Meme appears to be the word for a couple of soft drinks companies who are busy embracing the marketing potential of social media.

A meme, for the uninitiated, is the word to describe an internet craze that infuses the general populace. Right now, there's none bigger than the Harlem Shake, a dance craze that has groups of people videoing themselves writhing around in various states of headgear and undress. The original has millions of Youtube hits, and thousands of people have uploaded their own versions, including PepsiCo, who was one of the first to realise the marketing opportunity of the phenomenon. You can watch PespiCo's attempt below, with Pepsi Max branding front and centre.

Then, there's Dr Pepper Snapple Group's signing up of US Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney, who found that, in terms of fame, her silver medal in London last year has nothing on the power of the meme. She's known in internet circles as the girl who looked decidedly unimpressed while receiving her second-place award, and DPSG is now hanging a whole marketing campaign off the idea that its new range of TEN soft-drinks gets the thumbs up from this hard-to-impress athlete.

In the internet age, it is no longer enough to have a million likes on Facebook, or thousands of Twitter followers. Companies need to latch on to the meme, or miss out on the chance of free advertising to a big audience.

The key, of course, is to be quick. Memes have a habit of appearing suddenly and disappearing just as fast. The first Harlem Shake video went viral at the beginning of February and, by 13 February, according to Youtube, there were 12,000 copy-cat clips. The rush has since abated, and you can bet that, by this time next month, the internet will have moved on to the next craze. For the clued-in marketing executive, though, that means a fresh opportunity to get his or her company's message out.