What is a meme? Stupid question, you might say… they’re everywhere on social media. You could be forgiven for thinking that a meme is one of these, and only one of these:
However, according to Oxford Dictionaries, a meme is ‘An element of a culture or system of behaviour passed from one individual to another by imitation or other non-genetic means’. Clearly, memes predate the internet.
So… can this type of meme be a useful marketing tool?
Well, first it helps to understand why memes are so popular. This article suggests its because they are:
- Easy to consume – most consist of an image and just a few words
- Funny, and
- Make people feel included.
There are some major upsides to using memes as a marketing tool. The content is already created (or easy to create yourself). They are easy to share, and for others to share, thus increasing the chances of your content going viral. And they can help make campaigns more relatable, especially to young people.
But before you jump in, some words of caution:
- Familiarity is not universal – and sometimes the most popular memes rely on in-jokes that not everyone will understand. In this case, while they will undoubtedly make some people feel included, they are likely to make others feel excluded. For this reason, consideration of your target audience is vital. Memes are most likely to appeal to a younger demographic, so if your target is senior citizens then it is unlikely to achieve what you want it to (unless the content is very specifically targeted to this audience).
- Another important consideration should be your brand’s image and personality. Is it young and hip, or conservative and responsible? If it’s the latter, humour might not be the best approach.
- Many memes could potentially offend some people or groups. If you think there is a chance anyone could be offended by it, don’t use it! Campaigns incorporating memes have the potential to backfire spectacularly, as this one did for Black Milk. Running your meme past a number of people from different backgrounds will reduce the chances of unintended consequences.
- Finally, should you use existing memes, or create your own? This article suggests that newer companies looking to go viral should use existing popular memes, while more established brands with good reach already may benefit more by creating original content.
So in summary, memes can be a great way to create reach for your marketing campaign – but should be used with caution. You don’t want your content to go viral for the wrong reasons!
What about you – would you use memes for a marketing campaign? Can you add any points I haven’t thought about?