Did you know that archaeologists can tell that the meme dates back to 3 BC. Chr. Backtrack?
Memes, a term coined in 1976 by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins to describe how ideas replicate, mutate, and evolve, are a way of following a common idea or trend in order to reach a target audience. Over time, different groups take memes and tweak them to make them their own.
Memes is about creating engagement and community by communicating something that everyone in your circle understands. This is a way of developing a sense of belonging, something that platforms like Facebook have been familiar with for years.
This is exactly why your brand should include memes in your content marketing plan. If you can create and share targeted memes that will appeal to your audience, you can create that same sense of community, develop brand loyalty, and even enter new markets.
Why you should use memes in your content marketing
Some of the most famous brands in the world are including memes in their content marketing strategy. Here's why:
Memes increase engagement
Memes are very shareable and help people connect through humor.
When done right, people feel part of an inside joke, and who doesn't want to be the one who knows?
Subscription service BarkBox based its Instagram account on all the fun little quirks about dogs that only dog lovers know about. One of your running jokes? The war between dogs and squirrels. They created a number of mosaics using their Instagram posts. This is a pretty creative way to display your memes.
Not only does BarkBox keep the audience in suspense, but it also plays out topics that act as inside jokes between themselves and their 1.7 million followers. These are topics that only dog lovers would understand, making them feel part of an exclusive group.
Memes keep your audience entertained
Users are most engaged on social media when they are entertained. The study aid website SparkNotes understands this, and they also understand that students aren't always delighted with their assigned reading.
SparkNotes uses pop culture trends to liven up classic novels while improving their service.
You don't necessarily have to create branded memes, however. You can create memes that are simply entertaining and somehow related to your audience. In many cases, associating a meme with your brand may even feel compelled. Sometimes it's better to let the meme speak for itself.
Clothing retailer ASOS is great for creating memes that reflect holidays, current events and trending topics. Although many of their memes are associated with their brand, they're not afraid to bring in a fun meme to keep the audience entertained.
Here's a meme they posted for Thanksgiving.
It has nothing to do with the brand, everything to do with the mood of the day. It got some stocks and likes and kept an eye on its brand on a day when most of the people were on their plates.
Memes are easy to create
Memes like the ASOS example above are pretty easy to make and inexpensive too. You don't even need fancy photo editing software, just a free meme generator like Imgur.
Meme Generators allow you to search for pictures for your meme by filtering through popular memes or uploading your picture.
Once you've chosen an image (I chose Annoyed Picard) you can add text using this all-too-familiar meme font. They even give you suggestions of recently created memes with the same picture. (Keep in mind that not all are office-friendly. In this example, I've blurred some questionable ones.)
Once you've added your text, your meme is ready to be downloaded and used on your social platforms.
That's it. No expensive image creation. No keyword research. Quite easy.
Memes let you be creative
You don't necessarily have to resort to a popular meme that is already trending. Honestly, it can be difficult to keep up with the latest memes.
Once you have a good sense of what your audience is reacting to, you can try creating your own memes from scratch. Of course, this requires more effort and money for high quality original images. However, if your audience responds well and starts sharing, it can be worth it.
Doritos fills her Instagram account with original memes, many of which take advantage of the nostalgia of the 80s and 90s and are undoubtedly aimed at their target audience.
If you grew up in the 80s and 90s, you probably remember the popularity of friendship chains.
Memes are a great way to show your brand's personality
There are two things you can do with your social accounts. You can strengthen your current brand personality or create a whole new one from it.
Lots of older brands have done the latter, using the more relaxed, casual tone on social media to shed their clogged reputation and give their products a fresher (or even snarkier) personality.
MoonPie is a good example. The original treat was invented in 1917 and the company that makes them was founded in 1902. However, if you look at her Instagram account, you wouldn't mistake her for a 118 year old company.
They created a much younger, much funnier person to develop a new following for the centenary dessert.
8 Ways To Use Memes Effectively In Your Content Marketing
Now you are convinced that you should include memes in your content marketing strategy. However, before you get started, there are a few things to consider first. As easy as creating memes is, some planning still remains and some solid techniques to be incorporated can make your memes relatable, shareable, and possibly even viral.
1. Know your audience
Have you ever seen a stand-up show where the comedian's jokes kept hit the mark? The audience didn't understand the jokes or they just didn't find them funny? Most of the time, this happens when a comedian hasn't tailored their material to suit their audience.
