Using memes as a marketing technique is a no-brainer; memes are an internet language that millennials communicate with daily. Memes aren’t just pictures, they’re a way of speaking. Certain grammatical errors, certain phrases, photo captions, and combinations of emojis are so recognizable, they become a part of the lexicon known as memes. Similar to how businesses follow pop culture and political trends to stay relevant, now brands can also follow memes and use them (when appropriate) to market their product or service. When companies use memes effectively, it’s almost like they are sharing an inside joke with their consumers. The small group who can understand a strange sense of humor, or who can connect the advertisement to the original meme will feel a connection to the ad and consequently, feel connected to the brand.
Does meme marketing, however, produce results in the long-run? Will people ultimately feel enough of a draw to the meme-centered posts to follow your company on social media and support it? Or is it possible the meme will alienate some followers? Will companies ever be able to keep up with the trends fully and avoid looking outdated? Luckily, businesses can employ a number of strategies when leveraging meme marketing as to avoid these pitfalls and to connect with their target audience.
1. Consider your brand voice
First, consider whether joking around with memes fits your brand. Fast food companies that millennials love can use memes freely, because their marketing strategies are casual and directed at young people. Denny’s twitter is the best example of this. They can tweet a simple one word tweet:
A niche group of people find this hilarious, and many people won’t. Tweets like this however have made Denny’s twitter account go viral. Taking risks worked heavily in their favor. Other playful organizations like Netflix’s Stranger Things also use memes frequently to advertise on social media.
On the other hand, a smaller company that’s not in the food industry or with an older digital audience may not have success with this method. Denny’s humor, is of course, food based and their internet audience appears to be a younger demographic. Other brands use memes differently, in a way that appears to a broader sense of humor, and fits a more sophisticated style. Clothing and lifestyle brands may look too aggressive or cheesy if they try to use classic memes, so they can instead find more subtle images that fit into their feed more naturally.
2. Consider your targeted demographic
The fitness brand Bandier used the sarcastic list trend for this meme, which got over 3700 likes. Most of their other photos and ads have less than 1000. Simple text memes like this, which are relatable to customers, funny, and on track with a brand’s social media are very effective.
A different example is a local Baltimore clothing store Brightside Boutique, which caters to mostly young women. This simple block of words doesn’t necessarily relate to clothing, or their brand, however, the post is funny and relatable to their targeted demographic of young women. It also fits their social media feed and the products they sell which often contain catchphrases such as this one.
In the Brightside Boutique example, notice how their employment of memes mirrors their product and demographic. Through memes, they establish a brand voice that is likable and self-deprecating. The boutique is thus able to grow their social media following and potentially convert a one-time shopper into a long-term fan.
3. Don’t alienate your current audience
However, memes can sometimes feel forced and stand out awkwardly in brand’s a social media feed. If a meme is overused in pop culture, or feels old, this can cause a disconnect between social media users and the brand. For example, many social media users are offended by Denny’s constant use of memes and internet language. Even though Denny’s is thought to be the pioneer of this type of marketing, it can come across as forced, and they have to toe a fine line between trying to make customers laugh on social media and realizing that in the end, they are a brand, and people generally don’t like to see advertising on social media.
In one instance, Twitter account @_diplo_ accused Denny’s twitter of recycling old internet jokes.
While this tweet didn’t receive nearly as many likes and retweets as most of Denny’s twitter content, this feud went viral, causing even more negative media attention. This leads us to the question, in what case is it worth it to use meme marketing for your business?
4. Consider how your meme content will be consumed
In some ways, a company can never get it right with memes– many people are always going to think they are annoying. However, there are a few reasons why it’s worth a try. Often on Instagram and Twitter, meme ads will blend in with your targeted demographics’ social media feed. Users can easily get annoyed with every other post being sponsored content- like a boring advertisement or commercial. If your meme, like Brightside Boutique’s, or Stranger Things, is something a user can laugh at and relate to, that doesn’t shove your product in their face, they’ll enjoy it. Users have no reason to follow a social media account filled with ads.
Mixing ads with entertaining content, such as fun little messages, photos, and other meme trends will brighten someone’s day and will make a user more likely to add your account to their daily scrolling.
Connecting with Millennial consumers
Memes are the language of millennials. Young customers are spending more and more time looking at social media than watching TV or reading magazines. In order to appeal to millennials, advertising that does not speak “internet” or looks like traditional print advertising will not catch their attention. Trying things like getting humor accounts to sponsor your meme ads, posting quotes and jokes for fun and interacting with customers with playful humor is a way to connect with young people. Despite the risk involved, meme advertising is a great way to interact with millennials. Take a look at ads in your Instagram and Twitter feeds and try to find a way to use memes to market your brand. Use memes that fit your style – serious or joking, sophisticated or more childish, and you will be sure to catch users’ attention. When you do, you’ll be in the year 3005, and competitors who can’t catch up will look like they’re still in the 20th century.