Marketing strategies continually evolve, reflecting the zeitgeist of the times as society moves forward. From physical flyers to digital ads, it has certainly come a long way. Now that the world has entered the age of smartphones and the internet, marketing has taken on a new form.
One of the most prevalent trends ever since the birth of internet culture is the use of memes. Its ability to capture the audience’s attention and better recall has brands latching on it with great effect. As the internet breeds more and more memers, businesses have started to use memes in their marketing efforts. But what makes it different from the rest?
Get in, folks! Get to know more about memes and what meme marketing can do for your business.
What Are Memes in the First Place?
The world owes one of its top forms of humor to Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist who coined the term “meme” in his book “The Selfish Gene.” Here, the word meme originally describes the rapid spread of an idea, behavior, or style from one person to another in a given culture.
However, memes have taken a life of their own—although not too far from the original—and rebranded themselves into today’s meaning, all thanks to the power of social media. Typically coming in the form of a photo or a video, people use memes to express how they perceive cultural symbols, social ideas, or current events that may go viral, depending on how funny and relatable you can be.
Characteristics of Memes
More often than not, memes are used as satire where they have political or social commentaries, trying to make sense of these events through humor. You can usually spot memes with these attributes:
Memes have a recognizable structure where you can change some items but still invoke the same feeling or essence of that meme, like the Change My Mind meme. Simply put, memes have templates.
This word may seem intimidating, but all this means is that a piece of literature is a derivative of a predecessor. In terms of memes, their context is built on top of each other, where one meme influences others, hence giving birth to meme derivatives and meta memes. You can see this in how people instantly recognize a bunch of sticks lined up in a certain way as the loss meme. (see loss.jpg)
This means memes are deeply contextual that unless you know the history behind them or the situation it alludes to, you won’t really get it. For example, this is how people understand what Bad Luck Brian stands for or what to expect when hearing the “and his name is John Cena” soundbite.
Why Memes are Great Marketing Tools
Apart from bringing happiness to the world, memes are also a great vehicle to market your brand. Here are some reasons why:
Easy and virtually free to create
You can easily (and, more importantly, cheaply!) create memes using a meme generator in this day and age, with no photo-editing skills required. Some memes even become funnier the uglier it looks.
For example, some graphic designer job postings use the “graphic design is my passion” meme paired with a poster sporting rainbow-colored 3D text and a gradient background to show how badly they need creatives in their team.
Everyone and anyone you know is on social media, spending most of their time scrolling through their newsfeed for entertainment. And that’s what memes are all about — entertainment. They appeal to the technically savvy natives who understand its inside jokes, easily catching your audience’s attention.
This helps you foster a community where people can comment and share their thoughts or own interpretation of your meme, boosting your engagement. And with every reaction, shares, and comments, you’ll instantly know how well your audience has received your message.
A meme’s characteristics make it easier for people to search it up online, especially when it has gained popularity. Just input a few words, and there you have it! More than that, this gives your brand visibility with not much effort from your end.
Most social media marketing tactics have the ultimate goal of going viral, and what better way to do so than with memes? Not only do memes tickle your funny bone, but the context behind them can also bring out relatable emotions in your audience. This makes it all the more appealing for people to share it with friend groups they share one brain cell with, boosting its virality.
Can be crowdsourced
Almost anyone can make a meme, and you can use that to your advantage by letting your audience run with your meme and make it their own. Although some die down, others can last long enough to make a successful marketing move. You can even turn your interactions with the audience into a meme if you’re in the mood.
Humanizes your brand
We live in a society where companies showing humor is equal to showing your human side, and memes are up for that challenge. By showcasing your funny and authentic wit and less of your corporate uptight attitude, you’re making your brand more approachable. Throw in some sassiness to the mix, and it’s like you’re your audience’s edgy best friend.
Memes are often timely, which means they can be used to capitalize on current events. So, for example, if there’s a popular movie or TV show that’s trending, you can create a relevant meme.
If you can tap into what’s current and create timely content, you’ll be more likely to reach your target audience.
Creating a meme doesn’t have to be expensive. You can create one with just a few minutes at zero cost. This makes memes an excellent marketing tool for small businesses or businesses on a tight budget.
Examples of Successful Meme Usage by Brands
Backed by its arsenal of meme-worthy photos and clips, Netflix has definitely earned the rightful title of meme lords in marketing. They use internet slang to put the chill in Netflix and chill while creating memes using their own content. This helps promote both their brand and streamable shows—two goals with one meme!
Ikea is no stranger to using memes for marketing. Another example of a creative meme that went viral is their ‘Get The Look’ ad featuring a cozy Bernie Sanders wearing mittens and sitting on a foldable chair in president Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony.
