Forcing a Meme is the act of trying to intentionally raise the popularity of something to memetic status. It can involve mass repetition of a phrase or trying to convince someone else that it is already memetic. Calling a meme a Forced Meme can be hard to disprove and is an excellent way to slander an annoying up-and-coming meme.
It should be noted that very few forced memes actually become accepted memes. It is still debated whether they deserve to be memes.
This runs almost opposite to the Streisand Effect, where an individual or company tries to snuff out something on the internet, only to have the internet take off with it.
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The whole point of many kinds of ads is to make the product a household name and make sure everyone knows the slogan.
In the US, "astroturfing" refers to faking a grassroots (community driven) movement, when in reality the agenda and strategy is controlled by a hidden, non-grassroots organization. It comes from the name for a brand of artificial grass used on golf courses.
In Bakuman。, while running Tanto, Shuujin tries to do this. It doesn't really work.
In Kick-Ass, Dave and his friends try to bring the work "tunk" in to the mainstream as a new curse word. It works.
Films — Live Action
In Mean Girls, Gretchen tries to force "fetch" into being a cool term. It actually kinda did for a while.
Regina: Gretchen, stop trying to make "fetch" happen! It's not going to happen!
In the Josie and the Pussycats live action film, a corporation uses subliminal messages to do this constantly, like making the word "jerkin'" into a synonym for "cool."
In An American Carol, when Michael Malone is trying to calm down a crowd of antiwar college students and they repeat the last three or four words of every one of his sentences in mantra-like "hey hey, ho ho" manner.
On Community, Pierce keeps trying to force "streets ahead". He succeeded in the real world, if one counts the show's fanbase. It's actually a normal phrase in the UK, Australia and other Commonwealth countries.
On NewsRadio, Beth tries to make the phrase "bitchcakes" popular. Strangely enough, it seems to work.
An episode of The Muppet Show featured John Cleese as a (Kayfabe) extremely reluctant host who was forced to perform show tunes against his will. He kept protesting, but the Muppets would just take every one of has sentences and turn it into a song lyric. The whole thing eventually snowballed into a showstopping rendition of "To Dream the Impossible Dream."
Barney on How I Met Your Mother is constantly coming up with new expressions and concepts which he tries to popularize. ("It's gonna be a thing.") Some of these have fizzled; others have caught on in-show and even in real life. Occasionally one will come back to bite him, like his "lemon law" did. But he never cares because he is so happy that it's a "thing".
Michael in the Zoey 101 episode "Drippin' Episode" tried to make "drippin'" catch on as a synonym for "cool." Other characters repeatedly told him it would never catch on...until the last minute of the episode, when it apparently has. Problem is, nobody believes that he started it, which prompts him to try making another Forced Meme... "flump" as a synonym for "not cool."
John from Delocated is constantly trying to create new lingo. None of it ever catches on and he just looks like an idiot instead.
On The Office, Andy's initial appearance has him trying to force Dwight out of the company by undermining him to Michael at every occasion. In one episode he invents the verb "Schruting" to mean screwing up and betraying everyone. He has no intention of making it a thing, but it does help in convincing Michael to fire Dwight by the end of the day.
In a later episode, Andy tries the same approach to humiliate two co-workers who have gotten on his bad side: "...and if you Toby out, you'll feel like a real Nellie!"
A real life example from Seinfeld, a writer admitted that he expected "Anti-dentite" to become a commonly used phrase in real life given how catchphrases used in the show became popular in real life. "Yadda-yadda-yadda" accidentally became the widely used catchphrase although it was already used before and Seinfeld just made it more popular.
At the turn of The Nineties, Michael Jackson was jealous of the media nicknames given to Elvis Presley ("The King of Rock and Roll"), Bruce Springsteen ("The Boss"), etc., so his handlers came up with "The King of Pop, Rock, and Soul" for him. It was introduced to the public via an awards ceremony speech given by Elizabeth Taylor and shortened to "The King of Pop" soon afterwards. In the run-up to the release of Dangerous in 1991, Jackson's management urged MTV and Fox to use the phrase in all press releases, etc. related to Jackson and his videos. Rumors flew that the former was forced to use the phrase constantly; these were confirmed in the 2011 oral history I Want My MTV. This effort partially succeeded, since fans embraced the nickname right away, but once word got out about its origins, Jackson's publicity machine continuing to push it even as his career entered its downward spiral led to articles/news items cheekily calling him the "self-proclaimed King of Pop" in later years. The meme persists today — even Jermaine Jackson's announcement to the press that Michael had died started with: "My brother, legendary King of Pop Michael Jackson..." — and fans insist it's a Fan Nickname Taylor created.
