Last updated: December 30, 2018
Marketing With Memes: a Guide to Using Them Online and Off
While the word “meme” itself comes to us from Ancient Greek, the scientist Richard Dawkins gave the word its modern definition back in 1976, when he used it to describe the similarities between ideas and genes as both are passed down through the generations of mankind.
Today, the term “meme” has come to stand for a particular piece of media used to represent (or reference) a specific idea or circumstance.
Making memes a part of your marketing scheme can, if done properly, make a lasting impression.
Virgin Media found that “borrowing” (or, more properly, licensing an image of) the triumphant baby known as “Success Kid” for its advertisements created a popular—and, perhaps unsurprisingly, successful—campaign for its cable television products.
Occasionally, a company will create a campaign that itself becomes a meme, which in turn spawns endless remixes until the original marketing element has adopted the flavor of some universal truth.
Perhaps the best known example of this phenomenon is The Most Interesting Man in the World, the spokesman for the Dos Equis beer brand and, in the years since his debut in 2006, an Internet staple. The suave and sophisticated gentleman who prefers Dos Equis has become a stand-in for anyone wishing to express just how interesting they really are—or compare themselves to someone who is, whether sincerely or ironically.
The meme-ification was taken a step further when SEO experts at MOZ decided to use the image as part of their own campaign to announce the receipt of 18 million dollars in venture capital funding.
Is “memejacking” right for you? It depends entirely upon your product, your audience, and your existing persona. But if you’re ready to accept the challenge, you might just be on your way to creating some meme-worthy success of your own.
Marketing with Memes
There are many ways to market your business, both online and offline, and one stands out in particular – memes! If you aren’t sure about marketing with memes, check out the information below. The Rise of Meme Popularity Although memes have really taken off in the past decade, they have actually been around for centuries. A meme is a visual concept, idea, or behavior that spreads throughout the internet. They are most often pictures or videos, but can also be a link, hashtag, or even a word or phrase.
The term was defined by scientist Richard Dawkins in 1976. Meme is short for the Greek word mimeme, meaning “imitated thing.” LOLcats dates all the way back to the 19th century when Harry Whittier Frees took pictures of his pet cats, added some text, and turned them into greeting cards. Memes came into full swing in 2001.
A few common examples:
- “The Wave” done at sporting events
- “Leaning” on the leaning tower of Pisa
- Walking like an Egyptian (dates back to 1700 BC)
- Bunny ears on people while taking a photo
- Dancing Baby
Learning to Memejack
When looking for a great marketing campaign, why not use one you know already works? Enter memejacking. Memejacking is using an already successful meme for your campaign or marketing efforts.
Why memejacking is a good idea: The meme’s have already gone viral They are perfect to share on social media They attract likes, traffic, and more links They take minimal time to create
Tips for successfully jacking a meme Take advantage of it quickly. It is important to be one of the first to adopt it, otherwise it just becomes overused, extremely fast. Think of the Harlem Shake videos – the early adopters received far more traction than those who were much later to the party.
Know what the meme means before using it. If your audience doesn’t understand it, you are wasting a lot of time. The “You’re Doing it Wrong” meme is commonly associated with FAIL images across the internet. If you make it positive and not associated with failing, you have completely changed the entire meaning of the meme. Is the meme funny and you can relate it back to your brand? If you can’t, then the shares will be minimal, and you will not get the traction you are looking for.
Consider using triggers – something that is easily memorable and stays at the front of your mind. This way, people will not only remember the meme, but also the brand (yours!) it is related to. People are still posting the Geico hump day video, which was introduced back in May.
As of December 2013, it has just under 20 million views on YouTube. Don’t change the original meme too much. It is important to keep the core components still present. Consider using a meme generator if you don’t have a lot of graphic design experience, or are just crunched for time.
Ways To Use Memes
As mentioned above, memes don’t have to only be pictures or videos – they can also be phrases.
Use Google Trends Google trends is the easiest way to see what your customers want and how they are changing. Search for trends: If you notice a trend (or think you do), hop online to Google Trends and validate your thoughts.
San Francisco’s BetaBrand did just this – they noticed men around the city wearing loud and fun socks and wanted to see if this was really a new trend. They took a look at Google Trends, and saw people from all around the country were searching for terms like “crazy socks” and “bold socks.” They are able to stay ahead of the game by using this to predict what is coming next and have learned to connect the dots in a whole new way. They now offer a sock replacement plan when one sock is lost. They were the first in the market to come up with this idea.
Pay attention to your social media accounts. Look to see what words and phrases your customers are using on your accounts. Type these phrases into Google Trends on a weekly basis – you must stay ahead of the trend to really take advantage of all it has to offer.
CheapCarribean.com looked at the interactions of their 250,000 Facebook fans and saw people are wanting to cruise again and Mexico is once again a top destination. They were able to offer specials to these locations and increase revenue.
Use Memes for Lead Generation
Use the meme to drive traffic to a landing page with relevant and valuable information for the reader Consider creating a white paper or eBook for this. Require the user to enter their information to gain access to the knowledge.
Learn from Successful Meme Campaigns
There are plenty of memes which have had a lot of success in the marketing campaign world. Here are a few notable ones:
- “Success Kid” for Virgin Media Picture of 11 month old Sammy Griner clutching a fist full of sand. Back in 2007 Virgin Media ran the photo, in 2012, accompanied by the slogan “Tim just realised his parents get HD channels at no extra cost”.
- “Call Me Maybe” for Sesame Street Carly Rae Jepsen’s song was incredibly popular in the summer 2011. After already hitting #1, the song was hugely spread by the Harvard Baseball Team, and then many others after that, including the U.S. Olympic Swimming Team. Sesame Street did a spin on the video by changing the words to “Share it Maybe,” starring the Cookie Monster. As of December 2013, the video had over 15 million views.
- “The Most Interesting Man in the World” for SEOmoz First made famous by Dos Equis beer, the most interesting man in the world went viral almost immediately. When SEOmoz announced a round of VC Funding, they used the meme accompanied by the phrase “We Don’t Always Get $18M in Venture Capital Funding, But When We Do, We Create Hilarious Memes About It To Tell The Story” for the announcement, rather than a press release or standard blog post. This meme has gone viral and been used for everything from internet marketing to political parodies to even cartoon jokes.
- “Old Spice Man” for Puss In Boots Old Spice created the “Man Your Man Could Smell Like” advertising campaign, and ended up using it for multiple campaigns, over what they had originally planned because of the popularity. DreamWorks created a trailer for the movie “Puss in Boots,” which consisted of a montage of the different Old Spice commercials – only this time, Puss in Boots was the featured character.
- History of Internet Memes – refinery29.com
- What’s in a Meme? – mashable.com
- 10 Popular Memes Masquerading as Marketing Campaigns – hubspot.com
- Memejacking: The Complete Guide to Creating Memes for Marketing – hubspot.com
- Marketing Memes Discover New Gaps And Opportunities – forbes.com
- Utilizing Memes in B2B Marketing Campaigns – business2community.com
- The Best Examples of Meme Marketing – sparksheet.com
- How Advertisers Can Use The Power Of Internet Memes To Amplify Their Brand – unrulymedia.com