Should You Market With a Meme? How and Why to Do It
Internet culture continues to evolve as new trends emerge and communities react to events, from large-scale news to small incidents, in ways that can shape social interactions. Memes are context-specific jokes made online that catch on between smaller communities, spread throughout the entire internet, and affect even social interactions and humor outside in the real world. While the concept of memes as shareable content or ideas date back to ancient Greek times, they now have a specific relationship to the internet.
Due to their easily shareable nature, seemingly low-effort creation, and their potential for great popularity, it’s probably tempting for you to use memes with your marketing to appeal to online audiences.
While this is a great concept, keep in mind that memes are ultimately trends with an unpredictable nature. They can either remain popular for years to come or lose steam within the same week they originated from, sometimes with no one even noticing. Memes can have broad appeal or make sense only within certain groups of people.
Memes present a fantastic exposure opportunity for your brand, but you must execute them carefully to succeed.
Why Use Memes?
Before you use memes, you should try to understand what memes are and why they are an effective marketing strategy. Originally a Greek term that means “that which is imitated”, memes were first introduced as a concept by Richard Dawkins’s 1976 book “The Selfish Gene.” The book represented the concept as something going “viral” inside a biological system. Dawkins extended that idea from genes to ideas or behaviours.
The basic idea about memes is not just that they are niche jokes made online or in reaction to an event, but that they spread rapidly among society within a relatively short period of time.
So, while the concept of memes is now more tied with specific online humour trends, keep the basic concept behind them in mind as you decide to harness their power for your marketing. Internet memes also have some specific advantages you can benefit from.
- Easy to make. Most successful memes require little effort to make or replicate. They usually consist of a single picture, a picture with text inside of it, a GIF, or a video. Memes are supposed to communicate jokes or ideas quickly, so you don’t have to write a thousand-word article to create one.
- Youth appeal. While some memes, such as cat videos and certain internet bloopers, can appeal to older internet users, millennials and younger generations still dominate online culture and its memes and jokes. The successful implementation of a meme can net you a younger consumer base if you desire it.
- Increased reputation. If you or your marketers use a meme in a particularly effective manner, or if you create a catchy new meme, your brand will gain recognition for its cleverness. Your company will not only receive growing attention, but also gain a reputation for being fun, witty, and more appealing to consumers.
- Sharing methods. Memes are not just pieces of content that spread effortlessly due to their catchiness and brevity, but also due to the variety of methods the internet uses to deliver them. From social media sites with a massive reach like Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat, to message forums, the online population can share and interact to memes with no difficulty.
Using memes in your advertising, or creating a new one, will allow your company’s exposure to grow and develop in exciting new ways. While the memes themselves will change or evolve as time goes on, the concept of memes will always exist in the internet landscape and can provide a reliable path to popularity.
How to Approach Memes
Are you convinced now of the potential for memes? If you are, the next step of the process is learning how to use them. Memes can offer a great reward for you and your brand if you’ve mastered them. If you don’t use them effectively, you might waste your time and effort. Either your intended audience will detect the obvious marketing attempt and turn away, ridicule the brand for trying too hard, or worse, never even notice in the first place.
In general, there are two approaches you can take when it comes to using memes in your marketing: You can either exploit an existing meme with a built-in audience or do something original and create your own meme material.
- Using an existing meme. With this approach, you’re taking an existing audience and saving yourself the effort of building a new one. Memes have differing shelf-lives and specific meanings or contexts, so make sure you research carefully before piggybacking into a trending meme’s fame. One risk when taking this approach is the accusations that your brand is lazy and unoriginal for trying to ride on a meme’s popularity.
- Creating a meme. You can also choose to become a trendsetter and make your own meme content. This requires more effort but has better potential for longevity. There are several approaches to crafting a new meme, from creating a new catchphrase or slogan that people can customize, to embracing absurdist or bizarre humor in social media. A potential risk with this method is some people thinking you’re “trying too hard” to create memes.
The Dos and Don’ts of Meme Marketing
When you work on meme marketing, there are some practices you should keep in mind to increase your success potential.
- Do use a native. Make sure your marketing team is in touch with the latest in online culture. Hire a native who speaks the same language as meme starters. Millennials want authenticity in their humour.
- Do keep it simple. Remember that memes are supposed to stay simple and easily sharable. Don’t overthink design or the joke itself when creating one, particularly if you’re just using an existing meme.
- Do choose an audience. Most of the time, your memes will appeal only to specific people. Don’t try to make them adequate for all audiences.
- Do monitor your success. Pay attention to how people react to your meme usage. Noticing trends can help you keep making more of the same type of advertisement or replace it with something new.
- Do increase shareability. Make your photo more sharable by using hashtags and regular tags, and if you can, encourage audience participation.
At the same time, avoid falling into these pitfalls when making your meme content.
- Don’t try too hard. Avoid sharing too many memes. If your meme initially doesn’t succeed, don’t keep trying to force it. Online users strongly dislike forced memes.
- Don’t rely entirely on memes. Memes can help, but only to assist your marketing campaign. Use other types of materials and content to attract and maintain your base. Using memes entirely comes up as desperate.
- Don’t respond too late. Always assume memes are time-sensitive and if you use an existing meme, don’t take too long to use it. You don’t want to revolve your marketing around a “dead meme.”
- Don’t skimp on the research. Read as much as possible about the meme. This keeps you from misunderstanding a meme or using one that has become inappropriate.
- Don’t take it too seriously. At the end of the day, most online memes are just abstract and absurdist humour. Have some fun and show some humanity when working on them.
Memes are not that different from chasing any other type of marketing trend. By using the right timing, language, and an understanding of the audience, your company can use memes to increase exposure and future success.
Stephen Moyers is a digital marketer, designer, avid tech-savvy blogger. He is associated with Los Angeles Web Design Agency – SPINX Digital. He loves to write about web design, development, digital marketing, social media and much more. Apart from writing, he loves travelling & photography. Follow Stephen on Twitter & Google+.