The internet has blessed us with a lot of things. The ability to answer our most burning questions at a moment's notice. A way to connect with people around the world. The birth of memes. Yeah, we said it. Memes. Those wonderful little things run the internet nowadays and we’re here to tell you how they fit into your marketing plan.
What is a Meme?
We’ll give you the official definition from Merriam Webster first:
- “An idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture”
- “An amusing or interesting item or genre of items that is spread widely online, especially through social media.”
Now for the very watered down version:
Essentially a meme is an image or video oftentimes accompanied by text that is relatable to both the image and the viewer. These images are extremely sharable and the great ones go viral and trend for some time - evolving as they go. But more on that later.
The Orgin of the Meme
While the word “meme” itself originates from Richard Dawkin in 1976 as a way to explain how ideas evolve and spread among people (dare we say how ideas go viral?), the very first internet meme originated in 1996 and his name was the dancing baby. A terrifying GIF of a 3D child in a diaper doing the cha-cha. Made by designer Michael Girard as a demo to show off his software’s capabilities to potential clients, and then made into a GIF by a LucasArts employee who shared it via forums, email, and carrier pigeon to everyone he knew. The rest, as they say, is history.
Types of Memes
There’s really no set meme template, but there are some standard formats that you may recognize.
Like we said, these aren’t the only formats - just the most popular ones, memes can be anything from a tweet to a video. If you’re having trouble conceptualizing how they can be used effectively for marketing purposes, look to some of the world’s most popular brands.
Brands Effectively Using Memes
Lots of brands try their hand at implementing memes into their marketing plan, but sometimes they fall flat. Whether you need some inspiration or want to see how it’s done - here are four brands doing it right.
Who knew fine literature could be so relatable? Spark Notes has proven themselves worthy by generating some pretty fire original memes revolving around literary classics.
You ever see a trending meme and just not get the joke? Netflix capitalizes on this. A shining example of this is Bird Box. Memes surrounding this Netflix original flooded the internet, and if you hadn’t watched it, then you were really missing out on the joke - convincing a lot of people to give the film a whirl and cure their FOMO.
Is there anything better than a quality dog meme? Honestly, no. Barkbox knows the way to their audiences heart with some choice memes from the perspective of their beloved doggos.
What better way to normalize male beauty routines than with relatable memes? Hims specializes in skin care, hair loss prevention, and erectile dysfunction products for men - kind of an awkward subject. But there’s no better way to combat that than with a little bit of humor.
Why You Should Implement Memes Into Your Marketing Plan
The great thing about memes is that you don’t have to come up with them yourself if you don’t want to. Typically what happens, is that the original evolves by other users pairing the image or video with new text that still fits the format. So all you have to do is come up with a clever new caption and you’re golden, baby.
Think about how many times you’ve seen a meme and DM’d it to your friend because it was either A) just that funny B) reminded you of them or C) was relatable to your relationship. They bring humor into a lot of different situations, and because of that, they resonate with users - making them the perfect sharable content.
A very large portion of memes are created around pop culture, news, and events that are trending. By keeping your content up to date with these current trends that your audience is most likely aware of and discussing, you’re positioning your brand to be more authentic, fresh, and relatable.
Tips on Using Memes in Marketing
Know Your Audience & Keep it On-Brand
Just because memes are an internet phenomenon, doesn’t mean they’re necessarily a right fit for your brand. As with anything, look back to your target audience. Firstly, are they the kind of demographic who would know what a meme is and be able to enjoy and appreciate it? Secondly, if they are then that begs the question of what kind of memes can you create that would resonate with your audience and tie into your brand.
Stay on Trend
Repeat after me: we don’t use dead memes. Why? Because it’s basically social media suicide and you’ll look staler than that saltine cracker you dropped under your bed 3 months ago. Most memes shine bright and then burn out in a matter of days so it’s important that you stay on top of what’s popular and act quickly.
Rely on Humor
Like we’ve mentioned earlier, memes are supposed to be funny. Sometimes this comes off as sarcastic and satirical, sometimes they simply use dumb humor - regardless the fact remains the same: funny. So, ask yourself:
- Is humor the right angle for my brand?
- Is this REALLY that funny? Or do I just think it's funny?
- Will my audience understand the joke or will it fall flat?
If you feel brave enough to give it a whirl, generating your own original memes is definitely an option. Although creating a concept, gathering assets, picking a format, and whipping up some witty commentary can be challenging, the pay off can be worth it if your content makes an impact and gets those shares.
Memes have been, and will most likely continue to be a large part of internet culture, and if you think they have a place in your marketing strategy then they can be a great way to create brand relevance and engage your audience.
You know your brand and your target audience better than anyone else. If you don’t think it will be a good fit, or if you’re having second thoughts - trust your instincts and go a different route.