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Showing Some Personality: Using Memes in Your Digital Marketing

David Bosley

Memes. Unless you’ve been living under a rock since the Internet came around, you know what they are. You’ve seen them all over your Twitter and Facebook stream. If you browse Reddit, they’re impossible to avoid. You’ve probably created and posted a few yourself. As popular as they are, however, marketers have a really difficult time finding ways to use them.

Think about the times you’ve seen companies use memes. Sometimes they work. More often, they fall flat. The company comes off as trying too hard or as disingenuous. Sometimes the meme is funny enough but it doesn’t really work in the grand scheme of things.

Despite the pitfalls, using memes in digital marketing offers some unique benefits. They’re funny, and historically we know that humor can help sell more. They also grab attention as users scroll through their social feeds. It also gives you a chance to flex your personality a bit and prove you aren’t just another stuffy competitor.

Ready to use memes in your advertising? Let’s take a look at some of the most important do’s and don’ts when it comes to leveraging those dank memes:

1. Do: Know Your Audience

Who is your target audience? If they’re older and a bit more conservative, you might have a hard time using humor as an advertising tool. On the other hand, if your target audience is extremely young, you’ll have to be really smart about not coming off as the adult trying to fit in with the high schoolers. Understand who your audience is and really think about what they care about and how they view the world. Bring in a couple of your audience members and run some ideas by them to see what they think.

2. Don’t: Use Memes All the Time

The trick to a good meme is that it can’t be forced. It’s spontaneous and timely. It clicks with your brand and audience. Those opportunities don’t come every single day. If you try to use memes too often, it’ll be obvious that you’re trying to ride the wave of a trend every single day. When used sparingly memes will be effective, but overdoing it is a bad idea.

Be careful not to overdo your use of memes!

3. Do: Look Into Image Rights

Just because an image has become a meme doesn’t mean that you’re in the clear to use it. It’s unlikely that you’ll get in hot water legally for a single meme, but keep in mind that you’re using it for business purposes while everybody else is just trying to get a laugh from their friends. If you’re not sure, it’s usually best to err on the side of caution.

4. Don’t: Stop Believing (in your memes)

The nature of memes is that they’re hit or miss. If your first couple of attempts don’t gain much traction, it’s important to keep trying. Your hits should make a huge splash and might even go viral, more than making up for the time and effort spent on a couple of duds.

5. Do: Be Ready to Move Quickly

The world of memes moves fast. Something that’s funny on Monday is already outplayed by the weekend as people tire of seeing it in their Inbox and social feeds all week. If you have a long corporate process that takes ads a week or even a couple of days to get approved, you might not be able to jump headfirst into the meme game.

6. Don’t: Use Memes to Replace Existing Content

Memes are a great way to grab attention and drive people to your brand but they aren’t a substitute for truly valuable content. Understand that people who come to you after taking a look at your memes might not be your typical target audience or even have any idea who you are. Put together a custom landing page for these new visitors to introduce yourself succinctly.