BBC Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills started a campaign on October 30, 2006 to get the song Chacarron Macarron (infamously featured in many youtube videos, ytmnd pages and G Mod montages) to #1 in the UK singles chart, presumably due to its unusual lyrics and musical style. A link was put up on the BBC website to the video on YouTube. Although the song did not reach the top, the campaign pushed the song all the way up to #20, which became its peak.
Many accuse LMFAO (or at least their marketing people) of doing this, especially with "Everyday I'm Shuffling", a repeated lyric, though non-indicative of the song's title, that somehow got its own LOGO at the end of the music video.
A common accusation against Lady Gaga's bizarre costumes and videos.
Drummer Hal Blaine popularized the nickname "The Wrecking Crew" for the elite group of Los Angeles-based session musicians who played on a staggering number of 1960s pop hits via the title of his 1990 autobiography Hal Blaine and The Wrecking Crew. Whether this name was actually used in the 60s, or was used by anyone other than Blaine himself is a big point of contention among the other musicians.
One Zits strip featured Jeremy trying to get his slang term "plasmic" (meaning, "fine", as in "How are you?" "Plasmic") to catch on. It didn't, and he wound up giving up right away.
Something similar happened in another strip, where Pierce tries to popularize saying "fully" instead of "totally." It was only in one strip, so presumably it didn't catch on.
Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, has admitted to several attempts to force memes that failed - including "porcelain cruise" (number 2 in the lavatory) and "Powerpoint Poisoning". Luckily, he has plenty of memes and tropes arising from his non-attempts (e.g. Pointy-Haired Boss).
The comic strip Drabble once devoted a week's worth of strips trying to coin the word "Drabbleation" to mean the act of remembering embarrassing moments.
Major League Baseball
Following a 1969 panel that voted him the Greatest Living Ballplayer, Joe DiMaggio would insist on being referred to as so whenever he was introduced at events for the rest of his life (late 1998). This despite other worthy candidates for the distinction being alive at the time (Ted Williams, Stan Musial), and players such as Willie Mays and Henry Aaron finishing up their careers a few years later with credentials that were worthy enough to usurp DiMaggio for the distinction.
In 2005, the former WrestleCrap message boards (now the Freaking Awesome Network forums) tried to get Dennis Stamp ("I'm not booked" from Beyond The Mat) over as a meme, and it worked, at least on said message board.
It may have ascended when Zack Ryder referenced Dennis Stamp and recreated the trampoline scene on his Internet show.
The color commentators (Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole being the worst offenders) seem to have lots of stock phrases that they use over and over, but most of them never catch on among anyone else. Of particular note is Lawler's "Krispy Kreme" wisecrack, which I think was used one other time by someone else.
Anything related to Cole after his heel turn. Just talk to anyone of his "Cole Miners" and see how quickly they keep reusing anything Cole has said over and over again.
In 2011, WWE caught onto the whole idea that social networking could actually be a good thing to raise the profile of their company. They responded by promoting the hell out of Twitter on their shows and trying to turn everything into a Trending Topic, arguably to the detriment of their actual product. This reached its logical conclusion in December 2011 with a Trending Superstar Award, given to the first Superstar to trend during a specific match.
WWE, apparently not getting the message from their run with Twitter, has now been promoting video-sharing social network Tout just as hard, if not harder than Twitter. Since WWE is an investor in Tout, it's more justifiable, if no less annoying. The big issue here, though, is that Tout almost seems like a step backwards (Tout allows people to record and upload videos from anywhere, like YouTube, except with the added handicap of Tout videos only being about 15 seconds long.)
