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Think BR: Digital marketing strategy and the meme

Internet memes are topical, influential and manifest in many forms, writes Letitia Becher, social media writer, Zone.

Letitia Becher, social media writer, Zone

Letitia Becher, social media writer, Zone

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Often born in online communities such as Reddit, 4chan and Tumblr, memes spread to the digital mainstream via platforms such as Facebook.

Like most digital trends they move fast, and any brand hoping to use memes in its digital marketing strategy needs to be set up to respond to cultural ideas and behaviours as quickly as they emerge. 

In Dr Pepper, we are lucky enough to have a client that recognises this and is willing to step ahead of the curve in pursuit of that aim.

This post was the brand’s most successful social media post ever, with more than 950 people sharing it, and in excess of 3,650 ‘likes’ - all without any paid media support.

Inspired by a popular internet meme, it is a good illustration of the diverse ways brands are striving to find common ground and engage with their audiences.

But what is a meme? It can be something as simple as an intentional misspelling, a hashtag, link to a video, website or picture.

Memes aren’t exclusive to digital, though; indeed, many people may recognise this pre-second world war meme, Mr Chad.

Why are memes so popular?

As well as encouraging creativity and raising a smile, memes generate conversation about current news and culture topics.

They resonate emotionally with people, and their appeal often lies in the kudos of being part of an in-joke. They are also easy to create and share.

Some of the most popular are little more than images with a few words laid over the top.

A successful meme will connect with those who see it by encapsulating a contemporary, underlying mood, often with a recognisable cultural reference.

Memes also have a longer shelf life in social media, mainly because they frequently adapt, get updated and even cross-reference other memes to create meme hybrids.

Brands and memes

It is therefore little surprise that forward-thinking brands are recognising this rich content territory and experimenting with memes as a means of capturing the attention of a discerning digital audience.

Rightly so, because if deployed at the right time to the right people, there are great social currency rewards to be gaind.

However, there is no guarantee of success. Working with memes requires an understanding of this subtly sophisticated medium, and anyone considering such a strategy should proceed with a degree of caution.

We’ve all heard of companies who have ended up with egg on their face after attempting to repurpose cultural inspiration.

Memes cannot be ‘owned’, and the conversation around them will always be dictated by the online community. What may start out as a flash of inspiration could very quickly go the wrong way.

It’s also worth keeping abreast of meme trends to be sure that any other marketing activity you have planned doesn’t resemble a well-known internet phenomenon, as this brand discovered to its cost recently.

Adopting memes as part of your social strategy could be considered a brave move, but it may be one worth making if it fits your image.

Three other brands harnessing the power of memes:

Letitia Becher, social media writer, Zone

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