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Keeping up with content marketing trends is necessary nowadays to get your products and services noticed on the internet. The thing about memes, though, is that they aren’t a trend themselves. A meme can be trendy, until it’s not. Memes can be timely but they can also be timeless.
When it comes to meme marketing, the trick is knowing when and how to use memes and not fail miserably in the process.
In this article, we will look at how you can choose the best memes suited for your brand and how to use them appropriately in social media marketing.
To start, here is a handy infographic we created to sum up how you can use classic memes in your marketing. Or you click here to skip ahead and read a detailed explanation of each meme marketing tip.
Embed on your site:
Memes are the most viral pieces of information on the internet. They are everywhere; they get shared, they get recreated, they sometimes make comebacks. Any photo, graphic or video clip can be turned into a viral meme.
According to Merriam-Webster, a meme is:
"An idea, behavior, style or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture. An amusing or interesting item (such as a captioned picture or video) or genre of items that is spread widely online, especially through social media."
The term “meme” was coined by writer and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in 1976 in his publication The Selfish Gene. From there, it evolved into the internet phenomenon we know today.
Memes have become popular in the same manner that GIFs have, spreading from person to person via social sharing sites, emails and messaging. You might be asking yourself now, “but what is the difference between a meme and a GIF?”
A GIF is a looped, animated image which can be used in messages, email and social media. A GIF is usually humorous and can sometimes become viral. A GIF can be a meme but a meme isn’t necessarily a GIF.
Any image, video or GIF can be turned into a meme, before or after they go viral but most of the time it’s after. Here is a little diagram to visualize it:
When it comes to custom-created memes, things are a little different. People and brands create memes hoping that they will become viral, but don’t always do. Nevertheless, they are still memes, because they were created as such.
The majority of viral memes first make their debut appearance on sites like 4chan, Reddit and sometimes Tumblr. Once they become popular, they make their way to knowyourmeme.com and appear over and over in our favorite social media channels. If you want to know what the trending memes are at any given moment, your best bet is to check 4chan and Reddit or Know Your Meme.
Once any kind of humorous visual becomes viral, it is usually remixed into funny memes of the same style by new users, making it more viral than it was originally. Photoshop is the editing tool of choice for these kinds of meme collections.
A great example is “The Most Interesting Man in the World.” This meme originated from a Dos Equis beer commercial starring Jonathan Goldsmith as The Most Interesting Man. The catchphrase for the advertisement was “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.” The creation of the meme follows the same word pattern, “I don’t always X, but when I do, I Y.”
I created one on Imgflip as an example:
This phenomenon in which a meme inspires more memes of the same style is very common. If you go into Giphy or even Google image search and input “The Most Interesting Man on Earth,” the results are outstanding.
Another way in which memes are born is when something funny happens on the internet and everyone notices, thus starting a snowball of memes that usually last a few days to a few weeks. If these are particularly humorous then they make meme history.
Take, for example, “covfefe”:
— Mike Ryan (@mikeryan) May 31, 2017
Throughout the years, memes have naturally been separated into different styles. Regardless of the type of meme, most tend to be of a humorous nature. The joke can be simple and obvious; other times, it can have a shock factor; and in some cases, it might be an inside joke that only a few people will understand.
Let’s take a look at a basic meme classification to help you get an idea of how memes can be used.
A classic meme is the one that most people will think of when hearing the term. The general idea is a photo or illustration with large, blocky letters that says something funny about pretty much anything. A meme of this style can be created with any image but the most effective are the ones that include a human face making some kind of reaction or expressing a feeling. If not a human face, then an animal or inanimate object that can be given a double meaning.
Some of these images have become so famous as memes that meme generators like Imgflip give you the option of choosing one of them as a background to simply insert the text you want.
Using a classic meme is a relatively safe approach to using memes in marketing. They are well known enough to be recognized by just about anyone. The only trick is to follow the particular style of each classic meme to not have a meme fail.