The big effort from WWE over the past few years has been the rebranding of the company's fans as "the WWE Universe". Much in the same way that wrestlers are known as "Superstars" in order to gradually distance the company from its wrestling product, "the WWE Universe" are not so much wrestling fans as purveyors of all the fine and varied media products WWE has to offer...which is about 99.2% wrestling. One cannot hear the phrase without it ringing in the ears as forced and unnatural, especially since it takes so much more conscious effort to say as opposed to simply "the fans".
During the feud between CM Punk and Daniel Bryan (and love triangle with AJ Lee) WWE tried TWICE to force memes/catchphrases for CM Punk. One being the phrase "I dig crazy chicks." after AJ started getting over during the angle (to the point of making a shirt) and the other "Goatface" as an insult towards Bryan. Both of them failed miserably with the shirt not even making it to TV and Goatface only being used tepidly at best because it was an insult that was both lame and didn't make a ton of sense.
WWE is very determined to make "goatface" a thing, to the point where the commentators now seem to think that's Daniel Bryan's actual name even something like a year later.
During the Rock's run in 2013, he seems to speak to CM Punk and Paul Heyman almost exclusively in these, mixed with the Twitter trending mentioned above. He succeeded with the "Fruity Pebbles" and "Boots 2 Asses" with John Cena, and seemed to try to recreate it the very forced-seeming "Cookiepuss" for Punk and "Walrus" for Heyman, neither of which were taken very far by anybody aside from Rock himself, the commentators, and a handful of fans (mostly kids).
Daniel Bryan's "YES" chants. It got taken to the point where, in-character, he got completely sick of it and now screams "NO!" each time his fans try it. Predictably, that also turned into a meme, and serves to egg the audience and fellow wrestlers into shouting it even more.
In World of Warcraft, in response to the sudden popularity of the minor Horde character VarokSaurfang (whether this in itself is a forced meme or not depends on whether your find Chuck Norris "facts" funny or not), many Alliance players attempted to use the same meme to promote Alliance minor heroes, in hopes of recreating the Saurfang phenomenon.
To date, they have tried this for Bolvar Fordragon initially, then Magni Bronzebeard when that didn't catch on, then Varian Wrynn (... with disastarous results), then Magni's brother Muradin Bronzebeard, and in Cataclysm it was attempted again with Genn Greymane and Darius Crowley. To date, none of these characters have actually caught on, despite many of them being generally likable (or at least tolerable) by the entire playerbase. Although it has resulted in Blizzard giving many of these characters, Bolvar in particular, more prominent roles in the story. *
With the release of Portal 2, several attempts have been made to get something to catch on to be the next "The cake is a lie!". This has included "SPAAAAACE!", "I'm a potato!" and "combustible lemons". While they have caught on among Portal fans, none of them have manage to achieve the same widespread popularity. The most likely reason is simply because it couldn't possibly be just as unique and fresh as the original was - which was what amplified the popularity of those original memes.
In Dwarf Fortress forums on Bay 12, referring toHell as the "circus" or the "clown car" or the "circus tent", the inhabitants as "clowns", and the stuff you dig through to get there as "cotton candy" or just "candy" has met with mixed results, with some fans amusedly adopting the phrasing and others finding it ridiculous.
For a time, a certain user would reply to everything with "MAGMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA" and would periodically be called upon to do such in threads, a developing Forced Meme which garnered some hate and was finally killed off for good when said user was banned for unrelated reasons.
Dear God, Tumblr. Not only is it where already dead memes go to die even further, it's where all new memes created on the site are dead on arrival. Both are due to the tendency of the community to overexpose everything.
The biggest example of this is Nigel Thornberry. What originally started out as a remix of Katy Perry's Firework soon spread to other songs... and then to image macros. However, the backlash against the meme was swift and brutal, and less than two weeks later it was considered a dead horse.
However, the use of photoshopping Nigel's face onto a Disney Princess (and now, other characters in various media) as part of a .gif is slowly catching on.
As of May, 2013, Nigel does appear photo shopped onto various face-revealing scenes' gifs.
John Green of the vlogbrothers is trying to make "French the llama!" into a meme. It has met with limited success within the Nerdfighter fanbase, but elsewhere... not yet.
