Meme Marketing

Marketing with Memes? Start here.

It would be nice if it were easy to talk about humor on the internet, right? But the truth is, more and more people spend the majority of their day online. They bring all their backgrounds, experiences and diversity—and internet humor has become an intensely layered thing. That’s especially true when it comes to marketing campaigns. The best evidence for this? The creation and cultivation of memes.


What’s a meme?

In this series, we’ll explore the definition of these online oddities. Plus, you’ll learn a few tips and tricks you can use to integrate memes into your marketing strategy.


First Things First: the Impact of Richard Dawkins

Yes, really. The term “meme” pre-dates the internet by a few years. (I know, right?!) Richard Dawkins was the first person to use the term in 1976. He used “memes” to refer to the share-ability, or relatability, of cultural artifacts.

In modern terms, that means if a piece of media (text, video, .gif, etc.) is relatable between communities and obtains or maintains cultural relevance as well as popularity, then voila! It’s a meme.

The age of the internet has made that definition more focused – kind of. In today’s world, memes are traditionally humorous pieces of media: think catch-phrases, images, or videos that spread virally across all forms of social media.

Common memes include:


  • Examples of corrupted grammar and misspellings
  • Manipulated macro-images
  • .gifs of catchphrases from television, video games, or movies


Meet the Memes

Because memes are primarily visual, descriptions such as “manipulated macro-images” don’t encompass their full depth. Take these examples:



  • Corrupted grammar and misspellings: These memes include the likes of Cheezburger Cat. While the Cheezburger Cat meme has been out of circulation for some time, the internet frequently revisits the speech pattern that made it iconic. This meme consists of an image of a hungry cat with the included text, “can I haz cheezburger?” It’s meant to emulate a cat’s inability to speak English, and it struck the early internet as exceptionally funny.
  • Manipulated macro-images: One recent example of this meme includes the “Distracted Boyfriend.” The base stock image depicts a man holding hands with a woman and staring at a second woman as she walks past. Like most memes, this image can be captioned with anything the creator desires.
  • .gifs: .gifs have been in use for several years now and serve as eye-catching media within any piece of content. One of the more popular meme .gifs in 2019 includes “Salt Bae.” This .gif depicts a casually dressed, Turkish butcher and chef sprinkling salt over a dish of food with enough panache to make the Internet bust its gut.


Creating Memes: The Good and the Bad

Memes come in many forms—and that’s good for your marketing strategy! In addition, they’re birthed seemingly at random, based on the whims of internet users. The good news here is that memes are constantly being created, even by your consumers. If you intend to use them in a campaign, you’ll have plenty of templates ready for you.

Basically the bad news is that, for all their creative versatility, memes can’t be manufactured. A lone Reddit user’s misspelling (or a presidential misspelling) might result in large-form “meme-ification”, but take note. Corporations cannot foster memes with the same success that individuals can. This inability stems from audience awareness of corporate engagement.

When you create content for a social media account, you want that content read as naturally as possible. In some cases, like with the Moonpie Twitter, this is manageable. However, the moment a corporation attempts to foster a meme, the internet turns like the fickle creature it is. Whether your users turn on you, mock the meme for insincerity, or transform it into a new meme—the wrong approach can quickly demean your business’ intent.

You can successfully use meme marketing in your next campaign, sure. But in the next few parts of this series, we’ll teach you how to tread carefully. Don’t risk losing your younger audience with a meme gone wrong: tackle this modern marketing tactic the right way.



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