This article has exact explanations of how to use classic memes.
Here are some examples of classic memes being used:
Any video can become a meme. The best meme videos are short, funny and easily shareable on any social media platform. They are mostly posted on YouTube and Reddit. When they start going viral, they make their way to the trending meme collection on Know Your Meme.
Just recently, Nintendo released a trailer for a new game of Super Smash Brothers using characters from a game called Splatoon. In the video, as one of the characters turns around, the logo of the new game is reflected in her eye. This advertisement which came out on March 8th, 2018 has already been used to make lots of video and image memes with different things reflected in the girl’s eye.
This is the original video:
Here is a meme template created quickly after:
Here is an image meme created from the video:
More and more memes with “Inkling Girl's Eye” are being created as we publish this article. This is a perfect example of quick memejacking.
Can you think of a way your brand could "memejack" this meme? If your clients and customers are gamers, then yes, definitely you should use it.
This is another example of a video meme, created in celebration of the Breaking Bad TV show:
A GIF meme is a GIF that has become a meme after being shared exponentially. GIF memes are quite popular since they are so easy to share and can be quite humorous. They can be bits of a video or a group of photos or progression of a process.
Some GIF memes are created by using a cutout GIF placed on any background, to tell whatever humorous story the creator has in mind. “Confused Travolta” is a classic example of this trend. This is the cutout that anyone can use to make their own GIF meme:
Here is an example of what can be done with the cutout. The possibilities of how to use this are endless. Just go into Giphy and search for “confused travolta” to see how many options there are.
Social memes are social posts that were shared on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram and then embedded, screenshot and copied by other users. Social memes usually start off as “viral tweets” and then explode from there.
There are plenty of humorous people in the world who come up with hashtag prompts that also sometimes lead to memes, like this one for the #explainafilmplotbadly hashtag.
— Khadi Don (@KhadiDon) December 13, 2015
The first thing to take into consideration when thinking about implementing meme marketing for your brand is that memes are not for everyone. The best memes are funny and usually have a tongue-in-cheek kind of humor to them. Memes are also preferred by younger audiences who spend a lot of time on the internet. If your brand is light-hearted and caters to all ages, then meme marketing could be a good way to go. If your brand is more serious, then using meme marketing could polarize your audience.
With that said, let’s take a look at how memes can be used for marketing.
The term used for taking a meme and using it for your own purposes is called “memejacking.” Memejacking can be either when you use a meme that already exists and add your own commentary in the share box, or when you create a new meme in response to an already existing meme. The Nintendo video and memes we shared above are perfect examples of memejacking.
You can also take part in an online video meme challenge like the “Harlem Shake” or “Mannequin Challenge.” This occurs when the original meme/video becomes the inspiration for the challenge.
When you take part of the challenge and create your own video, you must then post it on social media. You also have to make sure you use the relevant hashtag. For example: #harlemshake or #mannequinchallenge.
We do not recommend you use these meme challenge examples for any future marketing campaigns since they have already passed their moment of glory. To know what is trending in terms of meme challenges, you have to be active on social media.
This is the original Mannequin Challenge video that inspired so many others.
— yani? (@pvrity___) October 26, 2016
Even Hillary Clinton and Paul McCartney got into it. This is the Hillary Clinton Campaign Mannequin Challenge:
Another option is to create your own meme. You can either use the classic meme backgrounds like we did for the meme below, or you can create a new meme that fits your brand better (see the Gucci campaign in our collection of best memes used in marketing, in the following section below).
No matter if you memejack or create your own, you have to be sure that the meme you are using will still be funny when you use it. For example in the meme we created about animating presentations, we used the correct wording that matches the “That would be great” meme inspired by the Office Space movie.
For example, the “that would be great” guy might be a bit dated, but who knows? Maybe your clients love him! These are little details to keep in mind so that your meme makes sense for your brand AND your clients.