This happens quite often on Know Your Meme. Nearly daily in fact. And everyone there is tired of the constant forcing attempts. It will never work. It's gotten to the point where there's a rule there explicitly banning it.
Unfortunately for the moderators, it's really hard to tell the difference between a legitimate but obscure meme and one that was made up on the spot.
Established entries also suffer from this, as each user tries to increase exposure for his or her favorite meme, and create tons of filler and related posts.
TV Tropes. Occasionally someone tries to sneak his or her idea for a meme on to a page, sometimes going so far as to interfere with other entries to force them into the limelight.
Also occurs in the naming of tropes. It's a very real debate in the forums, from time to time, whether the purpose of TV Tropes includes promoting specific fan-speak terms so as to become recognized across all fandoms. Please, no specific examples here, though.
Occasionally this succeeds on 4chan, and other forum Web sites.
Milhouse was an early attempt on 4chan to force a meme and, in a weird meta way, succeeded. Milhouse became a way to call out subsequent forced attempts and would occasionally appear to ask if he was a meme yet, leading to "Milhouse is not a meme" becoming a meme. Confused yet?
In other words, "Milhouse isn't a meme" is a meme, Milhouse himself is not the meme. Thus, "Milhouse isn't a meme" acts as a loose metaphor to discredit forced memes.
4chan's anonymous posting means it's subject to a disproportionate number of meme-forcing attempts, since it's easy for a single person to pretend to be multiple people while spamming the would-be meme. "Samefag" is the term users have come up with for people who do this (though it's also commonly leveled at any post that agrees with any prior one).
On YouTube, people occasionally attempt to become Internet famous by posting odd videos.
There are many, many examples of failed attempts. In some cases the eagerness is so bad, that the video itself is also made a Youtube ad, even if no product is (apparently) being promoted. For example, "El Paso Positivo".
Which actually seems more like a milk-related campaign
On Reddit, "celebrities" are notorious for trying to create catch phrases and fads, often through the guise of "novelty" accounts that write posts in a way that is reminiscent of their username. e.g. A person calling himself angryallcaps will type angry messages in all caps. Additionally, some image macros or memes are repeatedly submitted and reposted en masse in order to brute force them into the community's consciousness.
It didn't help that he tried to compare "Frying the Coke" to Jumping the Shark, which is a trope, and Nuking the Fridge, which was meant to be the Jumping the Shark trope applied to film. He later clarified "Frying the Coke" to mean an instance where somebody does something so stupid that you can't help but find it awesome. So it is, more or less, an incidental form of Crazy Awesome.
Additionally, 4chan users are notorious for mass searching specific characters strings and keywords, such as 卐, ✈ ▌▌ or justin bieber syphilis so that they appear on the Google trends page and get picked up by news sources.
After the Platypus Comix article "Errors in Corporate Judgment" included a Magic Eye puzzle with a description that used "Froggy" as a synonym for "awesome," Peter Paltridge closed the article by declaring "Froggy" official slang for the website.
Later, he ended a tribute to Parker from Leverage by wishing people would make "4chan meme[s]" of her pictures and quotes.
Going way back to the long-ago time of 2001, the newsgroup rec.arts.tv.mst3k.misc tried an experiment to get the phrase "monkey sugar" into common language. It didn't work, but it did get an Urban Dictionary page five years later, and the term is still in (infrequent) use on the newsgroup itself.
Before the game came out, the Diablo 3 GDF had "Cool Shelf", based on a Translation Train Wreck post. Wound up gaining popularity until the community manager Bashiok actually labeled a part of his desk "Cool Shelf".
The Vampire Game is a forum thread being virally posted by one person across multiple forums as of late, Needs More Love. The author claims that the more offensive elements of the original post are in fact the ideas of a relative who strongarms them into adding them
The story goes that Cycon of Project DCK attempted to force "cream them jeans" in some podcast series or other. He tried to force it so hard that it died in record time and even he got sick of it before more than a couple episodes.
Gary Brolmsa, the Numa Numa Guy is a successful attempt from when memes in general were just starting to get widespread attention.
Since The Order of the Stick has a lot of Ensemble Darkhorses as it is, some fans picked a totally random Azurite soldier ("That Guy With a Halberd") and tried to elevate him to this status. It sort of worked—-he gets brought up a lot when it's time to make Crack Pairings, but still, he's no O-Chul.
