#Memes have never exactly been viewed as professional, and until recently, many people believed #SocialMedia platforms were simply a fad for younger generations to waste their time on. It is becoming more evident every day that this is no longer the case. Social media has become a very important tool in our society, especially in #business. In recent times, we have actually seen some of the most ingenious and clever ads of all time, and not by coincidence, some of these have been #internet memes. The public is turning their attention towards the internet more and more. Old tactics in advertising and marketing are all going out the door as they lose effectiveness. Companies are quickly realizing that if they want to stay alive and be successful in the future to come, they must appeal to the younger generations that are taking our culture online (#Millenials and #GenZ).
The benefits of utilizing social media in #marketing campaigns are significant. The most important of these benefits being that it improves #CustomerExperience and customer insight. In terms of experience, these platforms (such as #Facebook, #Twitter, #Instagram, etc.) allow for a more direct connection between a company and its customers. At its core, these platforms are #communication channels that allow companies to interact privately or publicly (depending on the situation) to their advantage. This also benefits customers because it gives them a way to quickly ask questions, make complaints, or participate in promotions. In terms of insight, social media produces clear feedback, allowing companies to make adjustments and curate products and offers to meet their customers' needs. Companies can use #API tools such as #twarc to gather data about their #TargetMarkets from places like Twitter. This #data reveals customer’s needs, wants, and problems.
Social media marketing also benefits from low-costs and #accessibility. Memes are cheap. Not necessarily in terms of quality, but definitely in terms of cost. It takes very little time and effort to create and share memes, or other #CuratedContent for social media. In terms of accessibility, almost anyone can create memes with little-to-no computer knowledge, they are extremely simple and easy. In addition, memes and social media are also extremely accessible to the consumer. Similar to how advertisements seem to show up everywhere in our life, these marketing-purposed memes and social media posts show up everywhere on the internet.
As marketing teams look to boost their company’s #OnlinePresence, one thing becomes increasingly evident. The internet is a big place. The attention of potential customers is limited due to the mass number of users and organizations that post content. A person could spend their entire life on the internet and still not see a fraction of what’s out there. This poses a problem for marketers. How can they catch the attention of potential customers? One answer is memes.
Memes, memes, the magical memes. How can memes be used effectively as #advertising? What kind of strategies and tactics can companies use to run successful #SocialMediaMarketing campaigns? To these questions, I will seek to provide answers. But first, we must look at what makes a meme successful in general, and why people are so obsessed with social media.
In her book, Memes in Digital Culture, Limor Shifman defines internet memes as: “a group of digital items sharing common characteristics of content, form, and/or stance, which were created with awareness of each other and were circulated, imitated, and/or transformed via the Internet by many users.” This definition is something that marketing teams would love to use in describing their company’s #products. If there is content on the internet that is being constantly circulated, imitated and transformed with the common characteristic of a certain company’s #BrandImage, that would be great for business.
While memes represent a great vehicle for carrying a company’s #content, it is also necessary to have a platform to easily #share these memes. In the past, these platforms have existed as flyers, posters, billboards, and as television and radio commercials. Today, the absolute best platform for this is social media. When social media sites such as Facebook were first starting to gain popularity, people weren't sure what to think of them. In fact, many people were wary or resistant. The idea of putting personal information on the internet was always a huge red flag in our heads. Not many of us saw the true potential, and the inevitable change it would bring to our society. Social media completely changed #HumanCulture. Thanks to these platforms, for better or for worse, a significant part of our lives is now carried out #online. That being said… this is not without good reason.
Social media allows us to do so many things that were impossible before. We can now stay #connected and stay in communication with friends and family anywhere, anytime. It allows us to see what people are doing on the other side of the globe. We can meet new people we never would have met. We can discover new #art, #music, #films, #pictures, #foods, #products, and so much more. Social media lets us share every aspect of our life with anyone we want, with only a few clicks of a mouse. It has created a #GloballyConnectedCulture.
With such an intensely connected #DigitalCulture and so many millions of people trying to share billions of things, it’s no surprise that memes have gained notoriety. Tiny, quick, capsules of culture that are easy to transform and share. The possibilities of their use are limitless. One of those uses has become #marketing. With such low cost and little to no risk, some companies have been able to capitalize on memes and social media to create huge returns and increases in engagement. With so much noise on the internet, successful memes and social media posts are a way for companies to garner people’s attention. This type of advertising has become known as #AttentionMarketing. The question still remains, what makes a meme or social media campaign successful? What qualities make a meme stand out? As Susan Blackmore points out in her book, The Meme Machine, “We could not (even in principle) calculate the proportion of memes that actually do get passed on but the idea is clear. There is enormous selection pressure.” Facing this #SelectionPressure issue, I would argue that a company can be successful in using #MemeMarketing to stand out from the #competition by creating a brand with a personality.
The Personal Brand:
In a similar fashion to how so many of us individuals tailor our social media pages to display a perfect outgoing representation of who we are, companies can also use this tactic to display their #ValueProposition to their customers. Proper social media marketing can create a brand with a personality. It allows customers to interact with a company as if they were just another person or even an actual friend. When a company posts memes or content that looks as if it were made by a real human being, and not a corporation… people are more likely to respond and engage with it. Luckily for marketing teams, memes have innate qualities that give them this property. With proper management, a social media account can easily take on a life of its own. Now let’s take a look at how memes successfully create a personal brand for a company by utilizing #voice, creating #resonance, displaying #stance, and evoking #emotion through #humor and surprise.
