No #lolcatz allowed.
It’s becoming hard to avoid memes in your day to day life. Scrolling through Instagram or Facebook flashes an endless parade of funny, silly and relatable images past your eyes. Depending on who you are, you might find this fact mildly annoying or the greatest thing to come out of life in the 21st century.
I personally fall somewhere between these two extremes. I admit to an affinity for any meme where dogs are in human situations but as a digital marketer, I’m also interested to see how memes are being used in the marketing world.
That’s right, us pesky marketers have found a way to infiltrate the most pure of cultural mediums… And you could too.
So, what is a meme?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a meme as:
- an idea, behaviour, style or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture; or
- an amusing or interesting item (such as a captioned picture of video) or genre of items that is spread widely online, especially through social media.
While internet memes as a concept have been around since the early 90’s, they’ve become more or less a way of life for the social media generation. In general terms, a meme is usually an image or animation paired with a message that’s revealing, clever or funny. The messages are usually formed around a social interaction, pop culture reference, or situation that people often find themselves in. Each meme grows and evolves over time as more people share and adapt them to their own situations.
*If you’re starting out your memeducation and want to learn more, head to KnowYourMeme.com for a comprehensive history.
Is there any value in using memes in online advertising?
Memes today are a quick way to add colour to different situations or promote certain ideas in a way that most people in a specific audience will immediately recognise. With so much clamouring for our attention online, it’s easy to see why using a quick cultural reference to express a message faster is catching on.
However, getting it wrong can leave your audience cringing, or worse, turning your brand into a meme itself (check out Twitter handle @BrandsSayingBae for some examples of brands missing the mark in a glorious fashion).
Let’s take a look at some brands who are getting memes in marketing right.
(Or if you prefer, skip right to the juicy tips on how to add memes to your own marketing schedule)
#tfwgucci or ‘The Feel When Gucci’ caused a big splash in the marketing world, mostly because it’s miles off brand for the historically luxurious Italian fashion house.
The #tfwgucci campaign focused on the Le Marché des Merveilles watch line. The traditional luxury of Gucci can still be found in the price point – most pieces from the collection retail at $1,000 AUD and up. So why did Gucci, with all its prestige and class, agree to an advertising medium that’s usually more at home on a Reddit feed?
#tfwgucci is part of a complete rebranding under the new creative director, Alessandro Michele:
“Influential, innovative and progressive, Gucci is reinventing a wholly modern approach to fashion. “
So, the Gucci campaign is actually right on brand for the influential, young and cool fashion crowd they’re targeting.
Why it works: Gucci took something traditionally off brand for them and recreated it to use the language that their new target market is using. They kept the humour and still advertised their products with appealing imagery. Plus, it really got people talking.
PEDESTRIAN TV AND SEEK
PedestrianTV.com is touched by memes and GIFs everywhere you look but it’s their creative careers hub, PedestrianJOBS, that really took meme marketing to the next level.
Alongside every job post, there’s a corresponding meme. Some are clearly related, some are passable at best, but people comment and share the memes, getting the jobs in people’s news feeds and achieving organic reach many marketers can only dream of.
As a result, PedestrianJOBS has built a Facebook following of 50,000 or so people, and they’re highly engaged.
Seek’s new social media campaign has followed in Pedestrian’s footsteps, except they’ve created branded memes instead of using memes they’ve found elsewhere. Seek has a significantly higher amount of followers at 300,000 and their use of memes seems to be a move to position themselves as easygoing and conversational.
Appealing to a demographic known for job hopping is a smart move for the recruitment website. After all, the more jobseekers that are drawn to Seek, the more job advertisers will want to use their service.
Why it works: PedestrianJOBS use memes for one of their best qualities; shareability. If people share the memes that Pedestrian posts, their job ad is shared along with it. Judging by the high amounts of likes, comments and shares, it’s working!
Hello Social is a Sydney based digital agency who’ve used memejacking to spark conversation within the marketing industry. Memejacking is when you manipulate the meme to convey a message specific to your company, which in Hello Social’s case is the marketing industry.
They also create their own memes with Hello Social branding. The use of memejacking brings a lot of visitors to Hello Social’s Facebook page.
