Unlocking the Power of Meme Marketing

Unlocking the Power of Meme Marketing

In today’s world, with the immense growth and evolution of social media, new marketing trends are constantly emerging, and one of the most effective and interesting ones in recent years is ‘Meme Marketing’.

To fully understand this trend, it is important to first get a grip on what memes are. Essentially, memes are graphical representations of ideas, behaviors, and events that are spreading through social media networks. The term ‘meme’ was originally coined by an English biologist, Richard Dawkins who used it to explain the way cultural information can spread across a population.

In this digital age, memes have become a ubiquitous part of online culture, spreading quickly and widely across social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and WhatsApp. They can convey a range of meanings, including humor, irony, sarcasm, and social commentary, and are spread organically and voluntarily among peers. Meme marketing refers to the set of meme processes and strategies used to promote a specific product, brand, or brand narrative using humor as a primary mode of engagement.

Memes are pivoted around two central attributes – creative reproduction of materials and intertextuality. Creative reproduction refers to remixes, parodies, or mashups that explain how memes cause ideas to move between people and cultures in current events. Intertextuality is when one text somewhere else is linked to other texts in the social and textual matrix in some way.

Marketers have realized the power of memes and are using them to engage especially younger audiences and build brand awareness. Meme marketing involves creating and sharing memes that are relevant to a particular brand or product and that fit with the brand’s message, tone, or product offering. This can involve using existing memes and repurposing them for marketing purposes, or creating entirely new memes that convey the desired message. However, it is crucial that memes used in marketing campaigns are culturally sensitive and appeal to a broad audience.

Meme marketing has gained popularity due to several reasons. Firstly, it enables brands to connect with their audiences in a humorous and relatable manner. Secondly, it is a cost-effective method to reach a large audience. Unlike traditional marketing methods, which can be both cost and time intensive, memes can spread rapidly through social media, allowing a well-crafted meme to reach a wide audience quickly. Additionally, global meme marketing is effective as it is not limited by language barriers. Memes are usually visual, making them easily understandable to people worldwide, regardless of their native language. The global meme called “Success Kid” (also known as “I hate sandcastles”), which shows a smug baby at the beach, went viral on all social media globally around 2008 and was later photoshopped and turned into thousands of different memes – a perfect example of a meme being region and language agnostic. By harnessing the power of memes, brands can expand their reach to new audiences, increase engagement, and foster brand loyalty.

While memes can be adapted to suit local interests and concerns, certain trends are particularly prevalent in certain markets. One of the most successful examples of global meme marketing is the “Distracted Boyfriend” meme, which has been used by many brands, including Pizza Hut and Spotify.

In the Indian context, Zomato is a name that pops up in our heads when it comes to meme marketing. Recently, the brand is gaining huge popularity with its meme marketing. When one opens Instagram, one can find various memes by Zomato. They use extremely creative and relatable memes for their advertising – be it a new web series or old movie dialogues, Zomato seems to have a meme for all. Blinkit, a Zomato subsidiary, is also strongly in this race. Recently, both players went viral with their ‘Kheer Mangoge’ meme, which was later picked up by various other brands such as Tide, Housing.com, Jeevansaathi, and Netflix.

Similarly, the OTT platform, Disney+ Hotstar, is another brand that has effectively utilized memes, they combine dialogues from various shows and movies to create a meme. It even makes Instagram reels to add the necessary ‘zing’ to its meme marketing strategy.

Netflix seems to have taken meme marketing to another level. They have created an Instagram page called ‘Netflix is a joke/ Netflix Comedy’. This page is entirely dedicated to sharing meme content. The brand even asks its customers to create shareable memes. This boosts user interaction, makes users more active, and in turn, helps Netflix gain a larger audience base.

Other brands such as Swiggy, Amul, Durex, and Paytm have also effectively used memes to create engaging and relatable content that resonates with their target audience. The HubSpot Solaris meme on X (erstwhile Twitter), Hootsuite’s Kenergy meme on LinkedIn, and the Instagram meme ‘Suiting up for WFH’ by Zoom are just some of the myriad global examples where companies have captivated audiences with humour and relatability through memes in their marketing. By tapping into the power of memes, these brands have been able to stand out in a crowded market and connect with their customers.

However, like any form of marketing, meme marketing isn’t a guaranteed success, and it comes with its own share of risks and rewards. Not every meme goes viral, and not every viral meme brings in the desired outcome. It can be challenging for some brands to align the informal and colloquial nature of memes with their persona, running the risk of disingenuity if the memes are not executed authentically. Also, while memes can spread quickly on social media, they can also lead to negative virality. For example, the “Doglapan” meme drew unwanted attention to BharatPe’s corporate issues. Volatility and a short shelf-life of memes can also create testing grounds for organisations by having to always stay relevant, as memes often revolve around current events or trends and run the risk of getting outdated quickly.

While memes may appear simple and inexpensive to create and implement, brands that invest the effort in understanding their target audience are likely to succeed. In the precipice of this digital age, organic engagement with the end audience has become ever more crucial and challenging at the same time. Careful considerations of the pulse of the internet, a liberal dash of authenticity, and strong alignment with brand identity are the ingredients of successful meme marketing. And brands that can laugh, adapt, and evolve with their audiences will always stand to reap immense rewards.

Author: Sanprati Sharma,

Assistant Consultant, Strategy Consulting

Image courtesy: Campaign Creators on Unsplash

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