How can a simple image with just the right touch of clever copy resonate with so many? Memes are everywhere, spreading like wildfire and filling our news feeds with joy and sarcasm. Can you even remember a time before brands began using them?
Like the social culture adopted memes, most major brands did, too, and for good reason: The term “meme” was searched on Google more than “Jesus” over the past year.
With 81 percent of people reporting that they only skim online content, it’s no surprise that marketers have latched onto memes as an efficient form of communication. But while this simple and shareable content drives conversations, using memes effectively can be daunting.
The Power of Imagery and a Friendly Debate
As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Marketers should take this to heart because people don’t want a thousand words anymore. Social media posts accompanied by images garner 650 percent more engagement than text-only posts.
Our attention spans have shifted from elongated blog updates to these visually driven platforms. The proof is in Instagram’s 800 million monthly active users. That’s why a meme is the perfect solution for marketers — but only if it’s done with the right strategy and approach.
When ketchup giant Heinz wanted to connect with its audience on social media, it posted a meme with a question: If you had to decide right now whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable, which would you choose? The post tapped into a heated debate and garnered a whopping 80,000 engagements on Facebook and Instagram. Heinz more than accomplished its goal — in fact, thanks to the meme, it quadrupled it.
Meme Like You Mean It
Like a comedian whose setup and punch line just don’t connect, the wrong meme can lead to the same unpleasant reaction to your brand. It’s important to understand how to create something that leaves people talking and wanting more. Consider the following when implementing a meme strategy in your marketing plan:
1. Pay attention to your voice and tone.
Not to state the obvious, but memes need to have an element of humor or provoke a strong emotional response. When you post a meme, you’re tapping into emotion. Save your corporate jargon for your employees. For example, WeAreTeachers created this relatable content that ends with a surprise twist. It relates to the experience of any teacher who has stood in front of a class for an entire year.
2. Be current and timely.
A "Game of Thrones" meme might perform well while the show is airing new episodes, but it could miss the mark in the off-season. Memes are fleeting, especially if you’re referencing a current pop culture trend. Successful marketing campaigns depend on fresh content, so inbound marketers can rejoice in the ease of jumping on viral content and developing a creative spin of their own quickly. Just keep in mind: Today’s flossing is yesterday's fidget spinning.
3. Engage; don’t sell.
Memes occasionally work when they’re accompanied by a caption leading to a product, but audiences are less likely to engage with memes that behave as thinly veiled ads. According to a recent survey by Instant Logic, 45 percent of U.S. adults are annoyed by online ads, and more than half say websites should host fewer ads. So in the rare case that a meme does advertise a product, it should be used strategically and sparingly. Oreo struck a nice balance between selling and tapping into emotions during the World Cup when it shared its “this Oreo goes out to” campaign. And, in another strong example from WeAreTeachers, a GIF was used to highlight a contest and included a caption that all teachers can relate to.
4. Develop a consistent look and style.
If you will be publishing memes regularly, you should maintain a consistent aesthetic. Doing so can help your audience identify your memes and associate them with your brand right away. WeAreTeachers always uses the same fonts, logo placement, and brand treatment for every meme.
Memes are a great way to connect and engage with your audience, but they can be tricky to pull off. Find someone on your team who is in tune with internet culture and has a great sense of humor. Unlike an ad delivering a direct return on investment, memes are intended to drive engagement, brand loyalty, and social authority. This type of engagement is more important than ever for brands as they continue conversations with customers online. Harness the power of memes and engage your audience.
To learn more about how to reach educators and the best channels to reach them in your marketing, download our “Digital Marketing Trends in the Education Market” report.