Blog post

How to use memes in your marketing

Date of post

18 January 2021

Blog categories

Read time

4 mins

Memes have become synonymous with social media over the last 10 years. Some have stood the test of time and others nd up being flashes in the pan. Memes have essentially become a cultural shorthand that allows people to make a point quickly and easily, but there are rules to follow.

A huge number of companies have used memes as part of their social media marketing efforts, helping them to connect with and gain engagement from followers. While some have been successful, others have fallen flat.

This is because you need to ensure you’re using memes properly. You can’t simply find an image and use a meme template to make whatever you want. It doesn’t work that way and you can find that you end up doing more damage than good.

Understanding the right way to use memes as part of your marketing strategy is key to achieving your desired results – especially as your target audience becomes increasingly social media savvy.

To help you work out if memes are right for your brand and to see how they can be used to help grow your social media following and engagement, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about memes and marketing.

How to use memes in your marketing, good memes work


Why do memes work?

The basic idea of memes is that they are satirical references to popular culture references. This means that memes tend to have a lifecycle, eventually becoming irrelevant or so overused that people switch off from them.

Memes that work well strike a chord with people, which leads to them sharing them over and over again, usually adding something new each time. Eventually, a meme will reach its saturation point and you’ll see it shared less frequently.

However, not all memes end up dying. There are some that seem to be outlasting their use-by date, usually, because there are so many different ways to use them – the distracted boyfriend meme is a great example.

So exactly why do memes work so well in general, as well as in marketing campaigns? It’s probably because they have a lot of benefits, including:

  • They’re cheap: Memes don’t cost a lot – if anything – so they are a great tool to use,b especially if you need to keep an eye on return on investment.
  • They’re accessible: You can find the same meme across multiple platforms, so not only can you source new memes, but you can also reach multiple audiences.
  • They show personality: Whether you’re an individual or a brand, memes showcase your personality. This can humanise companies and help their brand voice.
  • They increase engagement: Everyone loves a meme and using them tends to see higher engagement across social media platforms, as well as websites.
  • They’re effective: It is now easier than ever for a meme to go viral as increasing technology means audiences are larger than ever.

How to use memes in your marketing, Social media strategy meme


How should you use memes in marketing?

Because there are so many memes out there at any one time, you can use them absolutely anywhere – on social media, in emails, adverts, websites, etc. They can help add an element of fun to your marketing that shows another side of your brand.

However, using memes can also be a risk as including them in your marketing strategy means you are using them as part of your brand image – effectively claiming that the message they are presenting is part of your brand. If you don’t use them correctly, this can backfire and you could end up with the wrong type of engagement.

Here’s what you need to bear in mind about using memes in marketing:


Find memes that suit your brand personality

Memes are a cultural language, so you need to make sure the language used in a meme matches with your tone of voice and messaging. You can’t assume that all memes share the same language and just pick one at random, as this could mean it doesn’t work for you or your target audience.

If your audience is likely used to memes, you have a bit more leeway and your meme language can be a lot broader. However, if your target audience is used to less playful language and isn’t likely to have as much exposure to memes, you need to keep things simpler.

Failing to do this could mean that you post a meme that you think is brilliant but that doesn’t resonate with your audience. This is a wasted chance and any memes you post afterwards have less of a chance of driving engagement.

Of course, to use a meme properly no matter your audience, you need to make sure you understand it. If you don’t get it, you risk using it incorrectly and that can make your brand look tone-deaf. It’s a good idea to check out different variations of the meme you’re considering so you can be sure you’re using it correctly.


Choose a relevant meme

You also want to make sure the memes you’re usually haven’t already reached their saturation point, as this reduces engagement because people are fed up of seeing it. An example is the Baby Yoda meme that was hugely popular last year but started to dwindle in use in December. Those that jumped on the meme early showed they were relevant, but those who waited too long probably didn’t see the same level of engagement.

How to use memes in your marketing, baby yoda meme trendIt can be a good idea to utilise Google Trends to see which memes are still going strong. If it looks like a meme is still seeing an increasing number of searches, it’s going to be relevant. However, if the meme trend has dipped, you probably want to steer clear of using it unless it starts to see an uptick again.

The only exception to this rule is memes that have a retro factor. While these are totally past their trend peak, they still resonate with people because they provide a touch of nostalgia. With such a huge backlog of memes available, this can be a great way to connect with digitally-savvy audiences.

How to use memes in your marketing, marketing meme


Use memes in the right place

While you can use memes across multiple channels, you need to make sure you’re putting them in the right place for the right audience. Social media is generally a good place to start, especially as the meme as we know it originated on Twitter, but it isn’t the only option.

If it works with your brand, you could incorporate memes into your website graphics or use them within guides and blog posts. The main factor is knowing how meme-savvy your audience is, as this will dictate how, where and why you can use memes.

A great way to get this right is to consider what the meme means to your audience, rather than just your brand. If you can hit the right pain point at the right moment – such as by including a meme in a guide about your services – you’ll connect with your audience.


Be aware of a meme’s evolution

Just like other trends, memes can evolve into something that has a different meaning than when they first started. Not being aware of a meme’s evolution could end up hurting your brand, even if you’ve got everything else right.

While some brands might be able to get away with edgier memes, if yours isn’t one of them, you want to steer clear of anything that could come off as offensive rather than funny. Any meme can be co-opted and transformed into something offensive that changes its meaning completely, so proper research is needed before jumping on a meme that you think is safe.


Remember it’s a joke

You may be using them to market to people, but you need to remember that memes are jokes at the end of the day. Not everyone will find them funny and not everyone will get them. Just as with humour, memes are subjective.

This doesn’t mean you want your memes to be harsh or too niche, but you need to be aware that there may still be some negative reactions mixed in with the positive engagement. So long as the joke you are telling shows a sense of self-awareness and that you aren’t taking your brand too seriously, it should hit home and you’ll have a successful meme on your hands.

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