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The Vast Potential and Terrifying Risks of Meme Marketing

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September 4, 2017

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The Vast Potential and Terrifying Risks of Meme Marketing


The last time you went on social media, you may have been surprised to see something like this:

Paste tooth are surpisez🐈🐈 from surrealmemes

As you probably know, that is a meme. And a rather perplexing/cutting-edge one at that.

Millennials are notoriously difficult to market to. They are saturated with content, they have low attention) and retention rates) for information. Furthermore, the unlimited buffet of content that they have access to (the internet) has made them extremely picky. They are used to the cream-of-the-cream thanks to web algorithms that preference popular content.

None of this bodes well for marketers wanting to use memes. There is a vast potential to access this demographic through memes, and even to go viral and get unprecedented amounts of free publicity. But….it is very difficult and risky.

Ways To Use Memes

There are a two ways that some brands are currently using memes successfully. These are:

  • Spicing up content: If you are a brand that publishes inbound marketing content for SEO, then you should consider integrating memes because it provides two main benefits. Firstly, it can increase the popularity of the article, especially among the younger demographic. Secondly, it can be good for SEO, because it is an easy way to create your own images. These images appear on Google Images linked to your article, providing you with another stream of visitors.
  • Social media: This is the main one. For memes that are good enough that you expect people to like and share them, you should consider posting them on your main social media account. This is the way of using memes that we will focus on in this article because it is the most common, also the highest risk and reward.

Basically, doing effective meme marketing well requires averting all the pitfalls. Don’t even think about going viral, that won’t happen

Memes are the social playground of Millenials. As a marketing company, you don’t belong on this space, you are a guest, and so, it is very easy to not fit in or commit some tragic faux pas.

God, this is really meta… and I like it. from FellowKids

You don’t wanna be that guy.

(And, as a sidenote, we aren’t even going to talk about going viral because chances are that is not going to happen. Out of all the uncountable numbers of content that get posted each day on the internet, only a select few go viral, and this is due to originality, something that they tap into in the audience somehow, and gratuitous amounts of luck. So don’t worry about not going viral.)

Here are the main risks and pitfalls and how to avoid them:

Recognise Your Disadvantages

As a company, you are disadvantaged in the meme-world in the following ways:

  • You aren’t a Millenial or even a person
  • You probably can’t use crude humour. You have a brand image to uphold
  • You are clearly trying to gain people’s time and attention so you can make money. So it better be good or people will get annoyed

Follow The Rules

Some social media pages, groups, etc. have rules that are quite restrictive on marketing. For instance, on Reddit, many if not most subreddits disallow marketing and spam and you will be spam filtered/banned/chastised. Facebook is not restricted in any way, unless you are marked as ‘spam’ by too many people, then you could face having your page closed down. Twitter is similar. The main rule in every social media website basically is: don’t annoy people. Post content that will draw them, not push them away (it is a form of inbound marketing after all).

Understand Your Audience

Millenials are not one heterogenous blob. In fact, more so than any other generation, they are very different across the board. Different social media groups have vastly different communities of people that visit them, so it is important to understand the site/group/page you are posting to more than anything.

The best way to do this is to go to the page and look at the memes. Just browse some dank memes, it is now your job. Or, do a deep analysis of the community of your page, if you are posting on your own (which in 99% of cases you should be). Click on the profiles of individual followers and see what they post on their wall, their ‘likes’ and the memes on the pages they like (this is not just specific to Facebook). Then you should get somewhat of an understanding of the type of memes to make on your page.

Here are some examples of brands that really nailed it:

Gucci understands the language, sense of humour and everyday concerns of its overwhelmingly young female audience on Instagram.

A post shared by Gucci (\@gucci) on

I know 20-something girls that would say that exact thing. They would seriously relate to this meme.

Or check out one of Nickelodeon’s memes that understands the humour of its child/pre-teen audience:

It’s simple, it’s something that kids experience in their lives, and it relates to one of the shows they enjoy. I can’t think of a better formula for a child-appropriate meme.

Be Aware That You Are A Brand

There is an element of humour that as a brand you can tap into. That’s the strange humour in a brand having personality, acting like a person or showing its lighter side. It’s what makes NSW Police memes so funny. These are the kinds of memes they post:

It’s funny because with all the conservatism and seriousness of this organisation, they can still have a laugh about it. This is what you should aim for. Not this:

God is really fucking dead. from FellowKids

This is just….some app brand trying too hard to appeal to a target demographic. They are like hey kids, do you like spinners? We like spinners too. But really, it is a very shallow way to try to bond with an audience. It is just the surface symbolism, rather than voice or even humour.

Keep Up

Make sure to keep up with the fast-paced meme world if you want to make good memes. Subscribe to meme pages on Facebook, Reddit and Twitter. Always be on the lookout for things you havn’t seen before. You can even do some research, I would look up ‘surreal memes’, ‘deep fried memes’ and ‘dank memes’, because these are on the forefront of memes right now. Most of all, have fun, because marketing memes are all about showing your brand’s lighter side.

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