When it comes to meme marketing, it is really important to be timely and appropriate. Memes have such strong online cultural power that your efforts can really go either way. You can be really successful or fail miserably. Sometimes it can go both ways!
Before you start posting any memes, it’s important to ask yourself these questions:
There's no better way to decide if meme marketing is the right fit for your brand than to see some examples of real life meme marketing. The good and the bad.
Here is a handy table of contents for this collection:
These are the most successful examples of the best memes used in marketing:
Netflix climbed onto the “match your selfie in art” bandwagon and used a still shot from their hit show "Stranger Things" to find their doppelgangers in a museum. You might have done this for your own selfie or seen your friends doing it and posting it on Facebook.
This meme had a lifespan of a few weeks. It isn’t relevant anymore. It is, though, an example of really great memejacking and will still be known as one of the best memes in Netflix Twitter history.
ok google pic.twitter.com/kCrZ6A4uJq
— Netflix US (@netflix) January 15, 2018
This example of meme marketing is timely, but it’s not exactly memejacking because in this case Oreo created their own meme. During the Super Bowl of 2013, there was a blackout. The social media team at Oreo wasted no time in creating and posting this tweet. It quickly went viral and is now considered as one of the best memes in the meme marketing hall of fame.
Power out? No problem. pic.twitter.com/dnQ7pOgC
— Oreo Cookie (@Oreo) February 4, 2013
Sometimes a brand creates a marketing scheme that becomes a meme all on its own without it being intended. This is exactly what happened with the Old Spice Man. His meme name is “The man you could smell like.” The “man” first appeared in an Old Spice commercial about a body wash.
Even though Old Spice is a product for men, the commercial was geared towards women. Needless to say, the commercial and “the man you could smell like” was an instant hit. He became a viral meme pretty quickly and inspired lots of memes.
"The Puss in Boots" movie used the Old Spice Man as the meme style to make this little spoof as marketing for the movie. Needless to say, it was a hit.
When meme marketing first began, the first brands to get on board were fast food chains like Burger King, McDonalds and Wendy’s. All sorts of meme marketing were created by these chains and then some user-created (fandom) memes started appearing. Here is a great video from Know Your Meme about the Foodom Phenomenon. Some of the best memes ever were created during this foodom hype.
A brand that still uses Foodom as a means to inspire their marketing is Denny’s. Their “zoom in on the syrup” pancake meme is another of the best memes ever seen on Twitter.
zoom in on the syrup pic.twitter.com/omRBupjrXq
— Denny's (@DennysDiner) March 1, 2017
Sometimes ad campaigns are loved by some and hated by others. This is a natural phenomenon in advertising and marketing. Sometimes the scales tip to one side and other times they balance out. In the case of this Gucci Meme Marketing campaign, the results went in both directions equally. This ended up creating a memorable campaign that will remain as an example of the best memes ever used for advertising.
Gucci reached out to famous artists to recreate a viral meme in their own style, using a Gucci watch as the focal point (visual or conceptual). In this example, the photographer Derek Lucas used the “Arthur Fist” meme to create his ad.
#TFWGucci Derek Lucas, AKA @champagneemojis was inspired by the super-recent Arthur meme — the cartoon aardvark represents utter frustration with a clenched fist. New York-based photographer Benjamin Langford (@blangblang92) reinterpreted the meme through his own lens. Langford shoots flowers with a languorous, detached gaze, printing them larger-than-life. They represent the elusive illusion of authentic experience, a tantalizing beauty never quite reachable. For #TFWGucci, a #LeMarchédesMerveilles watch on his wrist and a bunch of flowers in his fist, Arthur is still frustrated. - Text by @kchayka. Discover more through link in bio.
Here is the original “Arthur Fist” meme template from memegenerator.com. Arthur is the character from the kid’s TV show "Arthur." A user on Reddit posted the image of the fist with a fun comment and the rest is meme history.
