Meme Your Way to the Top (Safely!)

As the unofficial language of the internet, memes have quickly become a way to communicate online in the 21st century. Their tendency to reach immense popularity quickly has garnered much interest and attention from the advertising industry, leading to many (unsuccessful) attempts to capitalize on their power. If created with the proper care, memes intended to serve as an advertising vehicle can yield excellent social results for any business and launch your work into the public eye!

Step one: Be Relevant! 


Any internet connoisseur will be quick to point out a meme that’s out of date, so it’s vital to pay attention to trending memes before choosing to use them for marketing purposes. In fact, the concept of brands using outdated memes has become a meme itself (see Silence: Brand) The meme relevance cycle lasts about two weeks to a month, so anything older than that is a no-go! Another important point to note about meme timing is that if you do create memes with marketing intent, you will likely have to make many per month, and they cannot be reused. Much like a paper plate, brand memes are single-use. 


Step two: Be Appropriate! 


The importance of actually understanding the memes you’d like to use cannot be understated. If you don’t take time to research memes before posting, you could end up misusing a meme and look out of touch, or potentially using an offensive meme without realizing it. Meme reference sites like are perfect for researching memes, updated as soon as something becomes a meme with explanations to help you avoid any posting mishaps. Frequently, memes are created that use abbreviations or “code words” that could have other meanings than what appears on screen, so vetting memes and making sure they align with your brand’s voice is essential. 


Step three: Be Aware of how Memes Change!


Just ten years ago, any image with a message written in Impact font was considered a meme. Today, memes come in all shapes and sizes, and are trending towards short-form video with the rise of platforms like TikTok. The newest trend involves McDonalds’ promotion for their new purple shake, meant to celebrate the fictional birthday of one of their mascots, Grimace. Users post a video of themselves trying the shake, then cut to the user in a strange situation with the shake usually spilled or thrown all over the place. Does this trend make sense? To the casual observer, no, but it is still a meme. Even McDonald’s was confused by this response, responding with this post “from” Grimace. Make sure to pay attention to anything on social media you see repeated by different users with variations, it’s usually a new meme! 

It’s so important to meme responsibly online as a brand, and doing so can mean the difference between a successful social campaign and becoming a total online pariah. Drop the Michael Scott “Office” memes and focus on what’s trending right this minute to appeal to the masses online. Most of all, be respectful and happy memeing!


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