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Meme Marketing | Do’s and Don’ts and Much More

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Marketing Specialist

Last updated September 17, 2021

At first, internet users were only able to access the content given to them through read-only websites. But as Web 2.0 became dominant and social media platforms became the norm, the content posting dynamic changed permanently, leading the way for meme marketing.

Nowadays, every internet user can share their thoughts and ideas on the internet. So, the internet became rapidly flooded with images with repetitive jokes (sometimes slightly altered) that got more attention than any brand could ever want.

Challenges, jokes, videos, photos, and all sorts of content formats and shapes gain worldwide popularity overnight, without investing a single cent while engaging a tremendous amount of people. Those are the memes and the power they held.

Naturally, marketers have noticed this phenomenon and tried to boost sales and brand engagement for their companies. And, as we know, some are great at it, and some fail miserably.

Therefore, this article will look into what memes are and how to correctly use them to promote your own crypto business.

What is a Meme?

A meme represents a concept that spreads uncontrollably through imitation, from a person to another. The concept carries a symbolic meaning related to a phenomenon and usually is in the form of an idea, a catchphrase, or a behavior.

On the internet, memes often spread through social media platforms, mainly for humor reasons. The most common known content format is considered to be an image with a short white phrase on top and another short white phrase on the bottom. However, the memes circulate in all shapes and forms. Video, GIF, and text became as much of a meme dissemination format as the image is.

Memes are like a virus

Specialists in the fields of communication, marketing, psychology, even biology, and many more theorize that memes act a lot like a viral phenomenon, evolving by natural selection, just like in biological evolution.

Therefore, memes have been observed to go through four processes that influence their propagation and reproduction, and lastly, “virality.” Those four stages are:

  • Variation;
  • Mutation;
  • Competition; 
  • Inheritance

With the instant communication facilitated by the internet, memes grow rapidly. They are picked up by the internet users and spread around, suffering modifications in the process. 

It is not rare to see a meme getting popular, only to become a meme format for dozens of memes, then to be a base concept for new memes to come. 

For example, the Doge meme has evolved and reemerged in new forms since 2013. 

A 2010 photo of a Shiba Inu became popular in 2013, accompanied by colorful text in Comic Sans, representing an internal sarcastic monologue deliberately written in broken English.

Although the original meme succumbed, the Doge meme became the face of Dogecoin. Additionally, Doge became the base concept for new memes such as Frisbee Doge, Swole Doge, Cheems, Swole Doge vs. Cheems, Dogeday, and many more.

Furthermore, the new memes that only kept the base concept of doge mutated and became an entirely new meme.

And when it comes to the cryptocurrency world, the Doge meme reemerged with the rally of Dogecoin in 2020, quickly popularizing the Dogeday meme as well.

Using memes in marketing communication

Memes in marketing communication

Netflix using memes

The viral characteristic of memes is a dream come true for most marketing specialists. 

Setting up a trend usually requires massive investments. Yet, memes engage people around the world organically, with little to no coordination. 

One of the most known companies for employing memes in their marketing communication strategy is Netflix. 

Back on October 8th, 2014, Twitter user @itsIsaaaaaaac tweeted:

“Netflix and chill never means Netflix and chill nowadays lol.”

On November 14th, 2014, Twitter user Start3rPack posted a “the Netflix and Chill Starter Pack” featuring four photos. The four photos indicated the pack would contain comfortable socks, pajamas, and a Trojan magnum condom. The tweet received 44 retweets and 56 favorites.

As the concept received was reproduced by more and more people, it became a worldwide meme. 

Between July 22nd – August 21st, 2015, “Netflix and Chill” has been used more than 430,000 times only on Twitter.

People were definitely trolling Netflix. Yet, the brand did not distance itself from the Netflix and chill meme and the meaning behind it.

The company engaged with the audience and participated in the trend. So, on July 22nd, 2015, the @netflix Twitter feed posted their own first Netflix and Chill meme, featuring a GIF from the 1995 comedy film Clueless.

And how do all those shares, likes, and interactions translate into sales?

Well, on this matter, we don’t have official data, but in 2016 Netflix expanded to 130 other countries.

And since then, Netflix has continued to use memes, humor, and trends to engage with its audience.

Dogecoin is built on a meme

And of course, for those of us who are concerned with cryptocurrency, Dogecoin is an example closer to home.

Back, in 2013 Jackson Palmer purchased a website and photoshopped the Shiba Inu Doge meme over a coin, and made the website. 

His goal was to create a fictional currency that was meant to mock the market’s greed and the clone coins that kept popping out. Palmer had never intended to do anything more than a joke; however, American software developer Billy Marcus contacted him to propose turning the joke into a reality.