Every other line spoken by Musaran in the Ciem Webcomic Series, as well as what would have been some of Dolly's lines, was intended to be pushed for this status. This includes "Nice gallbladder!", "DIIIIIEEEEEE!!!" and "Now I tear off limbs!!!" So far, none of those lines ever truly caught on. Although "DIIIIEEEEE!!!" does bear a lot of similarity to "You Must Die!"
El Goonish Shive seemed to be doing this with "sexy awesome," but the phrased hasn't been used in the comic in years (fans on the board still use it, though).
Bob and George: According to author comments, he expected "Butts Smell Nice" to catch on as a meme, but didn't really push it when it didn't catch on. The memes that did catch on, like "Wanna go do something stupid?" he considered impossible to predict.
In Least I Could Do, Rayne tries to spread the use of "vagoo" as a more casual synonym for the vagina. Some time later, one of his female co-workers uses it, he remarks "I knew that would catch on!"
He's also tried to invent new games like "Sit On My Face" (complete with theme song!) and "Put It In My Pants" (only rule: no staplers).
Sheldon succeeds in doing this with the word "Frr" to win a bet. He succeeds largely by throwing around huge piles of cash to TV and music executives.
In-universe in Homestuck. Calibornreally wants "You can't escape the miles" to be a thing, but most of the other characters think it's stupid. (It's still made its way into the comic's collection of Running Gags, though.)
In one episode of American Dad, Stan mentions offhandedly that he's been trying and failing to create a new catchphrase. At least, Klaus liked it.
The B-plot of another episode focuses on Francine trying to do the exact same thing. With Klaus's help she actually finds one ("looks like things are getting too spicy for the pepper"), and waits for when the time is right to use it. When she does, Jeff likes it and it starts to catch on, but by the end of the episode its revealed that "things are getting too spicy for the pepper" was already an established catchphrase that even had its own T-Shirt and billboard advertisement.
The writers hoped that one episode of The Simpsons (Homer Defined) would introduce the phrase to "pull a Homer" (to succeed despite idiocy) into the English language. It didn't. Now, the dozens of times they didn't try to pull of a meme... most of those worked.
A British sportsperson used it once, to the confusion of those in the news.
In the episode of South Park where the characters met their "evil" counterparts from another dimension, Cartman kept using the word "hella" as an adverb meaning "very" or "extremely." It never caught on among anyone else, and Kyle kept (unsuccessfully) telling Cartman to stop using it.
In another episode, Cartman tried to spread 'meekrob' as a swear word.
Then it turned out that 'meekrob' was a word that offended God.
"I have an idea that's totally tits!" "Totally WHAT?"
Trey and Parker really hoped "Muff Cabbage" would catch on but admitted in the commentary it never did.
In an episode of The Critic, Jay's boss Duke has paid off Webster's Dictionary to invent his own words, like "Dukelicious". Much to his disappointment, nobody's using them ("What a Duketastrophe!").
The Robot Chicken Star Wars Full-Assed Special has Anakin/Darth Vader trying to bring back "wizard."
One episode had Ted Turner dressing up as Captain Planet, and attacking people while shouting, "CAPTAIN PLANET!". Cut to Hal Sparks announcing that "CAPTAIN PLANET!" would be the biggest catchphrase of the new millennium: "My friends say it all the time and then we kick each other in the nuts."
In "Seahorse Seashell Party", Stewie says a zinger followed by a griup of singers saying "Stewie Just Said That". Later, Stewie finds that people are already posting the phrase on Twitter.
In universe, and during the first broadcast, in real life.
Madagascar 3's advertising included a scene with a little song called "Afro Circus". At first, it was funny. Then it quickly stopped being funny around the point Nickelodeon aired it during every commercial break of new shows, with an ad consisting solely of Afro Circus-ing.
The word "Booyakasha" in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2012 series. Aside from being a Replacement Scrappy word for the classic "Cowabunga!", Nickelodeon seems rather desperate for it to catch on, having to repeat it ad nauseum in nearly every episode and medium used to advertise it.