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Meme Marketing Resonates With Younger Audiences

January 7, 2020 Sarah Cavill

Shutterstock_380240200 Portrait of smiling young woman at a cafe table looking at digital tablet with a friend sitting by.

Memes, defined in the mid-seventies as “any shareable cultural artifact that spreads through a culture like wildfire,” and more recently likely to feature Kermit drinking tea, are a cultural phenomenon and an ubiquitous presence in the lives of younger online audiences. Ask a teenager what they talk about with their friends, and they're likely to reply, “we mostly just text each other memes.”

But for meme marketing to be useful in the multi-channel digital campaigns most brands deploy, they must be used effectively and with the right audiences. “I have been telling people memes are the future of social marketing for years — I would always get pushback,” said Razvan Romanescu, co-founder of Memes.com. “Not anymore. The times have changed and every brand is now adapting.”

Understanding The Audience For Memes

Younger audiences are typically the groups sharing and enjoying memes, usually Gen Z and younger Millennials. It’s well known these audiences dislike advertising that feels intrusive, including ads that interrupt content, branded content that doesn’t feel authentic and generic outreach that isn’t targeted to their interests and demographics. Meme marketing can be a good way for brands to get around these advertising hurdles, but effectively deploying memes is important. 

Memes Should Be Clever And Attract Engagement

Memes are tomatoes a fruit or vegetable? Heinz Ketchup

When creating memes for campaigns, brands may choose to use existing memes or make their own. Either way, the memes leveraged need to be clever and shareable. Heinz worked with Memes.com on their meme marketing, asking the age old question of whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable, with hashtags for audiences to weigh in. By encouraging debate, which can be a great way for memes to go viral or generate engagement, Heinz garnered 4 million impressions for their meme and 80,000 total engagements across social platforms.

Brands Need To Stay Trendy And Targeted When Using Meme Marketing

Pet accessory company Tooth and Honey when you think you've been at work for 5 hours but it's only been 15 minutes dog in shirt

Although some memes are evergreen, others are very dependent on trends that currently resonate with audiences. When using memes, brands need to be sure the text sounds up to date and natural, otherwise savvy younger audiences will tune out. The distinctive wording of some memes (“me when I…,” “that feeling when…” and “when you think…”) is popular with big brands like Pizza Hut and newer brands, like pet accessory company Tooth and Honey, that may want to appeal to niche markets who are accustomed to meme culture.

Smart social media managers create memes quickly from Tweets or other social media trending topics that align with their brand voices and marketing goals. Despite being created quickly, maintaining a consistent look and tone for memes, even those done in response to a trend, can help memes feel more cohesive within a larger multi-channel campaign. However, memes should still be creative and funny — if a meme feels lazy, too broad or like it’s just poaching off of other ideas, it isn’t going to be effective.   

Brands Should Consider Memes A Way To Engage Consumers, Not To Sell Products

Memes are going to be hit and miss, that’s inevitable given their popularity. However, by staying relevant, original and fresh, brands are more likely to create winning memes that engage consumers. Any memes that come off as half-baked advertisements will turn off younger audiences attracted to memes. But encouraging engagement, debate and shareability can be a winning formula for brands interested in meme marketing.

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About the Author

Sarah Cavill

With more than 20 years of writing, editing and reporting experience, Sarah Cavill brings to Digital Media Solutions (DMS) a fine-tuned and diverse set of skills. Her work has been featured in notable publications including The Daily Muse, CBS Local, Techlicious and Glamour magazine. Sarah has a passion for current events and the deep-dive research that goes into the content development and brand identity of DMS Insights. In her role as Senior Marketing Communications Writer, Sarah contributes to the pitching, researching and writing of multiple stories published each week surrounding digital and performance marketing innovations in pop culture, news, social media, branding and advertising.

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