What seemed to be a harmless photo capturing the US senator’s candidness turned into one of the hottest memes in 2021, and Ikea jumped right into the trend. Their ad promoted their mittens and foldable chairs to let their audience know that they could achieve the same demeanor for a low price.
Disney is well-known for its nostalgia-inducing movies and TV shows. This streaming brand kicks its meme marketing game up a notch by combining a recently released show with old ones into one meme template. This brilliant mix of nostalgic feels and the mention of their new shows are a great way to introduce new content to avid-Disney-watching kiddos-now-grown-ups to enjoy.
If you still think memes aren’t marketing-worthy, maybe one of the biggest designer brands can Change Your Mind. From ‘we Gucci’ to ‘we witty,’ this fashion brand has taken a liking to memes for promoting their watch and accessories.
Using the ‘me vs. the guy she says I shouldn’t worry about’ template, it successfully navigates its meme marketing by showcasing how luxurious its watch is compared to a standard one. They even continued using this strategy to increase their online engagement.
What’s better than a funny post? A funny post with a cute animal.
Barkbox knows how to capture its audience’s attention, from paw parents and cutesy ‘uwu’ followers to certified memers, with viral Instagram campaigns. This online pet store uses witty captions and pairs them with cute silly-looking dogs to promote their products and even hop on the latest meme trends. With those cute doggo eyes, it’s no surprise that they’ve secured a spot in the meme lords’ hall of fame.
Becoming a Marketing Meme Lord: 6 Best Practices To Keep in Mind
Start with knowing your audience
As with any tips for social media marketing tactics, creating the best meme entails researching what best resonates with your audience.
No matter what oldies trying to stay young say, age gap is real. That’s why it’s important to know your target audience’s sense of humor to avoid accidentally offending someone. You’ll also need to know what template they’ll understand—the majority of 30-year-olds and above may not appreciate a dodge or gigachad meme template, so meme-ify with caution.
Keep your overall brand voice in mind
You don’t want people to look at your posts weirdly, which may happen if you start using memes out of the blue with no apparent relation.
Creating an online persona that’s funny, witty, and relevant can help jumpstart your meme marketing career. Edgy content is all the rage right now, giving your brand a personality different from the rest. So, make sure to use a tone and content that circles back to your company’s message. As a tip, you can start by repurposing user-generated content and working towards original ones.
Use appropriate language
It’s essential to use language that’s appropriate for your brand. For example, avoid using profanity or offensive language if you want to be taken seriously.
Similarly, don’t use slang terms that could date your content quickly. Instead, opt for language that’s clear and easy to understand. This will help ensure your memes have a longer shelf life and don’t turn people off from your brand.
Be quick with hopping on trends
As cliche as it sounds, trends are forever changing, so it’s best to post a new viral meme while it’s still hot and trending. Once the meme peaks, people will get bored of it. So remember, post the right meme at the right time.
Be Careful With Trends
It’s essential to be careful when using trends in your memes. You don’t want to seem like you’re trying too hard to be relevant or hip. Additionally, some trends can be controversial, so you must be aware of the potential risks before using them in your marketing. Finally, if you decide to use a trend, ensure it’s done in a way that’s tasteful and appropriate for your brand.
Insert your branding into the memes.
Treat memes like you would your graphic design: attention-grabbing, and engaging. You’ll need to follow up on trends and do your meme research to know how you can naturally insert yourself in it. Meme aesthetics can help you create the best theme to incorporate in your meme branding so people can have a better recall of your brand.
Don’t force it
Not all memes are marketing-worthy. If you can’t think of a witty caption or how to use a meme in your branding’s specific context, just let it go. Forcing a meme or using too many may do more harm than good, so best to choose your fighter!
Strive to create original memes.
Once you’ve mastered the art of memes, posting original ones is where you’re heading next. It can be challenging since you’ll need to exert more effort and creativity than you normally would. This means creating your own fresh templates with relatable commentaries. You can even experiment with meme types, fonts, and styles.
Pro tip: sometimes nonsensical or candid photos make the best memes. For example, a picture of a loaf of bread and a few distortion effects can get more likes and shares than a cake adorned with beautiful elements.
Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
One of the best things about memes is that they don’t have to be serious. Some of the most successful memes are funny or irreverent.
Become a Meme Lord in Marketing Today
Even as internet culture changes, memes have withstood the test of time. These have only gotten funnier and wittier, taking on new forms and easily going viral with the number of people on the internet today. Because of this, marketers have seen the power of memes and how these can help make an organization’s marketing efforts relatable to their audience.
With the right set of techniques and meme knowledge, you’ll surely have the best meme marketing strategy to make your brand viral. If you’re unsure of what to do, partnering with a reliable digital marketing agency like Spiralytics can help you get started with your meme lord in marketing transformation.
Contact us today to know more!