Shirt Pictured: RSVLTS’ Spider-Man‭ ‬“The Meme”‭ ‬Shirt | Source: RSVLTS/the Pop Insider

What do Handsome Squidward‭, ‬Keyboard Cat‭, ‬and Dude with Sign all have in common‭? ‬They’re all meme-famous characters cruising the web as people continue to like‭, ‬comment‭, ‬and share their likeness‭. ‬

Think about how many memes you send your friends each week‭, ‬or even daily‭. ‬Memes are a vital form of communication for the modern age‭, ‬connecting society through funny or relatable images and videos that friends pass back and forth on social media‭. ‬The content may come from an iconic pop culture moment‭, ‬a TV series‭, ‬or even a tweet‭, ‬usually with text added to share social commentary‭. ‬The more a meme resonates with people‭, ‬the more people will spread it‭, ‬causing it to go viral‭. ‬Many companies are finding ways to profit off this cultural currency‭, ‬turning internet jokes into brands and products for fans to collect‭.‬

MAKING MEMES EVEN MORE SOCIAL

What Do You Meme‭? ‬is one of the more well-known brands‭, ‬with founders Elliot Tebele‭, ‬Ben Kaplan‭, ‬and Elie Ballas launching their‭ ‬first game as a Kickstarter campaign in 2016‭. ‬Tebele knows a thing or two about memes‭: ‬He’s the man behind the curtain of the‭ ‬@fuckjerry meme account on Instagram‭. ‬He created the Kickstarter campaign with 10‭ ‬million Instagram followers in his pocket‭ (‬which has now skyrocketed to 16.6‭ ‬million at time of print‭), ‬and 5,753‭ ‬backers pledged‭ $‬229,579‭ ‬to help bring the project to fruition‭. ‬In the card game‭, ‬players match captions to different memes‭, ‬trying to come up with the‭ ‬funniest combination‭. ‬In addition to the core game‭, ‬there are now a number of special editions catered to fans of‭ ‬The Office‭, ‬SpongeBob SquarePants‭, ‬Rick and Morty‭, ‬Game of Thrones‭, 90 Day Fiancé‭, ‬Instagram comedian Rickey Thompson‭, ‬and more‭. ‬

“We wanted to capture the relatable humor that was being shared between friends and family online in a tabletop game format‭,‬”‭ ‬Tebele says‭. ‬“As memes‭ ‬—‭ ‬which are‭, ‬in essence‭, ‬a shared cultural moment‭ ‬—‭ ‬evolved from being mostly text-based to including images‭, ‬it was a no-brainer for us to include those kinds of images in our game‭.‬”

Iconic Floats DudewithSign Pool Float | Source: What Do You Meme?

While the company’s name is still What Do You Meme‭?, ‬it has evolved to include even more products based on internet culture‭, ‬such as Iconic Floats‭. ‬The line of pool floats features inflatables based on emojis and other web-based sensations‭, ‬such as the float based on Instagram’s‭ ‬@dudewithsign‭, ‬an account with 8‭ ‬million followers that Tebele also helped launch‭. ‬This year‭, ‬the company will focus on growing its adult party‭, ‬family-friendly‭, ‬and outdoor sports games‭; ‬trend-based pool floats‭; ‬and plush toys‭. ‬

The products are designed to bring the shareable humor of the internet offline and into the real world for a truly social experience with no screens attached‭. ‬“That particular brand of humor‭, ‬which is heavily influenced by pop culture and highly relatable cultural moments‭, ‬remains at the‭ ‬core of most of our games today in the form of jokes written into the cards‭, ‬game titles‭, ‬or even gameplay‭,‬”‭ ‬Tebele says‭.‬

It may have been one of the first‭, ‬but What Do You Meme‭? ‬is not the only one capitalizing on mixing and matching photo and caption cards‭, ‬paving the way for countless others to make similar games‭, ‬such as The Awesome Game of Meme and Meme the Game from Cardinal Games‭, ‬Say What You Meme from Ultra Pro Entertainment‭, ‬Don’t Be Meme from Infinite Games‭, ‬and Cats Doing Things Meme Game from Wilder Toys‭.‬

MEMES GET COLLECTIBLE

Internet culture is also finding its way out of the screen to get immortalized in collectible form‭. ‬While many memes are instantly recognizable‭, ‬some are more obscure than others‭. ‬Youtooz caters to fans of both with vinyl and plush versions of memes‭, ‬GIFs‭,‬‭ ‬gamers‭, ‬YouTubers‭, ‬and other content creators from the depths of the internet‭. ‬

Arthur, This Is Fine Dog, Dat Boi Collectibles | Source: Youtooz/the Pop Insider

If you browse the Youtooz website‭, ‬you’ll find products featuring well-known memes and GIFs like Arthur clenching his fist‭, ‬the This Is Fine dog sitting calmly while everything around him is up in flames‭, ‬and the Dat Boi GIF of a frog riding a unicycle‭, ‬but you might find yourself scratching your head‭ ‬—‭ ‬or laughing out loud‭ ‬—‭ ‬at plenty of niche references as well‭. ‬“​​We really want to capture the emotion of the meme‭,‬”‭ ‬says Youtooz Co-Founder and President Austin Long‭. ‬“If it is funny‭, ‬sad‭, ‬scary‭, ‬or something in between‭, ‬we try not to overthink it and just focus on what people want to feel from‭ ‬it‭.‬”

