The Rise of Meme Marketing: Q&A with IMGN Media CEO Barak Shragai
In just over 3 years, 29 year-old CEO Barak Shragai has built IMGN - a modern media business that reaches 30M followers and 2B monthly views, largely on Instagram and Snapchat.
Their editorial playbook solves one of the most painful challenges for today’s brands and publishers, the traditional friction between content and audience. IMGN brands speak ‘natively’ to their young audiences, in the same way those audiences speak to their friends.
The channels use next-gen formats such as memes, short-form videos, gifs and animations that define internet trends, feature multicultural perspectives and drive buzz around pop culture news. IMGN channels Daquan and Try Hard are gearing up for their premium video content debuts with original series slated for premiere this year.
After raising $6M in funding, IMGN is now programming 24-7 editorial for 10 brands, producing over 5K pieces of content monthly with a team of 30 multicultural Gen Z editors.
In addition, Shragai has turned IMGN into a profitable business, expecting to exceed 350% year-over-year gross revenue growth in 2018. The IMGN team has partnered with leading advertisers including Microsoft, Netflix and EA.
Brand Storytelling interviewed IMGN CEO Barak Shragai to learn more about how he’s capitalizing on working with brands and enabling them to ride the rise of meme marketing:
What does the partnership process look like on IMGN's end when you work with brands?
We are very fortunate that due to the viral nature of our content, we have brands reaching out to us for IMGN to create and distribute branded content for them. Some brands have a more traditional RFP process, but many are very nimble and look to us for pretty substantial campaigns to be executed in 24 hours.
The media you produce largely targets a specific group - Gen Z and others who interact with culture content on Instagram and Snapchat. How does that affect what brands you’re willing/able to work with and vice versa?
Gen Z are the hardest audience to reach and engage with. And that’s what IMGN does best. Each one of IMGN’s brands has endemic advertising due to the specificity of the content and that drives particular brands to a particular IMGN channel. That said, we are beginning to see more and more crossover of legacy brands that hire us to bring them into the world of social. Brands have to be willing to take risks, have a conversation and not take themselves too seriously. They also need to be willing to trade in the Gen Z currency of next gen content, much of which they don’t understand. And that’s our job at IMGN - to maximize every brand’s social potential.
Why do the brands you do work with find meme marketing so effective for engaging with Gen Z?
A meme is both content and self-expression, therefore it’s engaging and shareable. It’s a moment in time that is captured visually and conveys something very specific. When advertisers nail their meme voice (because it has to be genuine and transparent), they see a measurable trending spike for their brand in the social conversation. This spike results in follower growth, sales and searches. We are seeing incredible engagement numbers for our brand partners.
Can you expand on a particular brand partnership that found success working with you?
IMGN created one original dance video featuring two viral dancers, one meme video based on the special and three Instagram stories for Netflix’s Tamborine. The content was published throughout the week prior to Valentine’s Day to create excitement for the special. The creative and the original dance choreography was inspired by Chris Rock’s famous quote: “Sometimes you sing lead and sometimes you’re on tamborine”.
What value/importance do you and your editors at IMGN place on storytelling?
We take our editorial roles very seriously and have deep respect for the audiences we engage with. Storytelling is what we do. But it has to be done right. Three key rules we follow to achieve success: must be relevant (synched with the current conversation); must be relatable (wrapped up in a message that matters); and must be to-the-point (editorial and design that is deliberate and grabs attention).
What’s next for IMGN?
As a multi-platform social-first media company, our vision is to create original content for niche audiences that they can connect with on a personal level. We are exploring original series and are in production on LVL UP, a new esports makeover series, and NXT LVL, an esports news show. We are also introducing owned and operated websites that expand on IMGN’s current stable of brands, with more editorial, video and commentary.
About Barak Shragai
Barak Shragai is the co-founder and CEO of IMGN Media, the leading publisher of social content for Gen Z and Millennial audiences. IMGN is home to 10 distinct content brands that super-serve social audiences across cultures and niches, such as hip-hop, esports, slime and Gen Z comedy. In just over 3 years, 29 year-old CEO Barak Shragai has built a “modern media conglomerate” (The Atlantic) that reaches 35M followers and 2B monthly views, largely on Instagram and Snapchat.Shragai co-founded the company in 2015 with the goal for social to be what TV networks were to television - arbiters of content and culture around taste genres. After raising $6M in funding, IMGN is now programming 24-7 editorial for 10 brands, producing over 5K pieces of content monthly with a multicultural team of 30 Gen Z editors and partnerships with top advertisers such as Netflix, Electronic Arts and Burger King. In addition, Shragai has managed to turn IMGN into a profitable business, exceeding 350% year-over-year gross revenue growth at the end of 2018.