Memes in Marketing: How Your Favorite Memes are Secretly Advertisements

I started 2019 just like every other millennial: hungover watching Bird Box on Netflix. Technically, the movie came out in December 2018, but the real hype started with all of the memes that appeared towards the end of December 2018.

Every feed of mine was filled with Bird Box memes, so I figured I should watch the movie so I could understand the memes. And that’s exactly what Netflix wanted me to do.

To this day, I’m convinced that all those Bird Box memes were released at once from some evil meme-nest located at Netflix headquarters. I’m not alone with this thought, Know Your Meme, an obvious authority on the subject, also theorized that the influx of Bird Box memes was all a marketing ploy by Netflix. 1

The truth may not be so easy to see (bad Bird Box pun?) but it does lend an interesting discussion – are our favorite memes secretly advertisements? What is the advertising power of memes?

Notable Instances of Memes in Advertising

It’s not just Bird Box, memes are everywhere in advertising. After all, memes truly are a magical marketing tactic. Memes, by their own nature, are self-replicating ideas that take on a flight of their own. We share memes with each other to laugh, and we share and seek them out of our own accord. Imagine how happy that would make an advertiser, people sharing their ads freely and seeking out engagement with their ads. A marketer’s DREAM, I tell you!

Ok, so we get it. Memes are like the holy grail of advertising. Some notable uses of memes in advertising include:

White Claw Memes that have dominated the past few months. Every satirical Youtuber and meme account has been sharing White Claw memes. Influencer marketing isn’t just about travel bloggers or mom pages, memers are clearly the newest wave (get it) of influencer marketing.

Fyre festival marketing started with influencers, then the memes followed this year’s Fyre festival documentaries on Netflix and Hulu.

The Most Interesting Man in the World, these old Dos Equis ads-turned-memes were another example of advertisements turned memes turned ads.2

Chick Fil A vs Popeyes Chicken Sandwiches memes, which have come to light this week. It’s gotten our office buzzing about which sandwich is better, which is exactly the kind of conversation you’d like your ad to create.

Starter pack memes are another avenue of product placement and advertisements in memes. These memes started as a lighthearted way to make fun of hipsters (hey don’t make fun of me) and other social groups, but now they’ve evolved into a marketing playground filled with product placement for clothing, technology, and anything else.

Tips for Using Memes in Advertising

Ready to get on the meme bandwagon and use the internet-miracles for your own advertising? That’s a tricky tightrope to walk, the internet may not just eat up any meme you send its way. If you’re planning on meming up your ads, make sure to follow some tips for using memes as advertising:

  • Research your target audience and see the kinds of memes they interact with
  • Consider pairing up with meme influencers to spread the word, but be careful with this one, haven’t you learned anything from what happened to Jerry Media?!
  • Credit memes where necessary, a little credit goes a long way
  • Create multiple types of memes that fit your voice or brand to see what works (if any do) and what doesn’t
  • Be prepared for things to slip way out of your hands if it takes off properly
  • Be clever, funny, and topical to get the best results you can

Remember, the internet is a scary, volatile place full of angry memers hidden behind computer screens and keyboards. A bad meme doesn’t mean failure, but you should be prepared for the masses to have a bad response to your meme if things aren’t done properly. This usually means they just won’t share your meme, which isn’t the end of the world, I promise.

Memes are proving to be an interesting marketing technique, but time will tell how responsive the collective memeaverse will be to this type of marketing. Don’t put all your memes in one basket, contact our digital marketing team to learn how we can help your business standout online with SEO, PPC, Google Maps Marketing, social media marketing, and more. Or, send me an email with your favorite meme. I’m also up for that!