Memes are everywhere. One cannot scroll through any social network without being confronted with them. And not without reason: these fast-moving trends in the form of simple visuals are funny, interesting and curious. They’re just having fun. The potential of targeted meme marketing is correspondingly large.
Because memes are popular. They offer a chance for companies to present themselves as part of the social media culture and at the same time entertain the target group. Provided, of course, that the memes are implemented correctly. In this article, we explain which goals can be achieved with memes, what is important and give you examples of successful meme marketing.
What are memes?
The term meme goes back to the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. He juxtaposed the “meme” as a unit of cultural evolution with the gene as a unit of biological evolution. The original idea behind this term is that genes are not the only factor in our evolution, but that there is also a pool of cultural ideas. (e.g. melodies, catchphrases, the art of pottery or bow making), which is passed on from generation to generation and is subject to selection for use.
In the age of the internet, the term meme now refers to creative, humorous content. It is a special form of humor that social media in particular has produced. They can be different in the form of representation, i.e. images, screenshots, GIFs, photos, and texts… What the memes have in common is that their content is based on everyday life, current affairs, or pop culture.
A possible scheme for a meme. What could the two text blocks be?
The most common form is simple images overlaid with large, simple text. This simple way of representation enables other internet users to provide the respective meme with a new text and to reproduce it. So a meme always provides a certain mechanic, which is spread and adapted becomes.
This is also what makes it so special: memes don’t stay the same. The target group appropriates it and thus contributes to virality. At the same time, it requires at least some understanding of meme logic to grasp the humor. Especially people who are not very active on social media sometimes have a hard time here.
Why use memes in social media marketing?
Brands and companies face a problem on social media. Because let’s be honest, nobody likes to consume corporate content. Social media users do not want to be confronted with subliminal advertising. The level of engagement on many company accounts is correspondingly low.
Memes provide a solution to this problem. Because when companies use the special language of social media via meme marketing, that shows on the one hand that you belong, and on the other hand, above all, you care also for entertainment. Because memes are (if implemented correctly) funny, have a high recognition value, and thus contribute to a certain sense of togetherness.
Memes are content that is easy to produce and easy to consume and due to their own logic have a high part potential. They are very popular with the young target group in particular and they work equally well on all channels. The range potential is correspondingly high.
However, it should be borne in mind: Poorly produced or boring memes will be punished by the community. It is therefore necessary to meet a certain standard in terms of humor.
5 Tips for Successful Meme Marketing on Social Media
1. Note the legal situation
In the context of meme marketing, much of a legal gray area is considered spoken. But actually, the situation is clear: Anyone who violates copyright or the right to their own image by using an image is liable to prosecution.
This is the case for the majority of memes, as they are often based on pop culture scenes or Public Figures are based. These templates are reproduced thousands of times, which in reality means that there is hardly any legal way to take effective action against it. Although there are complaints from time to time, this is a rarity.
The singer Beyonce provided an example of how it doesn’t work. During her Superbowl halftime show, a very unflattering photo of her went viral as a meme dubbed “Unflattering Beyonce.” The singer didn’t like it at all and then tried to have the picture taken offline. Which of course was not crowned with success and only led to more memes.
Despite the low follow-up, the following applies from a purely legal point of view: Memes are often violations of copyright or rights to one’s own image. Therefore, they should not be used without permission, especially in a commercial context. However, some companies still accept this risk. But there is also a legal alternative: Since memes are based on a clear mechanism, you can easily recreate them with stock photos or your own images. More on that later in the fifth point…
2. Hesitating loses
Memes are all about Timing. These are trends that build up like a wave, sweeping across the internet and then ebbing away. They are adapted and disseminated and countless social media posts are quickly created from a single idea.
It is accordingly important that you act quickly with such trend memes. Here, individual hours can make the difference between a viral laugh or being the thousandth company that is free-riding on something that is actually already over.
So if you want to successfully do meme marketing, you must have your own marketing team set up accordingly. It must always be possible to react to trends at short notice and to carry out corresponding approval processes within a few minutes. Only then is it possible to successfully ride the trend wave.
Here is of course also a healthy portion Daring asked. After all, a decision must be made within a very short time as to whether a specific meme fits your company. Then you also need the appropriate creativity to adapt the meme in a humorous way for your own topic.
3. A Question of Authenticity
Authenticity is an important currency in social media. Companies in particular are looked at closely and expected that they not behave in a way that is too ingratiating, but rather in accordance with their image and their industry. It should therefore be clear that meme marketing does not suit every company.
However, companies that tend to follow a settled tonality should also ask themselves, whether and to what extent they can adapt even more to the respective social media channels. Because social media have their own logic and require everyone to leave their comfort zone a little.
Whether that happens through memes, can ultimately be decided only you decide. You have to be careful with memes that work with sarcasm or irony. This can backfire if the target group does not speak this language fluently – and does not expect such stylistic devices in the context of the respective company.
4. Note the target audience
Whether meme marketing is a sensible choice also depends on your target group. Because social media is not just a platform for young people who spend their entire day on the Internet. Via Facebook & Co. you can also easily reach older target groups or those for whom Internet humor is simply not that important in everyday life.
Here you have to carefully consider whether and which memes you can use sensibly. Because ideally, you use memes that take place in the reality of life of your target group. So if you decide to include the pop culture or public figure imagery, your target audience should understand those people and references.
Overall, meme marketing is no different than any other online marketing measure: You have to know your target group. This is the only way you can address, entertain and pick them up adequately. So do your homework or your target group analysis conscientiously.
5. Produce your own memes
Welcome to the premier class – and to the legally safe side of meme marketing. Since memes are based on a fixed mechanism, you can easily reproduce them. This succeeds either with licensed stock material or with self-created photos/videos.
This has the advantage that you are legally protected and at the same time stand out from the crowd. Because you may use the same joke structure as a trending meme, individualize but through their own pictures.
Here also lies the potential for further virality. Because if the meme is well received, you can make this template available to your community and ask them to use it. You might even manage to come up with your own meme templates with your own mechanisms.
Of course, this type of meme production requires more effort tied together. To do this, she requires appropriate creativity, humor, and speed. However, the pure effort is also limited here, an infographic makes e.g. B. Usually more work.
3 examples of successful meme marketing
There are already many companies that are successfully using meme marketing. So that you can get a better picture of the possibilities, we would like to present a few examples that stand out because of their good work.
Sixt: Memes full steam ahead
Sixt’s business areas are car rental, car sharing, and car service brokerage. On social media, the company relies fully on self-produced memes. The structure is always the same. The background is kept in orange according to the corporate identity. There is also an isolated image, mostly of a car, un d a short text about it.
DB Cargo: daily punch lines in meme format
DB Cargo is the freight transport company of Deutsche Bahn. For some time now, a strategy has been implemented on social media that moves far away from the usual B2B expert content. Instead, it’s all about image and identification. Current trend topics are picked up and implemented with your own photos in meme format. At its core is the central statement that goods should be transported by rail because this is the more sustainable solution.
With this strategy, the company was able to build up a high reach and a strong fan base in a short time. The timing, daily topicality, and a fine feeling for the own humor of the internet.
DB Cargo also uses the power of the community and challenges it e.g. B. to comment on a certain sentence in their dialect in order to create further posts from it. A meme featuring a green container with no caption was also posted as part of a campaign with the aim of getting the community to adopt this template. With success.