Zoom in on the syrup: Memes as online marketing strategies
he average person spends over 100 minutes on social media every day—which means a lot of articles, posts, and pictures are flashing in front of millions of eyes each day as well. BYU PR students are expected to know how to tap into that traffic when they graduate, but it’s not as easy as it sounds.
Memes could be the back door that allows companies to jump right into the popularity frenzy. Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins originally coined the term “meme” to describe a cultural idea or trend that circulates and grows in popularity much like a successful genetic trait.
What’s So Great About Memes?
According to Scott Church, a BYU communications professor, the term “meme” refers to anything that is meant to go viral, whether it’s a phrase, a video, or a picture. Some examples of such include the Grumpy Cat macro (image with bolded text) and the Keyboard Cat video.
According to a study done by Piia Varis and Jan Blommaert from Tilburg University, people find it important to be part of a group that ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ items posted by others. Memes perfectly fit the bill because they are easy to consume, have mass appeal, are relatable to the audience, shareable, familiar, and funny.
What Elements Do Viral Memes Have?
- Designed for the masses.
Memes should relate to large groups of people that include the target audience. The more people a meme relates to, the more readily it will be shared. This is a balancing act between getting the meme seen by the target audience, but having enough people in the audience for it to go viral.
An example of this element was posted on a funny dog Facebook page. It appeals to dog lovers, but also appeals to anyone who dreads getting up for work on Monday mornings.
- Easy to consume.
Memes should have clear pictures (or video) and simple text. They should be easy to read, easy to understand, and to the point. Any meme with difficult font or confusing content will be passed over and left unshared.
Since the point of memes is to be shared, memes should be created in the proper format and the proper size for the platforms it will be posted to. The more places it gets posted, the more likely it is to get shared. However, keep in mind that memes may not be appropriate on every platform. If a company has a large, older audience on Facebook, memes might not be the best way to engage with them, and might actually have the opposite effect.
- Familiar or current.
Viral memes are often based off of recent happenings. Using current events as a base will make the meme familiar (and relatable) to those viewing it. An example of this was when the power went out during the super bowl in 2013 and Oreo posted this photo:
- Funny, witty, clever, and smart.
Memes need to be funny, witty, clever and smart so they can catch enough attention to be shared. Businesses are always posting social content, and audiences are constantly being bombarded with it, so creating attention-grabbing content can help a specific brand or company get noticed, even if it’s just for a moment.
Another reason why memes need to be light-hearted is because overly stiff and formal online messaging can alienate the very fans marketers wish to court. It may be necessary to toss the corporate handbook to be able to create an offbeat meme that’s hard to fit into a business plan. That said, don’t get so crazy that the content isn’t somewhat in line with your brand’s identity.
Things To Watch Out For
Everything a brand says or does, even if a little silly, needs to fit with the brand’s identity. If a company has a solemn reputation, memes may not be the most effective marketing tactic.
Even if a brand can afford to be offbeat or a little silly at times, it’s wise to avoid posting viral content continuously just to be funny. Remember—it’s all in the delivery. Fail at this, and audiences will assume the company is trying too hard. Never sacrifice quality or originality for quantity.
How to Create a Viral Meme
According to businessnewsdaily.com, a basic rule of thumb is that companies who want to go viral should probably memejack to get and some immediate attention. Companies that already have lots of loyal followers are better off trying to outshine the competition with their own creative juices (as long as self-created memes have great concepts behind them).
Once a meme has been decided on, there are two options for actually creating it. The first is called memejacking, which is the method that a lot of companies use. It’s taking a viral meme that has already been created and tweaking it to fit the brand. If this method is decided on, there are a couple things to look out for:
- Understand the meme, first. If a meme’s origin and meaning isn’t clear, don’t just try it anyway! Use com to read up on it before deciding it’s the right meme to use. Using a meme incorrectly can backfire.
- Don’t waste time. Memes have an incredibly short lifespan, so don’t dawdle in putting a good idea into practice. Waiting too long could allow the meme’s popularity to fizzle out before it can be used.
- Make sure it’s appropriate. Using memes inappropriately will put a company’s reputation on the line, referring to the content and context of the meme itself, or the situation in which it’s shared. A serious audience would probably not appreciate a humorous meme.
Even if a meme doesn’t go viral, using a well-known macro will greatly increase the chances of it grabbing the attention of the target audience, followers, and customers. A successful example of this is below, posted by the company Barkbox.
Creating Memes From Scratch
Remember that memes should be designed for the masses, easy to consume, shareable, familiar (or current), and funny, witty, clever, or smart. Websites like MemeGenerator.net are a great place to start. Sites like this will often put their watermark on a finished meme. Brandwatch.com gives some examples of popular things to use:
- Animals saying human things.
- Babies saying or doing adult things.
- Sayings from popular television shows or movies.
- Popular images of characters from television shows or movies.
- Popular or classic quotes.
- Puns or joke punch lines.
- That moment when. . .
- Grumpy Cat.
- Most Interesting Man in the World.
An image posted by Denny’s is a great example of a larger company creating its own meme based off of current trends.
Written by Kyra Sutherland