Why it works: While most of the comments on Hello Social’s feed appear to be from fellow marketers, the activity certainly showcases their ability to drive engagement in the social space. If their audience is looking for evidence that Hello Social can achieve what they say they’ll achieve, their Facebook feed will help to build their confidence.
Have you noticed a recent surge in people who love Kmart and can’t go in there without buying everything? The superstore has their brilliant social media meme campaigns to thank.
Kmart themed memes are all over our newsfeeds, and they’re making people wonder when Kmart went from being a daggy discount department store to a trendy but budget-friendly cultural powerhouse. If this Buzzfeed article is anything to go on, Kmart has become a meme unto itself.
Why it works: Kmart used memes to turn their target market into influencers. The subtlety of the memes mean that you’re never sure if they made it themselves but even if they didn’t, it doesn’t matter.
Their loyal target audience shares and builds on them, making everyone else in the demographic wonder what’s so special about Kmart all of a sudden.
How can you actually use memes in marketing?
In 2016, Google searches for memes overtook searches for the Son of God himself.
If you’re thinking about joining these brands and using memes in your online marketing, remember that the waters can be murky. After all, they’re more popular than Jesus (or at least more trendy), and with thousands of memes shared every day, yours need to be relatable, funny, attractive, and above all, natural to cut through the noise.
Tread carefully, and follow this guide to make sure your foray into the meme world is a success!
Match your memes to your audience
The first thing to do is carefully consider your target market. Are they likely to be spending a lot of time on social media? If they are, what sort of memes are they likely to enjoy? Remember, the key to a great meme is whether people to relate to it. If you’re targeting young, social mums working part-time, memes that joke about balancing motherhood with less motherly interests often perform well. If you’re targeting a specific job role, posting about common pet peeves that bother this group will catch their attention and make them feel like you understand them.
Do some research and find people who fit your ideal audience descriptors. Look at whether they’re posting memes and if they are, what style of memes they share.
Memes are predominantly a product of youth culture, and have become huge with the digital era. However, as we can see in the Kmart example, that doesn’t mean it’s just young people sharing them – you just have to be careful about how you do it.
Make sure your posts are consistent
Hello Social’s marketing memes are high quality and built for laughs, but they’re also coming from a team of professional marketers. If you’ve got less time and experience, consider posting branded meme style images, like Seek.
Simply build a template and post relevant, interesting or funny quotes, sayings or thoughts that generate interest in your company – it’s safer than building a Gucci-esque campaign that you can’t commit to in the long term. In fact, that’s the form we favour on our own social media at atomix.
It might not be a meme in the most traditional sense, but it still helps get the message across in the way only a meme can.
Encourage your audience to tag their friends
As a cultural phenomenon, memes are made for sharing. If you’re interested in broadening your audience and getting your brand in front of new people in an organic way, you can suggest that people tag their friends. People will usually tag their friends if the meme is good enough anyway, but using a call-to-action like “Tag someone who deserves a day off” gives them that little extra push they might need.
Never post a meme if you don’t understand the context
One of the biggest risks for brands jumping into memejacking is using a meme with negative connotations. People can take memes from anywhere and use them for anything, so it’s important to research the context behind the meme to make sure you don’t stray into inappropriate territory. It also helps to understanding how other people are using the meme to avoid coming across as out-of-touch. You want people to be laughing with you, not at you!
Measure the success of your memes
It’s very important to think about your end goal if you decide to build a meme. What metrics will you track to work out what’s working and what isn’t? You might want to think about social media reach, image shares, new followers or a change in the demographics interacting with your content.
If your meme went viral, would it link back to your brand or would it be shared without any context? Memes can help drive traffic to your social pages, but you should always make sure they’re relevant. If people can tell you’re just trying to cash in the popularity of memes, it just won’t work.
If you’re simply sharing memes to draw traffic, get your brand out there by engaging with people who comment on the image. Spark conversations on your page and get your name showing up in more people’s newsfeeds.
Memes can be a powerful marketing tool, especially when you’re trying to break through to the advertisement adverse digital generation. As long as they’re relevant, natural and convey the brand message you want your audience to hear, it might be time to add memes to your marketing mix.