The project gained traction for using the Doge meme correctly, employing the internal sarcastic monologue, deliberately written in broken English, in the whole communication. The Dogecoin fans responded well and built upon that meme, adding their own ideas and creating new memes as well.

And believe it or not, this joke cryptocurrency created in the last decade, with no plan and real coordination, against all odds, survived the test of time and is now one of the top 10 cryptos by market cap because the people adored the memes. 

Do’s and don’ts of meme marketing

Do's and don'ts of meme marketing

Looking at Netflix and Dogecoin, meme marketing sounds not just ideal but also easy.

That preconception is the reason why so many companies get so cringy while attempting to look cool in front of the audience.

There are countless examples of marketers making a fool of the brands they promote because of their lack of understanding regarding meme formats and how to use them. Take the example of McDonald’s UK from February 2018. The meme is misused, and the format barely signals the concept behind the meme.

McDonalds Uk meme

Yet, because of McDonald’s already prevalent brand, the post got reactions, but not the ones the marketing team would have wanted. 

Awkward situations where the meme fails or even starts an image crisis for the company can be avoided if considering the general do’s and don’ts of meme marketing.

Meme marketing Do’s

Know your target audience and use memes that fit your brand

Generally speaking, memes are a great way to target younger audiences. Yet, like most things in marketing, either you should or should not use memes in your marketing communication depends on your specific situation.

To understand if memes can be used in your situation, check the brand voice. If your brand is communicating casually or doesn’t have a well-defined voice, you can easily integrate memes.

SIDENOTE. Brand voice is a branding concept referring to the personality and general attitude a brand takes on in its communications, such as social media posts, ads, press releases, etc.

Your post can become a meme if you manage to tweak the interest of your audience in order to encourage them to spread it further. That implies the concept you’re using must be related to your business somehow and must be known enough so that your followers catch on with the message.  

You can make your meme relevant when you:

  • Link a pop-culture reference related to your audience or business;
  • Exploit events or news related to your business;
  • Create content that pokes fun at your competitors.

Know your memes

Meme marketing can grow your audience “overnight,” have no effect, or throw you into a scandal. 

The latter can especially be caused when you don’t research the meme you’re using. 

You can get away from using a meme format such as good advice mallard to tell a joke about your brand that nobody gets. However, if it happens that you use an extremist or inappropriate meme in the worst context possible, you can see your brand facing serious consequences.

So, in order to make sure your meme isn’t already irrelevant, understand how the template works and what meaning and implications it carries. 

To do so, you can consult resources such as

React to recent events or trending topics

Also known as in-the-moment marketing or media jacking, adding up to conversations already taking place will get many reactions, especially if you come up with a good joke.

Back in 2013, during the Super Bowl blackout, Oreo simply stole the spotlight by tweeting this:

oreo superbowl

In a matter of hours, it became a viral meme. And although it was short-lived, the tweet achieved its purpose. 

Engage with your audience and give them credit for their memes

In some cases, the brand’s audience is creating memes to troll the brand in a way on another. There are countless examples of trolled brands on the internet, and some manage to turn that in their favor.

For brands like Apple, the memes trolling their products seem to have always worked in their favor, consolidating their position as a premium brand.

Also, Netflix is known to have one of the best brands at using the content generated by their followers to give out engaging content.

Even brand awareness that might have a bad connotation can be turned in the brand’s favor with clever responses.

Test the meme before posting it

Humor is subjective. And in some contexts, jokes don’t have a place. 

So, before posting a meme, it’s best to have a few other eyes look over the meme. It’s essential that other people, not just you, understand the reference.

Also, by asking your team or organizing a focus group, you might avoid situations where your meme offends people or just sends the wrong message.

Take the example of Ledo Pizza’s post from 2019:

Ledo Pizza Flag

Although the marketer might have meant well, using the 9/11 topic that was trending on that day to create a sort of a meme went poorly pretty fast.

A second and maybe a third opinion might have prevented that post from reaching the social media platform. 

Meme marketing Don’ts

Don’t use memes you don’t understand

Even in business communication, well-known meme templates can help you send a powerful message. However, if you’re not sure how the template works or what implications it might have, you should not use it.

For example, using Pepe the frog memes in business communication might generally be received poorly. Most of the time, Pepe is used for dank memes and sometimes by edgy individuals.

Yet, Pepe the frog memes are quite popular with some cryptocurrency enthusiast groups.

Don’t use outdated memes

Posting old memes is as effective as talking about old news. They will likely have little engagement. 

Like any trend, memes have a relatively short life span that varies.

For successful meme marketing, the best approach is to use a meme when it’s hot, and most people already know the meaning behind it.

If you’re too early, your audience won’t get it. If you’re late, your audience won’t care about it.

Don’t jump on any meme bandwagon 

Memejaking is all about timing. Even the weakest of jokes can get a lot of reactions when delivered right. Yet, there are times when a brand should not get involved with a trend just because it’s trending.

