If you enjoy sharing internet memes with friends and coworkers, there’s a good chance that your customers and clients do as well. Consequently, you may have wondered at some point how memes might be turned into a marketing and advertising strategy.
In fact, the concept of meme advertising has already been put to use in the marketing world many times over. Let’s take a look at how you can implement this strategy yourself.
Why You Should Be Paying Attention to Memes
The concept of a meme has been around since the ‘70s. Coined as a phrase to explain how cultural information spreads, it’s now a form of digital communication that reigns supreme among the many forms of content we all share online.
Getting a piece of content to ‘go viral’ is the dream of many social media users and marketing teams alike. In a way, it’s like winning the internet lottery. Viral content, however, can die off and be forgotten just as quickly as it gains infamy. Knowing what content is worth a gamble can be difficult.
Fortunately, researchers have actually been able to apply models and theories to the concept of viral content. The Complex Contagion Theory offers a predictive model for how long a meme or a piece of content is likely to hold the spotlight online.
For instance, after gathering data on 26 different internet memes and trends, researchers were able to predict the reach and longevity of the once infamous Ice Bucket Challenge with 95 percent accuracy. That’s powerful data in a sharing landscape where going viral is often the goal.
Plus, given what we know about the online habits of Gen Z and their rocky relationship with brand marketing, memes might offer a way to win them over. For example, Snapchat, the social platform most popular with this elusive demographic, plays host to 2.1 million snaps a minute. Creating a highly shareable meme has the potential to get branded content in front of your audience without being too aggressive.
3 Reasons to Embrace Memes for Marketing and Advertising
Aside from the reasons we’ve already looked at, there are many advantages to using memes as a part of your marketing strategy. Let’s explore three of the strongest arguments for taking this approach.
1. Social Sharing Can Tap into Important Emotional Responses
One of the results of the Complex Contagion Theory study was survey data that pointed to our primary motivations for sharing content online. Emotional validation tops that list. When you see a meme that speaks to your current mood, you tend to feel ‘seen’ and want to share that validation.
Tapping into this effect seems to be a key component in crafting content that inspires your audience to share it prolifically. It’s important to note that this kind of content can go viral fast, but has a variable lifespan. That isn’t usually a problem, however, as memes tend to have a bigger impact than longer-running traditional marketing campaigns, regardless of their lifespan.
One way to harness the power of emotional validation online is with Facebook’s audience targeting tool. This vast repository of data can help you craft and target meme content that is more likely to hit an audience willing to share it. You can use demographic information along with Lookalike Audience filters, interests, connections and behaviors to zero in on where to deliver your meme.
2. Meme Sharing Is Ubiquitous and Fun
As a kind of common currency or language online, there’s no denying that sharing memes can be a lot of fun. They are ubiquitous, and can often bridge gaps in understanding or bring people together who might not normally communicate.
While the average meme’s lifespan is around 72 hours, it can be shared with millions in that timeframe. As a form of cultural expression, these seemingly simple images have real power, as they can touch on both personal and universal experiences at the same time.
Given the current trend towards delivering highly personalized customer experiences, memes can be a perfect fit. Leveraging the personal and emotional validation of a meme, along with a sprinkle of brand recognition in a highly shareable format, might just be your marketing jackpot.
3. Creating Memes Can Still Support Your Branding Efforts
In terms of brand recognition and meme culture, sometimes your fans will do the work for you. For example, Netflix has been able to capitalize on fan-generated meme crazes with several of its productions.
While the streaming network’s hit Stranger Things may not have needed the signal boost, fans dove into creating memes focused on a central character in the show’s early episodes. Consequently, the ‘Cult of Barb’ became both an internet obsession and a marketing opportunity.
By tracking Barb-related hashtags and resharing content, Netflix was able to tap into meme culture to expand its reach. A similar effect took place with another production, Bird Box, where memes and lots of social sharing generated interest in what initially seemed likely to be a flop. In other words, memes can have long-term positive effects on your brand.
How to Navigate Copyright Issues When Using Memes
At this point, you might already be planning your arrival on the meme stage. However, it’s important to pause and take a look at how to navigate potential copyright issues in this area. Most popular memes are copyrighted, and you should tread lightly when looking to incorporate one into your marketing strategy.
Fortunately, there are some best practices you can follow to avoid running into issues, including:
- Always check the licensing of an image before using it.
- If you’re not sure if an image is usable, check for alternatives through Creative Commons or another CC image repository.
- Establish a very clear policy about meme use within your company.
- Be careful not to accidentally endorse other brands via a meme.
Using memes in your social media strategy deserves careful consideration. A little research can go a long way towards avoiding embarrassment. When your meme goes viral, you don’t want it to be with the hashtag #cringe, like when the United States Department of Health and Human Services used a ‘doge’ meme to sell Obamacare.
Additionally, there are some helpful research databases dedicated to memes that are worth checking out. Searching through these before launching a meme-based advertising campaign is a smart way to know if you’re latching on to the right trend.
While memes tend to burn fast and bright, they can have far-reaching impacts on your audience. Creating a marketing and advertising strategy that involves memes can be an excellent way to expand your reach and improve your brand awareness.
Are you a fan of memes? Share your thoughts about this type of marketing in the comments section below!