Why funny memes are serious business

The quick guide to using memes in your marketing campaigns, with useful, practical tips to help you go viral.
13 August 2018

The popular Success Kid meme. Source: Know Your Meme

When you think of memes, it brings a smile to your face. When you read one, it cracks you up.

Memes convey messages quickly, connect with people easily, and therefore, are an amazing communication tool for businesses. They’re so powerful that campaigns of various sorts see a 50 to 100 percent growth in click-through rates.

Some of the popular memes, like the Success Kid, Grumpy Cat, and Doge have gained cult status and are growing their following every day.

The word meme generates 2.2 billion search results, and if you ask Google Trends, you’ll learn that worldwide, interest in the keyword ‘meme’ has been constantly increasing. The US tops the list of countries ‘Googling’ for memes.

When you think of memes, you’d think you’d only find them on Facebook, but LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest posts too feature memes.

How businesses could use memes

Memes have been around for quite a while now, however, they still feel fresh. Experts believe that the trend won’t die anytime soon, because there’s plenty of room for creativity, and it’s possible to push the boundary.

According to CoSchedule, memes are becoming extremely popular among top companies and research has found that they receive far more likes and retweets than regular images.

CoSchedule’s experts feel that memes help you connect with your fans and followers in a new way because they sometimes convey emotions much better than text or photos or even videos.

The fact is, businesses shouldn’t just be using memes to motivate staff or spread a bit of ‘Monday cheer’ on social media. They should be using them to communicate impactful messages about your business, your unique selling points, and your accomplishments.

In the past, marketers used to worry about not creating relevant memes – because the ‘lifespan’ of a meme was simply too short. However, over time, that’s something marketers need to worry less about so long as they choose a meme that’s relatable and memorable.

The end goal of a meme, no matter what business you’re in, doesn’t change. It needs to make your audience laugh.

Memes aren’t all fun and games

Memes fascinate the US government. Between 2006 and 2009, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) worked with Robotic Technology Inc. (RTI) to study the effect of memes on people and their use on social media.

In 2011, RTI’s President Dr. Robert Finklestein issued a 152 slide presentation on Military Memetics, highlighting how memes impact the human mind and how they can be used to “assure propagation of an idea” and “identify who is vulnerable to a propagating idea”.

In 2013, the US White House publicly tweeted out a meme for the first time. It used Success Kid to urge Congress (through citizens) to pass immigration reform measures. A few days later, Politico reported that “the Senate passed the most monumental overhaul of U.S. immigration laws in a generation”. It was a 68-32 vote, in favor.

The next year, the government awarded a US$1 million grant to Indiana University to “investigate the genesis, spread, and demise of internet memes.”

In the following years, it added more investments and resources to understand the ‘information warfare’, of which, memes are a big segment (being the tool used to ‘radicalize’ people and ‘plant ideas’).

Memes, albeit funny, are serious business – for governments and companies alike.

Practical tips for making (funny) memes

While the marketer will have to bring a sense of humor when crafting memes, here are some themes to help them on their journey to entertain (and connect with) their audience:

  • Choose a meme that you understand and make sure you do some research to find out what people really think about it.
  • Craft your copy appropriately. Put some thought into it and make sure it not only aligns with the theme of the meme but also your brand.
  • Share it with your colleagues to make sure they get the message. Smart copy doesn’t always immediately resonate with everyone, so make sure not to skip this step since the humor in your meme needs to be apparent. Immediately.
  • Post it on social media with the appropriate hashtags so you can ride the ‘trend’ and get some extra mileage.