From the Sh*t Girls Say video series, to Big Bird, binders and bayonets images created during the recent U.S. presidential debates, Internet memes have become an extremely popular way to influence and participate in social discourse and pop culture.
There have been a lot of articles written lately about what it means for a brand to “memejack” or hitch a ride on a popular meme to raise awareness and associate your product with a cultural idea that has spread virally.
How memes can help or hinder your marketing efforts
A lot of meme marketing success relies on timing and execution. When used properly, memes can help a brand to resonate with a particular audience, making its personality seem more humorous, playful or youthful in nature. When done wrong, the joke can turn very quickly on your brand and potentially damage your company’s reputation.
Even worse, a brand could get innocently dragged into a meme, forcing companies to react quickly to control the narrative.
Below is a look at some recent meme marketing hits, misses and innocent bystanders of 2012.
When a marketer hits it out of the park
A ‘memenouncement’: Rather than issue a press release in May 2012, SEOmoz, an SEO software company, used a series of memes (with images of the Dos Aquis “most interesting man in the world” character, Willy Wonka and Jean Luc Picard) to illustrate its recent success in raising $18 million in series B funding. Check out thefull memenouncement here which received a lot of positive reviews.
Memevertising: Often, viral images or YouTube videos become memes and inspire marketers to create ads that resonate with the message. A recent example is Virgin Mobile’s Success Kid campaign which ran earlier this year. The company did a great job tying the marketing message to the meme which represents either “success or frustration,” according to KnowYourMeme.com.
When good memes go bad
Poor timing or taste: Some brands are often just too late to the meme marketing party. For example, there were hundreds of parodies created of the Sh*t Girls Sayvideo series that launched in late 2011/early 2012. The brands that followed the trend early on got lots of positive reactions from their customers and followers (like this video for Sanuk Footwear). Those that posted videos much later, or didn’t quite hit the mark, seemed either offensive or caused Sh*t People Say fatigue. This parody video says it all.
Mixed messages: Earlier this year, McDonalds tried to create its own meme and get people to share nostalgic stories about Happy Meals with the Twitter hashtag #McDStories. Unfortunately, as Forbes puts it, the hashtag became a “bashtag,” where many people used the opportunity to air their customer service complaints and other grievances about the fast-food restaurant chain.
When your brand is just an innocent bystander
Amazon and Avery binders:Shortly after U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney mentioned in the second televised debate (this past October) that he had been given “binders full of women” to hire for his cabinet when serving as governor of his state,fake customer reviews started popping-up on Amazon.com product pages for Avery binders.
While many of the jokes about binders were hilarious, it’s tough to say whether the reviews helped or hurt the brand’s reputation. According to this article, the company’s stock price closed lower on the NYSE on the days following the debate. However, the company reacted a shortly after the hoax by posting a joke on its Facebook page, saying “we’re hearing a lot about binders today!”
This tongue-in-cheek comment garnered lots of likes and showed that the company was being “good sports” about the incident.
These are just a few examples to get you thinking about how meme marketing could work for your business. Do you have any best practices to share? Please post them below.
A version of this post was originally published on the Jugnoo blog in November 2012 and has been republished with permission.