Saying the wrong thing on a sensitive matter can have a long-term backlash. 

In 2017, Pepsi released an ad featuring a street-party-like protest and was accused of trivializing the Black Lives Matter movement. 

The intentions behind their ad do not matter, as it threw the brand into a massive PR scandal. 

Don’t pick quantity over quality

Posting random, unrelated memes is a quick way to bore your audience away from your social media accounts. 

Therefore, if you’re going to post memes, you should rather post a decent meme once a month than posting lame memes every day.

Don’t try too hard to place your product in the meme

The memes must indeed be relevant to your audience and your brand. Yet, forcing your product into a meme will only be seen as a desperate failed attempt to look cool.

As is the case for most businesses, the audience is not yet that engaged to generate memes specifically about the brands. 

In this situation, forcing a meme template to fit a product may result in little engagement.

Yet, keeping the meme more general (maybe keeping it about the industry) may result in more reactions.

Using Meme Marketing for your crypto project

Now that we’ve gone through the basics of meme marketing let’s see how you could integrate memes into your communication strategy.

Come up with good memes

Going viral is a matter of luck and skill. So it’s possible that your meme marketing won’t necessarily engage your audience. But good memes will constantly stir up reactions. And in time, as your audience base grows, you’ll see the engagement grow as well.

So when creating the communication strategy, keep in mind that memes are dynamic. Some will be trending for a few months, while some will die out the same day. 

Because your crypto project is ultimately a business, you should gather the memes and meme templates you can use for your brand.

You can use:

  • Memes that use movies and tv shows as a reference;
  • Memes that use pop culture references;
  • Memes regarding the financial system;
  • Memes that make fun of recent events in the market (like Walmart adopting Litecoin fake news).

You should never use:

  • Memes about race, politics, religion;
  • Memes that are sexual or sexist or discriminate in any way, shape, and form.

Look up trending memes on Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, Facebook, and 9Gag. 

Although you will find cryptocurrency meme topics, it is possible that the memes you find do not fit what your brand is communicating. But, you’ll have the chance to better understand how different templates work from watching different meme creators.

Adapt existing successful meme templates to your needs, and keep the product placement light. Make sure the template is at least one or two weeks old so that most people already know what the meme should express.

Also, when you find a cryptocurrency meme you like, share it while giving credits to the original poster. 

Decide how you use the memes

After you have gathered a couple of memes that fit what your project want’s to say, you can use them in the following situations:

  • Social media feed content – as organic posts and stories.
  • In ads – specifically as banners, on social media, or advertising networks for cryptocurrency projects.
  • In client outreach and follow-up – in emails or different types of messages, either to initiate a conversation or to give a reply, to appear likable and lighthearted.
  • In your sales funnels and on your landing pages. 

Identify the distribution points and deployment

A meme becomes a meme when people recognize and accept the meaning behind it. So, after identifying and adapting templates for your purposes, you need to select how and where you will distribute your memes.

In this regard, you have several options:

  • Subreddits 

Check as r/cryptocurrencymemes, r/cryptomemes, r/bitcoinmemes. However, keep in mind that subreddits can be quite harsh and generally don’t allow promoting. Therefore, you need to keep it as natural and organic and possible. Going in pushing your project with a meme won’t end up well.

  • Meme platforms

One of the most popular memes platforms out there is 9GAG. Lately, 9GAG has introduced a cryptocurrency meme category, where, you guessed it, users post memes related to crypto.

However, not all categories on 9GAG are that populated. In the cryptocurrency category, there isn’t that much activity besides the general board. So, it can be challenging for a meme to reach the hot page starting from that category.

  • Twitter, Facebook, Instagram

Owning your own feeds within these platforms gives you more control over what you can post. However, if you don’t have an audience, you need to build one up first.

  • Email

Email marketing is always handy. When you already possess an email database of people that know you, you can just newsletter your meme. However, be sure to incorporate the meme within a valuable message.

If you randomly send memes to all your email addresses, you might quickly get reported as a spammer and lose the audience.

  • Advertising platforms

As mentioned before, memes can work well as banners. However, keep in mind that most advertising platforms are quite resting when it comes to cryptocurrencies. Yet, you can still deploy your meme as ads within platforms such as Coinzilla. 

In conclusion

Memes have a broad spectrum yet represent specific concepts. They spread like a virus, evolving and changing as they go.

For marketers, meme marketing comes as an out-of-the-box solution to communicate to a brand’s audience. As for the every-day-user, meme marketing looks like a brand’s attempt to look more friendly and drop some of the stiffness. 

Whichever the perspective, it’s a powerful tactic that can generate lots of results but can also hurt a brand when the marketer doesn’t double-check his ideas.

With that in mind, would you promote crypto project with memes?

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