Memes originated as a part of the online subculture and are now a significant component of social media consumption. Not only are they a powerful way to use humor to connect with someone, but they can also inspire people to take action.
For instance, viral memes were a big part of what inspired people to watch the Netflix movie “Bird Box.” Even organizations like The Salvation Army joined in the fun of the moment.
Figure 1: Netflix’s movie Bird Box went viral because of internet memes. Source: eBaum’s World
The meme generation is also expanding quickly, with millennials and Gen Z using them to communicate with friends. The trend caught fire during the COVID-19 pandemic and hasn’t slowed down.
Figure 2: GenZ and Millennials enjoy communicating through memes. Source: Insider Intelligence
However, just as with anything new, social media marketers must be conscious of how memes may affect their audience and exercise caution about how they deliver them.
Continue reading for our pointers on avoiding snags and the best examples and tips for mastering meme marketing.
What Are Memes?
Richard Dawkins first used the term “meme” to describe a “unit of cultural information passed between people” in his book The Selfish Gene. Memes are essentially just a pattern of information that people share. Initially, a meme was an image, but now they include videos or plain words. Funny memes are used as responses in online conversations and can take a variety of formats depending on the joke.
In short, the following traits define a meme:
- The coupling of text with an image, GIF, video, or conversation screenshot
- The conveyance of an inside joke that only the intended audience will understand
- The ability to inject some humor into a situation (i.e., your marketing)
What Is Meme Marketing?
In 1996, when people first started exchanging funny short videos, meme marketing was born. However, most of them remained unaware of the phenomenon until social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram came into existence, and conversations moved there.
Following that, the idea of memes to communicate a message started gaining enormous popularity. As memes grew, businesses began using them as a form of self-promotion and advertising since they effectively conveyed thoughts, emotions, and ideas.
Figure 3: The importance of meme marketing. Source: Replug.io
Thanks to meme marketing, your social media approach can receive a new lease of life. Their visual appeal naturally makes memes excellent message carriers for social media content. They also add an informal vibe to your content marketing strategy.
But the wonderful thing about meme marketing is that you can easily capitalize on an idea that is already riding on pop culture references. There is no such thing as plagiarism in meme marketing. To engage your target audience with a fun twist, you can take advantage of a trending meme and modify it with your own branded content.
Tips For Applying Memes To Your Marketing Strategy
Making memes is fun, but there is also a fine line of error that brands are prone to cross. A meme gone wrong can make you viral but not do any favors for your brand. So here are some handy pointers to keep in mind:
Understand your brand identity
Memes need to match your brand’s core values and messaging for them to be effective, just like any other social media approach.
A meme containing misplaced humor is likely to misfire and alienate your audience members if your brand is all about friendliness and warmth. To give information appropriate for your target audience, personalize your memes. Hence, start your meme marketing research by understanding your target audience’s preferences.
The chosen memes must represent an easily understood joke or a relatable scenario. You may want to express your brand as hip, contemporary, and current to appeal to a younger audience, but staying true to your brand is more important.
Be mindful of the editorial authority of your brand, and avoid seeming like you are trying too hard. When you don’t stay true to who you are, Gen Z will call you out since they have a poor tolerance for inauthenticity.
Know your audience
Keep track of online conversations that are relevant to your brand or industry. Take note of details about your potential client’s background, interests, and age.
It’s possible that the customer feedback you need already exists. Through memes, people express their thoughts, both positive and negative. Accept criticism gracefully and praise with dignity. Show your loyal fans that you pay attention to them, and they will pay attention to you.
Personalize trending memes
Choosing the most popular memes and adapting them to your core messaging is a common meme marketing strategy. Piggybacking on memes connected to a current event (also known as memejacking) is one of the best ways to go viral.
Memejacking is the art of replicating popular memes. This works effectively when you choose content that has a solid emotional connection with your audience and is instantly recognizable. Many major brands have had great success with commercial memes. Jump on the meme only if it appeals to your audience and fits with the image you want to project.
