17th Jan 2017

Marketing & Memes: A Match Made In Hell?

Memes are a massive part of the online experience, especially on social media channels. Memes have quickly become a huge part of the internet, used commonly on Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram, with even brands opting to use brands to help increase engagement.  

For the most part memes are entertaining, due to how funny, sarcastic and attention grabbing they, which is why many businesses are choosing to use them to their advantage. When used correctly memes can be great for businesses, however more often than not using memes in marketing can backfire massively.  

What Is A Meme? 

A meme is defined ad “a cultural item in the form of an image, video, phrase, etc., that is spread via the Internet and often altered in a creative or humorous way” but essentially, it’s a funny image, video or piece of text that is often spread rapidly by internet users and often involves figures from popular culture such as TV shows, films or online celebrities.  

Why Should Brands Avoid Memes?

With so many funny and relevant memes out there gaining popularity on sites such as Facebook, Reddit and Buzzed it can be tempting to get in on the action too, but maybe you shouldn’t, you really shouldn’t. Even the biggest brands with the biggest marketing team have failed to incorporate memes into their marketing, which can and has lead to a lot of bad press. 

Unless you know your memes, they work for your business or you happen to work for a company that is highly socially engaged, using memes within your marketing can be a bad idea, here’s why.  

They Get Old Fast 

Memes are funny for a time, however they do tend to be incredibly short-lived, what was funny a month ago might not be funny now, which means if you’re looking to use memes within your marketing you need to act fast, using them while they’re still relevant. It’s also important to remember that memes are very context specific, acting as a product of their surroundings and often won’t make sense out of context. Unfortunately the biggest problem is that once memes hit the mainstream they can go stale, turning off audiences who might have found them funny three weeks prior.  

They’re Easy To Get Wrong 

If you work in or around social media you’ll probably see so many memes that understanding the structure becomes quite simple, after all memes work in a specific way. Most memes are written following a template or style and often incorporate some kind of joke or pop culture reference. However it’s common for brands to fail to understand memes and often try to simply copy a joke or phrase they don’t understand, leaving your brand looking completely out of touch.  

Memes Rely On Humour

Memes are supposed to be funny, be it through sarcasm, satire or a straight up pun, the entire point of a meme is that is should be entertaining. This works well for brands and marketers that are naturally funny, however if you’re not and your brand isn’t either, memes can go horribly wrong. It’s a good idea to work out whether your brand can pull off funny before trying to use memes within your marketing and save yourself plenty of embarrassment later. 

Memes can work well, especially when carefully planned or thought about, however they backfire so often for brands that it’s not always a good idea to use them. From a marketing standpoint, memes don’t create the engagement that is always wanted and can be a way to turn your audience off rather than send them flocking to communicate with you, lowering your engagement, your credibility and potentially decreasing your sales.

Article By
Sarah Seymour,
Published: 17th January, 2017
Categories: Marketing

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