Now let’s take a look at some unsuccessful meme marketing. Bad meme marketing usually goes unnoticed as it flops unceremoniously, unless it is really bad. Some brands make a huge meme mistake and then erase the post from Twitter or wherever they posted it. Sometimes users are quicker than the brand and screenshots are taken before the bad meme disappears.
A terrible meme marketing campaign will be kept in internet memory forever.
These are two great examples of how meme marketing can go wrong:
The HHS tried to tap into the doge meme bandwagon and ended up making a bit of a fool of themselves in the process. The doge meme is known for a few characteristics:
What went wrong? First of all, the HHS used the wrong image of the Shiba Inu. Second, they did not realize that the doge meme is one that pokes fun. Just read the comments below their Facebook post to see how it backfired. Some people even thought that it was a meme making fun of HHS, not a meme made by them for marketing!
The largest provider of financial aid for higher education, Federal Student Aid, created a meme with a still from the movie "Bridesmaids" in which Kristen Wiig tries to snag a first-class seat, with a caption below stating, “Help me, I’m poor.”
The tweet faced lots of backlash due to it being insensitive to people who already have huge student loans and the actual poor people who would do anything for a chance to go to college. The tweet was taken down with an apology, but of course there were screenshots.
All of these sites have plenty of options for quickly creating memes.
Another option is to create your own in Visme, one that will match your brand perfectly. Let’s do a quick review of how you can do that.
The first thing you need to do is decide if you will use a classic meme or try to memejack a trending one. We have already shown you how to create classic memes, so let’s make a meme about a trending topic.
Use this article from Visme as a checklist when creating amazing social media graphics, including the best memes for your advertising. Then, sign up for a free account with just your name and email at www.visme.co.
Go into Know Your Meme and browse through the trending topics. At the time of writing this article, it was around the day of International Women’s Day and the launch of the new Super Smash Brothers Nintendo game for Nintendo Switch. We picked International Women’s Day.
Log into Visme and open a blank document in the size you need (or use a template). We chose a rectangular canvas for this example. Search the image gallery for a relevant image. We wanted to showcase and celebrate women so we searched for a good photo of a woman. We picked a photo of a girl with a skateboard and placed it on the empty canvas.
We searched “powerful women quotes” and found a great one by Anais Nin. We copied it and placed it on our canvas, in the classic meme font Impact. The font is white with a small, black drop shadow.
Include your logo. If your meme goes viral then your logo will too!
Post away on your favorite channels. Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are the channels of choice. You can also create a whole series of memes and create a blog post like they did at The Global Fund for Women.
Another kind of meme you can make in Visme is an animated meme or basically a GIF Meme. Sign up here for a free account with your name and email to get started.
For this one, we're going to do some hashtag research for special days. We took a look at Later.com’s hashtag calendar and found that the best upcoming date to use (at the time of writing this post) was Pi Day on March 14th. This day is usually full of memes of the numerical number Pi and also of really delicious pies! In honor of the animated charts feature in Visme, we made a meme with an animated pie chart. You can do the same!
Here at Visme, we all love pie so we did a quick poll to find out what kinds of pies everyone loves. We polled apple, blueberry and cherry. We all had great fun eating pie and took notes of the results.
Create your animated meme in any size you like. We used a square meme.
Open the chart tab on the left and create your animated chart with the results of your poll. Design the chart however you like and place it on your canvas. Add your logo.
Soon, Visme will have the capability of downloading designs as videos and GIFs but in the meantime you can download as an .html5 file and convert it to an .mp4 file and then create a GIF on giphy.com
To share on Instagram, you have to use your .mp4 file and for Facebook and Twitter you can use the .gif file. Share away, use the #piday hashtag and invite your followers to make something similar!
Which have been the best memes for your own marketing? How did it go?
Have you seen a meme marketing campaign that completely missed the mark, or one you really thought was spot-on?
Share in the comments so we can keep the conversation going! Because memes are not going anywhere anytime soon.
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