A joke about the AARP, for example, is not going to fly with a Gen Z crowd. You don't even think about retirement. Meanwhile, a joke using terms like Stan and Salty with Gen X will most likely fall on deaf ears.
Same goes for memes.
Take the Chase Bank tweet allegedly advising a millennial. While it wasn't exactly a meme, it did when Senator Elizabeth Warren beat her for what many have described as deaf and condescending.
Undoubtedly, you already know the age, cultural background, race, location, industry and every other population group of your audience. All of this information you've gathered for your other content marketing initiatives can help you create memes that hit the mark too.
2. Create original memes
Even if you use a popular meme picture, your message should be original and related in some way to your audience or brand. Don't try to use someone else's joke for your audience. It just won't work.
Some memes use the nostalgia factor. Whether it's '90s dance music or' 80s fashion, a good nostalgia meme, like the Doritos example, will make your audience feel part of something bigger. Memes is all about community building.
Other brands use sarcasm or satire to get their point across. Still, others inject a little humility into their memes. Don't be afraid to make fun of yourself as this will make your brand appear more human and approachable. Chipotle, for example, has attracted a million followers with its humorous and often self-deprecating tweets and memes.
This has ripped off a meme format that was trending in 2020 during the COVID lockdowns.
No matter what, it has to be fun. Whether you're trying to make a point or get people to remember the good old days, every meme does it with humor. If your meme isn't funny, it most likely won't get shared.
3. Do Your Adopt a popular meme
One of the easiest pieces of content to create is a riff on an already viral meme. In 2018, Ruffle made a hilarious shot of a stock photo that went viral a few years earlier.
4. Stay relevant with memes
When a mysterious monolith appeared (and then disappeared) in the Utah desert in 2020, the memes weren't far behind. Amazon took the opportunity to demonstrate its relevance and humor.
If you can take the opportunity to be on trend and make them relevant to your brand, go for it! Just don't force it if it doesn't work for your brand voice or audience.
Pro tip: If a trend is a few days to a week in its life cycle, you should skip it and move on to the next trend. In this case, you may have missed the train and you risk losing your brand.
5. Develop your brand's personality with memes
Wendy has one of the most iconic social brands. In 2017, the fast food chain decided to take a risk and turn their cute-looking mascot, Wendy, into a hilarious snarker trolling the accounts of other fast food brands.
Sure, it could stop at its memes, but Wendy takes it a step further and jumps onto other fast food chains' memes to get their rep.
Take the Twitter war that broke out when Burger King tried to cast shadows on Wendy:
6. Don't be sticky
No self-esteem brand starts thinking, "We're going to create an inappropriate meme that will get the wrong attention." Still, brands occasionally stumble upon something they shouldn't be touching on.
Trying to create a fun meme on a topic that is completely wrong for your brand (or completely wrong for any brand) will go deaf at best.
I'm not sure if Dr. Suess would have appreciated this tweet from Charmin.
However, you can turn someone else's deaf-mute moment into an opportunity. In October 2020, Kim Kardashian received a huge backlash after posting pictures of herself and her closest friends on a private island when COVID cases began to rise again. The headline read:
After doing multiple health screenings for two weeks and asking everyone to quarantine, I surprised my closest inner circle with a trip to a private island where we could pretend things were only normal for a brief moment.
All kinds of brands, including the New York Historical Society, took the opportunity to bring in their two cents.
If you're trying to tackle a trending topic like this, be careful. You don't want to cut yourself off as insensitive or thoughtless.
7. Research your memes
While Wendy generally receives high praise for her social media content, even this master of the meme can take a wrong turn from time to time. At one point, Wendy responded to a client's tweet by posting a Pepe the Frog meme, a symbol adopted by white nationalist groups.
Wendy deleted the post as soon as they realized their mistake, and they eventually recovered from their gaffe. However, some damage was done and a lesson had to be learned. Always research your memes before posting.
8. Stay on fire
What do all the brands highlighted in this article have in common? You have created a unified brand personality and stuck with it.
No matter what you do with your memes, keep it consistent. Otherwise, you run the risk of confusing (and losing) your audience.
When done right, memes can become a pretty useful tool in your content marketing plan. They can help you reach new audiences and add a human element to your brand through humor. Plus, they can help you connect with your target audience without worrying too much about keywords or content frameworks.
Memes can even help a brand reinvent itself. Her casual, fun tone gives brands previously known for their serious demeanor a lighter, more contemporary voice.
Plus, memes are just fun.
What types of memes would be most effective for your brand?