In a world where you are scrolling through news feeds for hours a day, the meme format catches your eye, and most of them can be read and understood within seconds.”

Using memes allows young people to show up authentically and communicate with cultural relevance and personal expression. Memes are shared as part of the norm between friends, with 30% of young people sending them daily. The immediate, shorthand nature of memes makes them a huge part of youth communication, when one picture or text-based meme can encapsulate a common mood or feeling. It can tell you something without telling you explicitly. Memes are often used as a tool to shed light on complicated or difficult emotions, for example rising worries around mental health or climate anxiety: 35% of young people sharing them to show they’re feeling and 28% saying they do this as they can’t express how they’re feeling.


  1. S/He’s a ten but …

This meme got people talking, having started on TikTok and translating seamlessly to being a Twitter text trend. On TikTok the two hashtags, #hesa10but and #shesa10but have over 700M views collectively. The format is relatable but still allows for self expression (and occasional weirdness). It taps into dating and relationship culture (pretty much the whole premise of popular tv show Seinfeld), and gets plenty of people talking. With other trends around relationships going around like the resurgence of “the ick”, this is meme culture at its best.

  1. I am Jose Mourinho

What started as an ad for Topps, a soundbite from the video of Mourinho saying “I am Jose Mourinho” with pride to a classic string soundtrack has left the pitch and taken over TikTok, viewed over 134M times. While the name Jose Mourinho is synonymous with football, the audio is being used over and over, with a text overlay sharing a “smooth move”. “I can’t stop saying “I am Jose Mourinho” and I fully blame TikTok”, said Ioanna on Twitter. The memorable meme now signifies success and is versatile in a multitude of scenarios.

3. Little Miss Meme

The life cycle of a meme can vary. Some stay a part of internet subcultures, others gain huge popularity, with huge reach and cultural significance. Then, it feels like it’s everywhere and is already over. A spin on celebrated ‘Little Mr’ & ‘Little Miss’ books from the 1970s, the format started on Tumblr and trend kicked off on Twitter in a big way this spring. The virality of this format could be explained by a few things - the visuals are nostalgic, a big trend with Gen Z facilitating escapism. The format is a perfect for personalisation and self-expression, adding to the virality and ease of creating. Now it’s an inclusive meme, showing up as gender neutral too. Brands got involved as well with this, like Starbucks and LinkedIn, getting mixed reviews.

  1. Me Remembering

This rough black and white line drawing is a meme that is standing the test of time. The original started a few years ago and surged in popularity after resurfacing on Twitter when young Twitter user Paige posted this and asked “Is this too niche?”, with the corresponding text referring to being a Tumblr kid. It’s hitting that Gen Z sweet spot of self-expression, openly sharing their realities in a tongue-in-cheek way, and authenticity, being a less polished or aesthetically pleasing format.

5. Hey (with the intention of…)

One word can have so much meaning - with 48% of young people ‘almost constantly online’, it can be more digital communication, where IRL non-verbal cues are removed. That’s why this meme, Hey (with the intention of…) is a playful one that gets flirty as people where the sub-text of ‘Hey’, again allowing for that self-expression and serving realness that is core to youth communication codes. The meme started on Twitter, and there are lots of takes on the meme that reflect a variety of niche interests and intentions. With each of the posts, there is a thread of replies of “Hey” and tagging a person of interest, sharing their own intentions with this viral meme, or just feeling seen. “This is me”. An honourable mention for another version of this kind of meme is What It Means If I Text You, experimenting with the subtext of emojis (here’s a list of the best).


Signifier of Youth Mood - Following ‘memes of the moment’ can give you a great insight into the cultural youth moods of the moment. They are a great conversation starter and help open your eyes up to the viewpoint of niche and mainstream audiences.

Personality At The Front - The vast majority of memes are existential, absurd, or self-deprecating, allowing for self-expression. The best memes come organically and are almost reactive to a mood - sometimes this won’t translate. When the right format connects with brand values and personality, the format and tone will come more naturally. With those moments, it’s the perfect opportunity to share them in a way that is on trend while still remaining true to the brand expression.

Test Formats On Different Channels - To win with memes, keeping it simple with a more text-based meme can be a great opportunity to engage on a platform like Twitter to see how followers react. The format can then translate to other platforms, allowing brands to join in the cultural moment and personify the brand in a light-hearted way. A great example here from the Jameson team, crafting a version of the ‘He’s a ten, but…’ trend that played on and celebrated the classic serve of Jameson, Ginger & Lime, the JGL, and bringing people into the brand with humour on Twitter and Instagram.

The Right Time To Meme - Timing is everything with memes, and the life cycle of a meme can vary. Listening in to what young people are saying about the relevance of a particular format is crucial and embracing the reactive nature of online culture.