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Marketing with Memes

10th September 2018

Jacqueline Oiga, Grayling's GCore intern, gives us the lowdown on how brands can most effectively incorporate memes into their marketing strategies.

When did you last see a meme? In the past few hours? In the last day? If I were to guess, it probably wasn’t that long ago.

Memes, or viral internet jokes, are a cornerstone of internet culture. In turn, with social media dominating the lives of everyday people, memes have become part of modern pop culture in general.

Successful memes thrive because they play into various values that appeal to the audience. This kind of tactic in marketing is untraditional and unexpected. It breaks the norm and stirs up an element of shock value. Unconventional and thus a little controversial, it garners more attention, more traffic, and, ultimately, more sales. There’s increased visibility, increased relevancy, and subsequently, more people talking about the brand.

As an innovative marketing tool, memes also boast the advantage of blending into regular content, thus appealing to targeted audiences in a way that conventional, clear advertisement cannot. There is a fundamental element of humour. It’s light, fun, and attractive to a general audience.

Memes, when done correctly, are tailored to fit the existing content that consumers are already viewing. It should appeal to the audience in such a way that gives them something that they feel is relevant to themselves and thus worthy enough to share, promote, and ultimately, take part in.

The Right Way To Use Memes

While memes are an incredible way to spice up your social media campaigns, they carry risk of backfiring completely.

As fast-trending, viral content, memes are volatile and die out as quickly as the come. Keeping up with trends can be difficult but is the only way to stay on top. If you use a meme that’s already been overdone? If it’s too cheesy? It’ll come across as too out of touch and therefore irrelevant. But if you’re able to jump onto a meme when it’s in its peak circulation, you can very well be riding on its success.

Further, memes must fit into the tone and style of your existing branding. They’re not suitable for everyone, especially more serious brands. For example, Gucci launched an Instagram campaign in which they released a series of meme-inspired advertisements. It was met with mixed reception, as Gucci has a serious, luxury identity that memes don’t quite fit into.

The nature of memes is light-hearted and is meant to be relatable to the average person. They fit easily into existing marketing strategies that are already casual and fun, thus providing another appropriate tool to elevate a campaign.

Success In Meme Marketing

Rising in success is a strategy of jumping onto trending memes. An excellent example can be found on the Denny’s twitter account, where Denny’s fully utilized a trending meme of zooming into a picture in order to find hidden messages in small text. At the time, the original meme was relevant and in peak circulation throughout social media. Denny’s executed the meme correctly, thus showing competency in understanding the trend and attracting consumers who appreciated the joke.

Another common strategy is to create content with the intent that it can be easily made into a meme. There’s a huge risk here, as it’s possible that the internet won’t bite and won’t create a meme out of your content. However, if successful, the seemingly organic virality can be an incredible boost to your social media.

Perhaps the most prominent campaign utilizing this strategy is IHOP’s temporary “rebrand” to IHOb, claiming to shift its focus from pancakes to burgers. The concept had been so ridiculous that people began to create memes referencing the rebrand and poking fun at it. The butt of the joke, but visible virtually everywhere. Everyone – from the media to the average social media user – had been talking about IHOb.  

Almost a month later, IHOP revealed that the rebrand wasn’t a serious venture, in fact a gimmick or more formally, a marketing scheme. One that, perhaps surprisingly, was more than successful.

The campaign pushed a concept that was so unexpected that it stirred things up and got people talking. Most importantly, the campaign specifically drew attention exactly where IHOP had wanted it: the burger menu. After laughing along to the memes, internet users became intrigued by the gimmick and claimed to visit the “new IHOb” just to participate in the fun of the joke. A bit more concretely, IHOP claims that burger sales did indeed increase in correlation with the rebranding stunt.                                  

Final Thoughts

Overall, the ultimate goal in using memes is to boost audience engagement and thus build strong brand loyalty.  Consumers don’t want to feel like they’re interacting with a company, consumers want to feel like they’re speaking to another friend, another regular person, someone they can genuinely relate to. By incorporating meme-style humor, a brand opens itself up as an approachable entity, carrying itself like another everyday person.

Memes are just one emerging tool for a well-rounded marketing strategy and are becoming essential for keeping up in the modern world. Perhaps they can be the solution to elevate your marketing strategy.

Learn more and get in contact with Grayling's GCore team. 


Grayling Team

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