How Facebook and Lily used memes to create brilliant PR launches

Two products launched with extremely successful PR pushes today. How?

By using memes. Let me explain.

First of all, this morning Facebook launched Instant Articles.

Changing how you host news articles on your servers, and signing ad sales partnerships with leading media organisations, could sound incredibly dull and technical. But Facebook made it seem instantly understandable and useful for its 1.4bn users by explaining it with one number — eight seconds.

Facebook’s press release explained that news articles take an average of eight seconds to load currently. Thanks to Instant Articles embedding them directly in your News Feed, that waiting time has been abolished.

Meanwhile Lily, a start-up, launched a new product that crosses an HD camera with a mini-drone linked to your GPS-enabled phone or watch, keeping you perfectly framed at all times.

To explain this concept, which sounds wacky on first hearing, it produced this beautifully simple evolutionary diagram:

Both of these examples — Facebook’s eight seconds and Lily’s evolution of man graphic — are, in the strictest sense, memes: units of culture or ideas that have caught on incredibly quickly.

They bypass the rational side of the brain and help us “get it” immediately. (After all, you could argue with both points — is the eight second number independently verified, and is a flying camera-drone really the obvious future of photography? — but the meme seems to get round those arguments.)

The meme is not enough on its own of course. (Both products launched with beautiful videos, photos and blogposts explaining them in more detail, as is de rigueur these days.)

But, as with all good PR campaigns, the meme is the core of the launch — all the other content radiates from it and is underpinned by that concept.

Congratulations to both Facebook and Lily on their expertly managed announcements.

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