Marketing with Memes, Part 2: Following the Leaders
In Part 1 of this series, we dove into the definition of “meme” and the types of memes that have appeared online in the past. Still having trouble wrapping your brain around this weird topic? Never fear – memes are more complicated than they initially seem, but we’ll untangle the mystery.
Marketing with memes might seem a little “out-there” to some of you. Memes are so nonsensical in nature that they’d do nothing but discredit your business’ social media accounts, right? But that’s not entirely true. If you’re looking to target a millennial or Gen Z audience, and you’ve embraced a humorous tone online, then memes will serve you well.
Let’s look at a few examples of businesses using memes to their advantage.
Whoever is running Denny’s social media accounts has his or her finger on the pulse of millennial humor. In fact, Denny’s has run one of the most successful, meme-oriented marketing campaigns operating online today.
Denny’s most successful meme debuted on Twitter. This meme was a “zoom in” meme and consisted of a modified macro-image containing secret, pancake-oriented messages.
zoom in on the syrup pic.twitter.com/omRBupjrXq— Denny’s (@DennysDiner) March 1, 2017
This is one of the rare times when a corporate-created meme has sparked a positive response. While users didn’t actively replicate the meme, as they have with the Distracted Boyfriend meme, they reacted with genuine amusement and interest. This is most likely because Denny’s naturally integrated its sales intent into the meme itself, making the monetary angle less pervasive than the humorous one.
Even so, it goes to show that a well-versed marketing team can make the most out of millennial humor if given the proper resources and permissions.
SparkNotes, too, has begun to set itself apart from its Twitter competition courtesy of its meme usage. Recently, SparkNotes’ Twitter feed has been awash with literary-adjacent memes that refer simultaneously to existing meme formats and literary works.
For example, the platform recently detailed Victor Hugo’s tendency to elaborate on the Paris Sewer System in Les Miserables with a .gif of Lil Nash at an awards show:
No one:— SparkNotes (@SparkNotes) August 27, 2019
Victor Hugo describing the Paris sewer system: pic.twitter.com/wmvrfAhG9u
SparkNotes gets away with the utilization of these memes for two reasons.
- The platform is reusing existing memes instead of creating its own formats. This allows users to generate assumptions about the platform’s social awareness and prevents negative backlash against false sincerity.
- Because SparkNotes doesn’t outwardly appear to be selling a product to its users, the memes the platform utilizes don’t immediately appear to have a sales intent.
Without that strong sales intent, consumers feel as though they can interact with the work without committing to a sale. And even so, they’re engaging with the platform and boosting the brand’s awareness.
We can’t discuss business memes without discussing “Netflix and Chill.” This meme wasn’t created by the business, but Netflix has since seized on the internet’s creativity.
The original “Netflix and Chill” appeared in 2014 courtesy of Twitter user @itsIsaaaaaaac. The altered variation of an otherwise innocent phrase has now come to refer to sex on a date, where one party uses Netflix as an excuse to hang out with someone they’re interested in.
Netflix and chill? No, really. pic.twitter.com/ezcZ7V0peN— Netflix US (@netflix) July 22, 2015
While the raunchy undertone makes this a risky meme for a business to use, Netflix has been able to artfully engage with its consumers using this rhetoric. This serves as another example of a business understanding its consumer base and engaging with them using tonally appropriate rhetoric.
Businesses of all kinds have been using memes to grow their audiences and create conversions for a while now. You can, too, as long as you’re careful with the content you choose to use. We’ll elaborate on meme-ing do’s and don’ts in the next part of our marketing memes series.
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