Add originality to popular memes
With memes, personalization and relevancy are top priorities to keep your brand looking relatable. Instead of jumping on all the memes of the moment, use ones that will impact your audience the most. And be sure to make the text personal by incorporating your brand’s mission, tagline, or core values rather than just reposting a viral meme. This adds a few more laughs and helps people remember your brand.
Time your memes well
Since they are based on a situational event that not many people may know about, memes typically only last a few days. Marketers must be extra careful about the timing as memes have a brief lifespan.
You might not receive the intended response if you post a meme that has been around for a year or even a couple of weeks. That content has already been consumed, and people have moved on.
3 Ways To Incorporate Memes Into Your Communications
Images are important supplements to your blog articles and content marketing because they make your writing more straightforward for visitors to understand. Additionally, they impact your website’s SEO ratings.
Memes increase the aesthetic appeal of your blog posts and help set the tone of your brand’s voice. They also make reading your post fun for your readers.
Figure 4: Just an example of how you could use memes. Source: Makeameme.org
Memes work well in email marketing, which is still one of the most successful digital marketing channels. Once you overcome the first challenge of getting people to open your emails, the second step in creating an email list is holding your audience’s attention.
Interesting memes can enhance the visual appeal of your email. Since they have a smaller file size than other types of images, they make a great addition to emails.
Additionally, you can use memes for advertising an event, sale, or special offer via email.
Figure 5: Memes in emails make it more attractive. Source: 99designs
Social media marketing
Social media is the birthplace of memes so it should be part of your meme marketing. Younger audiences may not respond well to branded content, which is where online marketing memes can help. A well-executed meme can make them feel like you truly understand their point of view. However, social media marketers need to know who they are creating content for. You wouldn’t want to post memes if your target audience is 65+, right?
Bonus! Examples Of Brands That Have Aced Meme Marketing
Gucci, a high-end clothing brand, attempted to join the internet culture by reinventing well-known memes to promote its new watch collection. The #TFWGucci (“That Feel When” Gucci) campaign marked a risky attempt at marketing by featuring daring versions of popular memes.
Together with international artists, they produced various memes ranging from absurd to hilarious. The edgy designs and detailed captions gave Gucci’s brand a fresh revamp.
Figure 4: Gucci used an entire meme campaign to launch its products. Source: Gucci
This crispy corn chip brand regularly posts memes that have a bugle or two slipped into the image. Their Instagram account is based on memes showcasing their products in relatable daily life scenarios people face. The humorous twist forms the connections the brand aims for with its audience while marketing the chips as the ultimate desire in any situation. If you are looking for a masterclass in meme personalization, take inspiration from Bugles.
Figure 5: Bugles uses its products as memes on social media. Source: Bugles
Over 600,000 people use the New York-based subscription service BarkBox monthly for its dog-related products and services. Their target market has only one thing in common: they all adore dogs. To engage its audience, BarkBox uses dog memes in its marketing strategy. Instead of pitching their products, they create memes to unite the entire pet-loving community.
Because their memes are so relatable, their fans frequently tag friends and leave comments on their social media posts.
Figure 6: BarkBox uses meme marketing to connect with its audience. Source: BarkBox
Now that you know how you can use memes in your marketing campaign, it is time for you to start creating your own. Suppose you think that memes won’t work for you given the serious nature of your work (say, healthcare) where marketing relies on emotion. But consider how you can use positive emotions and humor to break the ice, engage with the audience, and perhaps spread some cheer.
Creating content for campaigns is not an easy task. Especially if brands want to stay relevant with a younger audience and ever-shifting internet landscape, or tap into the creativity that social media marketing demands. This is where working with talented content creators can be an excellent move. With Atisfyreach’s AI-based influencer marketing platform, brands can revolutionize their marketing efforts easily. From influencer discovery to campaign measurements, Atisfyreach functions as an end-to-end influencer marketing solution for busy marketers.
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