The manufacturer releases limited-edition figures every week‭, ‬with approximately 20-30‭ ‬new products each month‭, ‬many of them created from fan requests collected from Reddit and Twitter‭. ‬“Much of the internet is also underserved‭, ‬especially within the creator and meme communities‭, ‬which has allowed us to carve our‭ ‬own niche‭,‬”‭ ‬Long says‭.‬

RELATED: Youtooz Is Launching New ‘Parks and Recreation’ Figures That You Paw-Need

Youtooz makes some of its collectibles in hyper-limited quantities if the subject matter is not as mainstream‭. ‬“Some memes have long life cycles and some are a blip in time‭,‬”‭ ‬Long says‭. ‬“We try to capture what we feel is cool and special‭, ‬even if it is a smaller release than normal‭ ‬—‭ ‬especially if the meme represents a specific period in time of the internet or an iconic moment that we think should be immortalized in a figure‭.‬”

FASHION-FORWARD MEMES

Some people want to take it a step further‭, ‬incorporating their favorite memes into their wardrobes‭. ‬In March‭, ‬sock company Stance released a collection based on‭ ‬The Simpsons‭ ‬that includes a pair of socks showing Homer backing into the bushes‭, ‬while apparel brand RSVLTS launched a button-down Spider-Man‭ ‬“The Meme”‭ ‬shirt featuring multiple Spider-Men pointing at each other‭.‬

Stance’s Simpsons Homer Crew Socks (left) and Funko’s Homer in Hedges Pop! Vinyl Figure (Right) | Source: Stance/Funko/the Pop Insider

“It’s always a gamble when playing with pop culture‭, ‬but we had a certain sense this particular meme would translate well onto a RSVLTS shirt and be a hit because today you can still find people reposting the original meme across social in some context‭, ‬recreating the poses in every corner of the web‭,” ‬says RSVLTS’‭ ‬Director of Communications Mike Shriner‭. ‬“We figured every Spidey and Marvel fan in general would proudly pop a pose once someone pointed out the shirt on the street‭. ‬And‭ ‬the timing couldn’t have been more perfect‭, ‬too‭. ‬Just ask Tom‭, ‬Tobey‭, ‬and Andrew‭: ‬They’d agree the meme is here to stay‭.‬”

TRUTH IS STRANGER THAN FICTION

You have to have a sense of humor when creating products based on ridiculousness‭, ‬like Super7’s G.I‭. ‬Joe PSA collection‭. ‬G.I‭. ‬Joe carved its own corner of internet infamy with a surge of viral videos in the‭ ‬‘00s‭. ‬Each episode of the‭ ‬G.I. Joe‭ ‬animated series from the‭ ‬‘80s ended with a public service announcement‭ (‬PSA‭) ‬teaching kids life lessons with the catchphrase‭, ‬“Knowing is half the battle‭.‬”‭ ‬In true internet fashion‭, ‬someone decided to repurpose the PSAs‭ ‬—‭ ‬only this time with bizarre twists‭. ‬One clip shows Mutt‭, ‬the G.I‭. ‬Joe team’s dog handler‭, ‬interrupting a kid petting a rabid dog by saying‭, ‬“Hey‭, ‬kid‭, ‬I’m a computer‭,‬”‭ ‬while another shows Roadblock‭, ‬the team’s heavy machine gunner‭, ‬ushering kids away from a downed power line by asking‭, ‬“Who wants a body massage‭?‬”‭ ‬

Some of the PSA-inspired merch | Source: Super7/the Pop Insider

Super7‭ ‬gave the videos new life this past April Fool’s Day with a collection of products based on them‭. ‬Despite the launch date‭, ‬the collection is very much real‭. ‬It includes a ReAction figure for each of the parody videos‭, ‬as well as a glow-in-the-dark T-shirt‭, ‬a hat‭, ‬enamel pins‭, ‬and a skateboard deck created in collaboration with StrangeLove‭. ‬The products feature quotes from the parody videos‭, ‬including‭ ‬“body massage”‭ ‬and‭ ‬“I’m a computer‭!‬”

RELATED: YOU’RE NOT SEEING DOUBLE — SPIDEY MEME POP! FIGURES ARE OTW

The‭ ‬Xbox Series X Replica Mini Fridge Thermoelectric Cooler‭ ‬is another product that stems from a joke‭. ‬When Xbox first revealed the design for its Series X video game console‭, ‬the internet had a collective laugh as many compared it to a refrigerator‭, ‬creating Photoshopped images and comparisons that sent Twitter and Reddit into an uproar‭. ‬Xbox embraced the attention‭, ‬gifting Snoop Dogg and a lucky giveaway winner a 6-foot‭, ‬400-pound‭, ‬1:1-scale working fridge designed to look like the console‭. ‬Xbox rode the joke for three years‭ (‬and counting‭), ‬recently revealing a working Xbox Mini Fridge created in partnership with Ukonic so that everyone can get it on the joke‭. ‬For‭ $‬99.99‭, ‬fans can get a Mini Fridge of their own‭, ‬featuring a glowing green interior and an illuminated Xbox logo on the front‭  ‬—‭ ‬just like the Series X console‭.‬

Fans can really order their own Xbox Mini Fridge. | Source: Microsoft

That’s the beauty of the internet‭: ‬People around the world can share experiences that bring us all together‭. ‬One meme can contain so‭ ‬many nuances‭, ‬relaying a reaction to something ridiculous‭, ‬giving us ways to communicate with like-minded individuals‭, ‬and conveying the emotional state of an entire generation‭. ‬Now‭, ‬people can own a piece of their favorite meme moments‭, ‬taking the language of the internet offline and into the third dimension‭.‬


This article was originally published in Issue No. 13 of the Pop InsiderClick here to read the full issue!