Conversations are the most basic form of human communication. We all love to talk. Thankfully platforms such as Twitter have made it easy for companies to talk to their customers. We can see successful #dialogue being created online in this way by companies such as Wendy’s and Denny’s. Both of these companies have successfully created a personality through their social media posts and interactions with customers. As you can see from the following examples, Wendy’s has garnered itself a reputation of being fun and sassy by throwing “shade” at its competitors, to the delight of Twitter users all over the world.
Meanwhile, Denny’s has created a sarcastic, ironic, pun-loving, and pop-culturally adept personality through their tweets.
While on the surface, these tweets may seem silly and pointless, they actually draw massive amounts of #attention and #engagement from other users. The dialogic aspect of these posts gives these companies a voice that is truly #relatable to their customers. Wendy’s and Denny’s in particular, are acutely aware that their #TargetMarket is the younger generations who need fast food, on a budget. The voices that these restaurants have developed online, speak directly to that audience.
Another way in which memes are connecting with customers is through #resonance. In his paper Towards a Dialogic Syntax, UCSB Linguistics Professor John W. Du Bois defines resonance as, “the catalytic activation of affinities across utterances.” In simpler terms, resonance can just be thought of as the aspects of language that connect people's words within a conversation. Tracking resonance allows us to see how effectively people are engaging and communicating. When a meme or post by a company resonates with a customer, they are much more likely to interact with and share it. One consistently good strategy for creating resonance is through pop culture references. Here we see an example of a Denny’s tweet which references the famous post-game interview of former NBA star Allen Iverson.
Featured above, and to the right, is a linguistic 'diagraph' (a tool for tracking resonance) analyzing the resonance between the Denny’s tweet and the original quote by Alan Iverson. The reason why the quote was so #memorable in the first place was because it had extreme resonance with itself from line to line. The repetitive nature of this tweet makes it easy to remember and will stick in people’s heads. The takeaway from this meme is that a company’s marketing team should strive to create resonance not only with #PopCulture but also with their own words throughout all of their content.
Through this example tweet from Wendy’s, we can also see that it is also beneficial to create resonance between the company’s tweets and the words of customers.
This is effective because it makes the customers feel involved in the meme. Hearing a big name company (or any #famous twitter account user) repeat your words is always a thrill for social media users. It makes the person feel important and heard. These feelings will stick with them next time they are deciding where to eat.
Stance is extremely important when it comes to the process of #segmentation in marketing. This is the way in which companies determine what types of people exist in certain markets, and how those people fall into categories. This information lets them develop advertisements and marketing campaigns specifically tailored to their target markets. One great example of a company taking a #stance to associate themselves with their customers is Dos Equis. Of course, we are all familiar with the legendary meme that erupted from their #commercials.
But a large part of the success of that ad campaign was actually the stance it took in its commercials. The commercials always show a handsome man doing unthinkable and extraordinary things, always surrounded by beautiful women and in exotic locations. The marketing team realized that their target market was men looking to buy good tasting, but ultimately inexpensive beer. They rightfully made the #connection that men like this want to drink to make things more interesting, add some excitement to their lives, and stir up an #adventure. Through their ads, Dos Equis takes the adventurous stance on beer. Their beer is meant for men who want to be interesting and drinking it will lead to extraordinary happenings. The following stance triangle demonstrates how Dos Equis aligns itself with its target customers.
Another way in which memes make successful marketing content is through #emotion. A successful meme must stir some sort of #response from the viewer, likewise, a successful ad campaign must make some sort of emotional connection with its audience. More times than not, this is achieved through #humor. Humor is almost always either the main aspect or a complementary aspect of any good meme. This is not a new concept, of course, many companies have made a name for themselves through humorous advertisements that are actually enjoyable to watch.
One good example of a company taking advantage of emotion through memes is Vans. Not too long ago, a hugely popular meme emerged from a series of #Snapchat and #Vine videos in which a teenager teased his friend for dressing stylishly. The meme became know as “Damn Daniel”. One of the key phrases of the video, and later the meme, was “Damn Daniel! Back at it again with the white Vans.” While these #videos weren't intentionally made as advertisements, they were shared so much that it became great #publicity for #Vans. The videos were extremely humorous and actually influenced people towards buying a pair of Vans for themselves.
Vans capitalized on the success by awarding the teenager in the video “free Vans for life”. They did this publicly on a television segment of Ellen. Subsequently, a video of this segment went #viral and was shared all over social media sites. This action was brilliant because it stirred the emotion of #excitement in people. The kid from the video was just an average guy, inspiring the belief that the same thing could happen to anyone. All companies should follow Vans' lead here and keep their eyes peeled for opportunities to encourage #user-generated content.
The #MarketingStrategies used by Vans in the “Damn Daniel” #phenomena bring up another important thing to remember about memes and viral content. They often happen by complete accident. Memes can be hard to predict. You can’t just make a meme and assume it will be successful. In fact, many online meme communities are wary of memes that seem like they have an underlying purpose other than #entertainment and humor. If a company just tries to take trending memes and insert their own #agenda on top of them, they won’t find success. Advertisements need to be seamless and blend into the existing culture. Marketing teams need to be creative and crafty, and most importantly, they need to be involved in the meme community. It is essential that they are #aware of meme #trends and culture before trying to use them to their advantage. A little bit of luck doesn't hurt either. That’s the beauty of memes, with some luck, a good sense of humor, and proper awareness, anybody could hypothetically create a viral meme and become famous.