What do Hide the Pain Harold, Shocked Pikachu and Roll Safe all have in common? The easy answer is, they’re all well-known meme characters.
But, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ve noticed these guys are popping up quite frequently.
And their versatility makes them an interesting angle for marketing a business.
Sure, you’ll see them on Facebook or Instagram.
And sure, they’re often shared with reckless abandon or about NSFW topics.
But, sadly for the more conservative minds of LinkedIn, memes can be a credible form of corporate content and a great strategy for your marketing department to stand out from the crowd.
Regardless of whether that department is 5 people strong, or just the hour you donate when the phone stops ringing.
All seems a bit puerile, doesn’t it?
Basing your online existence on low effort, relatable laughs to be mindlessly shared, with no obvious reference to your services.
At a glance, memes don’t even look like they serve a business purpose.
Outside of attracting people who have no intention of buying your wares.
To some, taking a meme approach might even look childish.
Sure, there’s engagement, but probably just vanity metrics?
But here’s the thing… getting eyes on your page can’t always be dismissed as a vanity metric.
I get it.
It’s a cheap target to get 100 likes on a post.
And if you’re not doing anything with those 100 people, then yes, it is just vanity. Plain and simple.
But the target of every marketer in the world is primarily to attract an audience.
And memes are a shortcut to that audience. A road that otherwise takes an incredibly long time to travel.
History and etymology
The word meme isn’t new.
It was coined by Richard Dawkins in 1976, relating to the viral like spread of cultural information – through writing, speech, gestures, or rituals. Basically, anything others can imitate.
In today’s world, memes have taken on a new form.
An image, GIF or video, usually with text – portraying an idea, attitude, feeling or situation.
In business, communicating those things can be difficult, even with great copywriting.
And, with only a fleeting chance to catch a prospect’s attention, your best work will often go unnoticed and under appreciated.
Memes, however, are visual. They grab attention.
They’re easy to consume. You only have 6 seconds to catch someone’s eye if you believe the experts.
A meme can make your point, and have it quickly interpreted.
Crucially, if the meme’s good, your audience will be inclined to engage and share.
Because everyone loves an in joke.
A meme about a niche subject appeals to your audience’s sense of belonging. They get it, and the wider population won’t.
You’re aligning yourself to your target audience.
You almost hope there’s a section of people who don’t get it, and vocally say so.
If you market your business this way, you add value through entertainment.
Not only will your reader take your content into the physical realm, but the emotions aligned to your business will therefore be positive.
Everyone’s doing it
If you follow enough brands on social media, you’ll start to notice their memes.
They usually show up in the form of ‘stealth marketing’ – designed to drive engagement without really selling. A bit like what you’re told to do with your personal brand.
An interesting case, highlighting the power of meme culture (and the Internet in general) – is that of Apple AirPods.
Widely mocked on release, they went viral after #airpodflex memes started trending.
Before long, they became a status symbol, and sold out all over.
Here, they use only their own material in content production, to drive interest to their programmes. As posts are shared, so programmes are watched.
Marketers are puppets
“OK, so Netflix and Apple do it. But they’re hardly professional, and I want to maintain my brand.”
I get that.
But if there’s one thing which will kill your marketing, it’s being dull.
Yet, from a lack of ideas, or flat out refusal to move with the times, recruitment marketing, personal or corporate is set to ‘dull’ for 97% of the industry.
This is because Marketing is rarely a self-funded unit. It’s process designed by committee.
Your Marketers are being paid a salary, and if this bites them on the arse, it’s their job on the line.
And potentially the success of the wider business.
So why take risks?
Why post a meme that’ll fall flat on its face?
Your brand’s delicate and you don’t want the backlash, right?
A case study
I’ve been in recruitment for a while. And recently, I started a new project with three friends to serve as a side hustle, and make my career a little more diverse.
And what started as a side project, based around recruitment marketing has now morphed into a fully-fledged business.
Only, unlike bigger companies, the people in charge of marketing are also the people in charge of everything else.
We don’t sit separately.
We know our market and know what works.
And in this case, that’s memes.
We’ve grown our LinkedIn following to over 1,600 in 8 weeks, without spamming our contacts.
Our audience is a group of talented, creative and funny people. And they’ve been able to ‘get us’ in a massively shortened time frame, compared to the ‘normal’ marketing route.
An advantage of building a community on humour? Most definitely.
Hire Write’s keeping us busy, but we’ve not spent any money on marketing.
Everything we’ve done was free.
OK, we did run a competition once.
The prize was a 3ft mouse mat – immortalising one of our posts for a ‘fan’.
But this stuff works because we love memes and our followers love memes.
And the deeper you can take a joke like this – the more you’ll be rewarded by the people tuned in.
We’re not shy about our love of memes, either. I’ve even got myself one of those stupid made-up job titles on LinkedIn. Memestress. Like seamstress, but memes.
“But followers are vanity Kiera?” You’ll shout from the sidelines.
And I agree.
But speaking with the paying clients we’ve had so far, the only way they’ve found out about us has been our free meme marketing strategy. So, no we won’t pay the bills with the 1,600 followers.
But we will with the revenue created by those followers sharing our memes.
The Craft marketing scene
The word craft is thrown about a lot these days. It’s often associated with challenger brands. It has its own movement in the beer world.
But you should be taking a ‘craft’ ethos to your marketing, wherever possible.
So you’ve created a meme, playing on a popular issue.
Here are some things to think about before you click share and press refresh on your online banking…
How’s it going to be perceived?
Is it funny?
You won’t be able to tell me this from your opinion alone. You need to ask people. Send it to five mates and get their reaction.
Be careful not to blindly jump on a bandwagon.
Yes memes work best when they’re shareable. But you want your content to be original, as much as possible.
Tailor or edit the original content to fit your purpose. It’ll take you five minutes and is very much worth it.
Is your meme suited to the long-term game? And by long-term I don’t mean for the year. More month.
What discussion will it create? Is there a series you can make, which will make creation easy, and maximise the output?
Is it boring?
Does it push boundaries?
Is the joke too wide? Too narrow? Too offensive?
If you can make your audience aware of things they’re yet to be annoyed about, you’re on the right lines.
And whatever happens, remember you’re only ever as good as your next meme.
As bad as a joke misses… or is ill-timed… or poorly judged…
Most people will forget it by the next time you post.
Which, if you have the right strategy, will probably be in a few days.
The biggest thing we’ve learnt so far in marketing with memes is this… if you’re not having fun, you’re probably doing it wrong.
Yes, promoting a business with memes is a lighthearted approach to marketing.
But, no marketer was ever successful being boring, so what have you got to lose?
This article originally appeared on Hunted: https://www.hunted.com/industry-content/why-would-you-market-your-business-with-memes