How to use Memes in your Marketing
From Chipotle to SlimJims, some of the biggest brands are using memes today to connect with their audiences.
And it’s easy to see why.
Memes are far more powerful and engaging than a simple sales-y post telling your followers to “Buy more burritos.” For brands willing to take the risk, memes are well worth it. And I’ll also lump GIFs into this because they can often be the basis for your memes.
For example, Schitt’s Creek is a Canadian TV show that is FULL of quotable moments, so many in fact that they made over 3600+ GIFs. Then, tons of brands started using them and the show got an added boost from the organic reach on social media with their hilarious GIFs.
Now, as a copywriter who has worked with clients with hundreds of thousands of followers to make some kickass memes, I wanted to share a little more on the topic so that you, too, can join in the fun.
What is a Meme?
Is it pronounced may-may? Mee-Mee? M-ehm? Mimi? Well, the good news is it doesn’t matter, but a meme is basically an image that takes one piece of content and applies it to a new context.
Some people also define it as an image that is widely shared on social media. But, to be honest, I disagree with that as it’s an oversimplification.
First of all, not all memes are equal. In my opinion, as a meme-loving millennial, I believe that memes need to do 3 key things to have a chance of going viral.
#1 They’re Referential
All the best memes in my mind have duality. They often have a surface reference we all know, and the text or copy applies it to a new and interesting context. They appeal to our desire to be “in on it.” Plus, let’s be real — everything is derivative.
#2 They Embrace Relatability
Memes make us laugh, and you can do that a million ways — but relatability is a huge one. Plus, it’s easy to come up with relatable ideas based on your own experiences. A few weeks ago, I sneezed coffee on my computer, and you can bet I turned that into a meme for one of my gaming clients.
#3 They’re Full of Creativity
Finally, memes are a great exercise in creativity because you’re combining two existing ideas (reference + joke) to create a new interesting idea.
So, that’s what they are, but what about the psychology of memes?
Why does Meme Marketing Work?
Alright, let’s dive into the full power of memes. First of all, it’s intuitive enough to say that memes work simply because they are just fun, and we all like to have fun.
However, there are plenty of other reasons memes are so effective.
#1 — They humanize the brand.
Brands are getting smarter and know they need to sound like a friend — not a robot or a snake oil salesman. Memes are casual and lighthearted, giving a much more “human” feel to a brand’s online persona.
#2 — They are highly visual and shareable.
Whether it’s a gif or a screenshot of a pop culture reference, people see and want to share memes. And as many as 55% send memes to their family and friends weekly, while 30% do so daily (guilty AF).
#3 — They have organic, viral potential.
The best memes can go viral, and you never know when it’ll happen. It’s also organic and free when they do (aside from paying your copywriter or graphic designer which obviously you should).
#4 — They have higher engagement.
Memes can get 2 or 3x the engagement when compared to other content on a brand page. And since engagement is a key factor in most social media algorithms, that’s hard to dismiss.
#5 — Consumers just love them!
On average, millennials look at 20 to 30 memes in a single day. Admit it — you probably like them too no matter your age. And don’t forget the Click Through Rate (CTR) of a meme campaign is 14% higher than even email marketing.
#6 — They take advantage of “FOMO”
FOMO or fear of missing out is when people want to be a part of something. When it comes to memes, they are a cultural currency. That is to say, they are a kind of knowledge that you can use to navigate cultural expectations and see social benefits.
When we see them go viral, we don’t just want to be a part of it — we need to be a part of it.
7 Excellent Examples of Branded Memes
Now comes the question, how do you meme? Especially as a brand online that might be afraid to push the envelope. Well, you dive right in! But first, let’s see from those who are already killing it.
Here are some brands to follow for their meme game.
#1 Chipotle — 1.1m followers
#2 SlimJim — 1.4m Followers
#3 OkCupid — 84.5k followers
#4 CDKeys — 900k followers
#5 Copy Posse — 68.4K followers
#6 Netflix — 809K followers
How to Make a Bombass Meme:
So, now that you’ve learned from the best — it’s time to practice. Don’t worry, I’m here to hold your hand. But warning… there are sweaty because it is literally 35 degrees Celcius in my place right now.
Here are some of my personal tips for creating a meme that makes people laugh.
- Be Topical — Memes are changing all the time, so commenting on the current trends or recent events (when appropriate) is a great way to get exposure.
- Be Relatable — We all love a relatable meme. Pulling from your own life experience is a great place to start.
- Get weird — If it fits your brand, then this can work well as it did for DuoLingo on TikTok, Denny’s on Tumblr and even Grubhub’s viral delivery dance ad.
- Use poetic devices — Don’t write bland captions, write ones that will intrigue, inspire, educate, and sound great when people read them. Spice up your writing!
- Add CTAs to the Caption: A simple CTA is a great way to spark conversation by asking for a share, comment, or save for later. This also boosts your meme’s engagement and reach.
- Use the 1 + 1 = 3 Rule: This comes from creative writing and is a trick for picture books and comic artists. Essentially, it means that your image + text should not be redundant or repetitive. Instead, they should work together and create a new dynamic that can’t exist alone.
- Made captions short & sweet: Most captions don’t need to be that long, and the first part is essentially a hook that focuses on getting them to click to read more.
- But don’t be afraid to write longer ones with storytelling: On Instagram, you do actually have a LOT of characters (2,200 characters to be exact)! Good for TOF (Top of Funnel) content that is educational in nature or uses storytelling techniques. If you’re a bar, for example, a meme with a humourous recipe beneath is a great way to get followers engaged!
And that’s a wrap! If you’ve never used a meme on your brand page, I hope you use this guide as a step to getting started. I love memes, and I hope more brands start using them.
Do you use memes in your marketing?
Let me know in the comments below!
About the Author
Victoria Fraser is a freelance copywriter from Vancouver, Canada who works in the gaming & tech space. She works with clients doing all things copywriting & content marketing. You can learn more at her website to work with her or say hello on Twitter!