Memes are part of the Internet in the same way as food pictures are part of Instagram. Success Kid, Bad Luck Brian, That’d be great or Grumpy Cat are some of the best known memes out there and have had countless users laughing. At first glance, memes seem like trivial forms of modern online culture. But if you look again, many memes are really creative, pick up on current events and convey political opinions. So, it’s also time to take memes seriously in online marketing. You can discover the different types of memes and how to use them for communicative purposes here.
Memes are now an integral part of social media
My grandmother and older generations are probably shrugging their shoulders when it comes to the question of what memes actually are. The term meme is a derivation of the Greek word “mimema”, which means “imitated”. Memes are photos, videos, GIFs or social media posts whose content, form or message is imitated or modified in a creative way. Memes are then shared via channels such as Instagram and Twitter or even special meme websites and blogs.
39% of German Internet users know what memes are and more than a third have shared these kind of images and videos before. Memes are already very popular with 16 to 29-year-olds online. In fact, 43% of young users regularly share them and 37% even regard memes as art (Bitkom Research, 2019).
Meme marketing: a creative content format for brands
Memes are no longer only created by millennials and GenZ’s – more and more customers and companies now also use memes to reach younger target audiences and to transmit a humorous brand image. To do this, brands can follow two different strategies. They can either create their own, new memes, or jump on the hype wagon of an existing meme.
The beauty brand Glossier often integrates memes it has created alongside product photos on its Instagram feed and effortlessly combines “Internet Ugly” with modern Instagram aesthetics.
How brands can modify and adapt existing memes for themselves can be seen in the current example of Area 51 memes. Background: Two million users responded to a Facebook event on 20 September 2019 that invited them to storm Area 51 in Nevada. Conspiracy theories suggest that aliens are hidden in the highly classified United States government facility. Thousands of memes have resulted from this event and many brands have joined the hype with creativity and humour.
Whether created or adopted, if brand memes are done well, they can lead to high visibility and increased engagement. In times of infinite content but limited receptivity, memes are an appropriate format to stand out from the crowd and grab consumers’ attention.
Meme accounts and memers as content producers
A company decides to integrate memes into its marketing strategy and tasks its marketing agency with the implementation. But where can the agency employees find the right memes to use for their customers’ creative marketing? Websites such as reddit, me.me, cheezburger and knowyourmeme have extensive meme collections.. Knowyourmeme is particularly helpful as it also explains the meaning and the origin of the meme, as well as showing several variations of the meme.
There are also a number of meme accounts on Instagram, which have considerable reach with millions of followers. The biggest accounts include @epicfunnypage (16.8 million followers) @fuckjerry (14.4 million followers) and @sarcasm_only (14 million followers). These accounts are bigger than the accounts of many beauty, fashion and lifestyle influencers. This is why it is time to take the meme community seriously and to see memers and operators of meme accounts as relevant content producers or curators. They know their community and understand the humour of their young followers the best, so agencies and brands should make use of their expertise and collaborate more with them in the future.