Meme Marketing: discover what it is and how to do it right

Meme marketing, have you ever heard of it? No? Let’s see what it is.

Meme marketing is nothing more than the integration of memes into the marketing strategy or more specifically into the content marketing strategy.

By opening the bulletin board of any social network, together with funny videos and photos of the various influencers, we find memes. Before learning how to use them for marketing, let’s see what they are.

What are memes?

As many might mistakenly think, the term “meme” is not a recent invention of some social media guru, but a neologism of the evolutionary biologist and science communicator Richard Dawkins created from the Greek word “mímema” or “imitation”.

In his 1976 book “The Selfish Gene,” the renowned biologist describes the meme as the basic unit of cultural evolution, a unit of information, just as the gene is for biological evolution. This definition is based on the idea that the mechanism of replication, mutation, and selection, the foundation of evolutionism, also occurs in the cultural sphere from person to person through imitation.

According to this principle, a meme can be an item of clothing, a song, a proverb, or more generally any fragment of cultural information that passes from brain to brain, spreading virally.

With the arrival of the internet, and in particular of social networks, we have seen the arrival of a particular type of meme, the so-called “internet meme“. Spread starting from the social network 4chan, internet memes can be short videos or images almost always accompanied by a caption that makes them silly and hilarious. The hilarity of this content is the basis for its viral diffusion, and when something so simple manages to reach so many people, it becomes an exceptional means of making your brand known.

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Meme marketing: the basics

In the use of social networks, more and more commercial realities have realized that intercepting the attention of users by interrupting their use of content with an advertising message is an activity that is not very appreciated, especially by the younger ones. In meme marketing, on the other hand, a form of language native to social networks is used, thus making the advertising message integrate perfectly with the rest of the content.

meme marketing the basics

In addition to using the same language as the users, the meme has a very strong weapon in its arsenal: humor. When we think about what receives so much attention and above all shares on social networks, a beautiful image created to entertain is the first thing that comes to mind. If it’s well constructed and manages to engage a broad spectrum of audiences, a meme has the potential to go viral and stay that way for a long time. On the other hand, it is necessary to constantly follow the evolution and diffusion of these contents, which can go from being a catchphrase to being forgotten in a matter of days.

Having ascertained the value of meme marketing, we need to move on to the practical side and here marketers have two options: create their meme from scratch or adapt an already famous meme to their needs.

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Leverage existing memes

Using already existing memes certainly has advantages in terms of speed and relative simplicity of the operation, but it also has negative sides that risk creating problems for the company’s image. New memes appear on social networks every day, some passengers destined to disappear within a week, and others that remain on the crest of the wave for several months or even years, and perhaps distort their meaning over time. It therefore becomes of fundamental importance to constantly follow its progress, so as not to risk some damage to the company’s image.

Create memes from scratch

If you don’t want to use an existing meme, the solution is to create a whole new one. The more complex operation, above all due to the little trust initially received by the meme. However, if the meme produced is made properly, there is a real possibility that the content will go viral and be able to reach a large number of users.

Businesses with more funds can afford professional editing tools and a visual content marketing team to create their memes. For businesses with a small budget, there are very practical tools. Meme generators that let you choose between editing the most famous ones or creating new ones from scratch. They are free and easy to use, these are some:


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Examples of meme marketing

To better understand how companies are using meme marketing strategies, let’s look at some examples.


Let’s first look at the example of HipChat, an older internal instant messaging service for businesses. The company’s marketers have well thought of exploiting the popularity of memes for a billboard on the streets of San Francisco. They used online content for an offline media advertising campaign, and it worked.

The meme chosen was the stick man known as “YU-NO GUY”, one of the most famous. An image from the Japanese world of manga, accompanied by short text messages typical of SMS.

The billboard has been very successful in increasing the search rates for “HipChat” by up to 300%.

hipchat meme marketing


Seamless, a US home delivery company, has done very good meme marketing campaigns.

In 2014, the brand took advantage of the Oscar nominations to create memes. The brand has produced a line of memes using the posters of the nominated films and adding a few reference words to food, among the best known: “The Wolf of Waffle Street” and “Gravity”.

gravitea seamless

The hashtag quickly went viral, bringing considerable visibility to the brand and a good deal of participation from users. The latter began to find ever better combinations between film titles and food, soon after being transformed into memes by the company itself.


An example of badly successful meme marketing can be found on the social networks of Whataburger, an American fast-food chain.

whataburger instagram

The company’s marketers decided to use the already famous “Confession Bear” meme, an image used to express controversial opinions or taboo behavior. Wanting a Whataburger certainly doesn’t fall into the two categories and this immediately catches the eye of users who don’t share the meme, causing it to end up by the wayside.

To conclude

If you want to give your company good visibility and show that you are in step with the times, meme marketing is the way to go. Just keep in mind a few key things.

  • Learn the language of memes. Users notice immediately if the content is not genuine. If you try too hard to make people laugh you will get very few shares.
  • Aim for your target. It’s hard to find something that everyone enjoys. Concentrate on engaging your typical clientele, you will have better results.
  • No upheavals. You don’t have to create content that strays too far from the area in which you operate and doesn’t distort your figure. And don’t change the meaning of an already circulating meme too much.

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