Internet memes are fun. Internet memes are creative. Internet memes draw attention.
But what exactly is an Internet meme?
Internet meme is an idea, catchphrase, style, or behavior that is being spread across the World Wide Web. It is a derivation from evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins’ evolutionary concept, wherein a meme pertains to an idea, behavior, trend, or style that spreads from one person to another within a certain culture. While it is relatively similar in meaning, Internet memes often come in the form of images macros, catchphrases, videos, soundbites, webpages, or hashtags.
Now, what does it have to do with digital marketing?
Apparently, a lot!
In today’s digital era, marketing strategists are gradually taking notice of the value of Internet memes. After all, what’s not to like about it? It’s appealing, engaging, and not that hard to execute. And it seems obvious most brands of today are taking notice of memes. Gone are days when these images with superimposing captions on Impact are considered as a mere fad and nothing more. Now, marketers can’t help but to piggyback on the immense popularity of this Internet phenomenon.
While a few brands had done it in the past with great success, some are still trying to find their rhythm, while others are in the midst of dealing with social media backlashes.
That in mind, here are some pointers on how to utilize Internet memes to your digital marketing advantage:
Know your business
Rule of thumb in using memes for your marketing is that if it doesn’t fit, don’t push it. Case in point: Gucci’s #TFWGucci campaign. The luxury fashion brand had a recent exploration with meme marketing, commissioning international artists to create and curate a series of meme-inspired artwork for its campaign. The campaign garnered a lukewarm-to-cold reception among its followers on social media for its bad execution and overplaying of the meme culture.
#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.
Albeit funny, memes are not for everyone, as it entails a lot of puns and banters that may come out as too extreme for your business culture to stomach.
Before joining the meme bandwagon, you have to first evaluate if your company necessitates the need for it. Remember, these online staples are oftentimes associated with absurdity, deprecation, sarcasm, satire, and parody. Putting it precariously on a certain Facebook page that promotes tight professionalism and unyielding may compromise the institution’s image and cause backlashes.
Know you audience
Aside from assessing the relativity of memes with your brand, you must also consider your audience. To have an accurate feel of the pulse, you can do a series of trial posts to your wall. That way, you can easily gauge your audience’s reception and avoid alienating them.
But be wary. Putting a meaning to a meme will be the hardest task. In this case, memes should complement the message your brand wants to convey. Otherwise, people might misconstrue your post and fall flat the moment they failed to grasp the context.
Let the creative juice flow
Given that it is way more convenient to simply use those pre-made memes we see online, most of those ones we see on Google Images are already overused and passé. Moreover, overusing movie clips borderlines the limitation of Fair Use, which may cause legal entanglements once a loophole for infringement is apparent.
Creating your own set of memes from scratch is no rocket science, and it does not require extensive knowledge of Photoshop. The simple key here is creativity. Start slow by looking for “memeable” photos from your library – those ones that you’re willing to expose. You can also get photos from sites that offer stock photos. Websites and applications like Imgflip, Meme Generator, and Giphy provide a library of meme-ready photos and GIFs complete with tools to make it easier for you.
If your brand has somehow mastered the artistry of meme-making, incorporate the approaches that fit well with your campaign. Add a little extra by infusing some of your own creative juice for a more personal touch.
Take cue from what Denny’s did for their Twitter page last March. The family restaurant chain leveraged on the “zoom-in” meme, which leads the audience to zoom in on the different parts of the photo to read hidden messages, until finally revealing the punchline that reads, “Has this distracted you from overwhelming existential dread lol”.
zoom in on the syrup pic.twitter.com/omRBupjrXq
— Denny’s (@DennysDiner) March 1, 2017
The tweet received over 100K retweets and close to 200K likes over the course of the post’s week stretch, making it one of the most viral posts of 2017.
To be “fair” with Fair Use
Speaking of Fair Use, you must know your limitations to this legal doctrine when using photos and videos on the Internet. Since it’s technically “illegal” to use someone’s work for your brand benefits, Fair Use gives you a leeway in utilizing copyrighted materials as long as it’s not for commercial use, or does not compromise the original work. With this, it is better to follow your instinct as to whether or not use copyrighted materials on the Internet. The best option is to ask permission from the source or owner to avoid such legal perils.
Meme is an Internet speak designed to entertain young audiences. For business use, you have to first learn to understand the language so that your audience can understand you back. Make sure to do all your due diligence before jumping into the sea of silliness. Do research. Embrace the culture. Conduct social listening to monitor the trends and incorporate it to your strategic meme postings.
Another thing is that you have to choose your words and images carefully. Memes may be all too funny, but they can also come out as offensive to some.
Don’t overuse and overdo it
Memes must never to be used as substitutes for your main marketing execution. Never overuse or overdo it if you want to instill a genuine identity for your brand. Take your meme fixation down a notch by using it in moderation.
In conclusion, we know it’s difficult to surpass the success of Bad Luck Brian, Salt Bae, and Demotivational Posters. But crafting your own witty meme will allow you to explore different approaches and takes that can boost your brand’s online visibility. With a little patience, ingenuity, perfect timing, and seamless execution, there is a huge chance that your well-thought meme could go viral and share the ranks of these Internet gold finds.
Above all else, keep in mind that memes are supposed to be funny, so better yet have fun with it.