To Meme or Not to Meme, That is the Question

From the snarky quip, to funny picture, to the latest cat video, memes are passing ideas that seize the internet’s imagination for a time before they disappear. They’re the often comedic takes on topics that are driving the events of the world. Memes allow people to let go of and share their feelings the same way a good joke can break the ice at an awkward get together. And just like a good joke, a meme can go viral.

Marketers can enhance their brands by following the ebb and flow of memes. What better way to show that your brand is in touch with its consumers than by joining in on their jokes? A well timed meme that incorporates a brand can win the hearts of consumers and reach more people than any advertisement at a fraction of the cost. It can steal the hearts of consumers by showing that your brand is one of them while they laugh. However, there are risks to using memes.


Memes are often created by taking images from current events such as the Olympics or snippets of copyrighted works such as movies or comic books. If your company decides to use that copyrighted material without permission from the copyright holder, then your company may find itself on the wrong end of a copyright infringement lawsuit.

Like many jokes, some memes come at the expense of someone else. The most infamous of which is the “Star Wars Kid,” a teenage boy who played with a rod like it was a lightsaber in the early 2000’s. That meme traumatized Ghyslain Raza, the boy in the video, so much he needed years of therapy in order to deal with the ridicule he experienced. If your brand were to join in that meme would consumers see it as an insider or a bully? Would you want to take that risk?

Brands can take advantage of memes to quickly capture the head space of consumers and improve consumer opinions, but it can come with copyright and ethical risks. These internet jokes come and go as quickly as teenage fads, so brands cannot plan ahead for them. Instead, brands should use of the ones that fit its image as they pass and then drop them as soon as the joke is over.

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Published August 18, 2016 by Luke Severn.
Categories: Social Media Marketing