Can memes work for your business?

Written by Jason Leith on Thursday, 07 March 2013. Posted in Digital Marketing

Can memes work for your business?


The Harlem Shake video meme exploded onto the internet at the start of February. As of February 21st there were approximately 100,000 Harlem Shake video with a combined view of over 400 million on YouTube, the original Harlem Shake meme has nearly 15 million views. The background music was produced by American DJ Baauer and is now number 1 in the US Billboard chart and on over 10 Itunes store charts worldwide.

The word meme originated in the 1976 book ‘The Selfish Gene’ by Richard Dawkins as a method of describing the way cultural information is passed on. It has now become associated with a concept, behaviour, or idea that spreads, usually via the internet using platforms such as email, forums, blogs and social media networks. Memes are generally visual, such as a picture or a video but they can also be in the form of a link or a hashtag.

Memes and marketing

Memes have quickly been adopted as a marketing tool, whether it is creating an entirely new meme or ‘memejacking’.

business-cat-memeMemejacking is when an already existing meme is adapted. The idea behind memejacking is to keep the key elements of the original meme, e.g. the image, whilst changing the messaging. Making sure that you understand what the meme means and implies is very important, so make sure you research the meme before using it for your marketing.

Virgin Media have recently used memejacking as a marketing tool. In 2012 they used a meme known as ‘success kid’ on a billboard campaign and later on flyers and their website. Memes aren’t designed to directly promote your business; a meme with your company name plastered all over it won’t work as memes are meant to be fun and engaging. In 2012 SEOmoz used memes as a way of getting out corporate news, this gained a lot of media coverage and the memes were picked up and shared across the internet.

Memes can be good for marketing as they are everything that a marketer is looking for in content marketing.

  • They are designed to be shared – Memes are mainly visual, generally an image or a video, and with the rise of sites such as Tumblr, Instagram and Pinterest it has never been easier to share visual content.
  • They are already viral – When is a meme not a meme? Answer; when it hasn’t been seen. A meme is already viral and being engaged by a large amount of people. By adapting an already successful meme you know that it has a higher chance of being seen and shared.
  • They are quick and easy to create – There are meme generators online and creating your own meme only requires a very basic knowledge of an image editing tool. This makes it easy and quick to create unique, sharable content.

Of course, with most marketing tools, memes are not relevant to all companies. Many business to business companies will struggle to use them effectively as memes require having a large audience that are willing to share the content. Business to consumer companies will have a much greater chance of being able to take advantage of memes as they generally have a larger audience base and consumers are known to be more active on social networks, such as Facebook.

Have you used memes for your business? We want to know! Share your success stories with us.

About the Author

Jason Leith

Jason Leith

Comments (1)

  • Jamie Courtnell

    Jamie Courtnell

    07 March 2013 at 09:27 |
    I've been asking friends and colleagues about this for ages... How does every one pronounce 'Meme'??

    I pronounce it 'meem' but I have heard others call it 'me-me' or 'mem-e'.

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