Meme marketing: cost-effective visual content

Jan 22, 2016 by
Meme marketing: cost-effective visual content

The term visual content leads most people to think of flashy, animated videos or compelling infographics and gifographics, complete with sophisticated graphs and unique illustrations.

If you’re a business owner with no background in design, creating infographics and videos usually means outsourcing the work to experts and paying a significant fee. While the importance of high quality content cannot be denied, it can often be hard to justify parting with your hard-earned cash for the sake of something that won’t generate immediate revenue. Fortunately, with memes you can create awesome short-form visual content with absolutely no design skills.

What is a meme?

Richard Dawkins coined the term meme in the 1970s, in his excellent book The Selfish Gene. While discussing cultural evolution, he described memes as an idea, behaviour or trend which can be passed from one person to another. Fast forward 40 years and memes are now known as recognisable images accompanied by (usually) hilarious captions, shared widely throughout the Internet. Initially popularised by students looking for a quick laugh, memes are now becoming a valuable form of visual marketing which relies more on comedic aptitude and less on graphic design capabilities. Memes are accessible to everyone.

Why do they work?

A Meme is about entertaining an audience with something that absolutely deserves to be shared

A Meme is about entertaining an audience with something that absolutely deserves to be shared

Memes aren’t that kind of traditional form of advert that makes people defensive. Memes aren’t selling you anything. Memes don’t overtly promote a brand or product. Put simply, an effective meme is content marketing in its truest form: entertaining an audience with something that absolutely deserves to be shared, vicariously benefitting the brand who created it without shoving a product or service down anyone’s throat. Humour is a criminally underutilised element of content marketing, and with memes, you have no choice but to entertain if you want your meme to take off.

Industry in-jokes are incredibly powerful when conveyed as memes, as this helps to reaffirm the sense of community in everyone who got the joke. If you can elicit a feeling of belonging in people, this is incredibly powerful marketing tool, particularly when you throw in some humour too!

How to create a killer meme

If you’re new to memes, the best place to start is with a free meme generator such as ZipMeme so you can see what kind of memes are popular. However, you will eventually want to move over to Photoshop so that you can subtly infuse the meme with your branding, such as by including a discreet logo beneath the main image.

Brainstorm some of the pertinent issues currently going on in your industry, as well as the desires, needs and aspirations of your typical customer. Search through the popular Twitter hashtags which pertain to your industry and if there are any topics which are resulting in emotionally charged posts, this is likely to be a golden opportunity for a meme.

You may wish to select an image from a popular meme and apply it to your niche, or you may want to choose an image which pertains to your niche but with your own funny spin (pictures of niche authority figures pulling unflattering faces may be a great source of inspiration). In his book, Contagious, Jonah Berger states: “Physiological arousal or activation drives people to talk and share. We need to get people excited or make them laugh.”

Thus, the text and image of your meme must be emotive, not mundane. Just as you would (hopefully) take your time while crafting the headlines of your blog posts, it’s important to take your time when choosing the text and image for your meme. Because a meme is short-form content, every word really counts. Once you’ve designed the perfect meme, it’s time to hit social media and start sending out some shockwaves of positive emotions!

To quote marketing expert Brian Honigman on the subject of memes:

“There is an untapped potential for businesses to join in on creating memes that suit their brand and the culture of the Internet if their offerings cater to the youth market and these memes are distributed alongside other brand content.”