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.