Every time you’re on the internet, you’re immediately ambushed by memes. Meme say it all with just a picture and a few short words. They’re a fun, clever way to communicate to an audience.

If you work in marketing, chances are you’re at least somewhat familiar with memes. Even those who have never had to create a Twitter ad or run Facebook Insights know the power memes have on our day-to-day lives. In fact, I’m willing to bet you’ve seen or sent at least one meme in the last 24 hours!

For marketing professionals, it can be tempting to jump on the latest meme bandwagon and brainstorm how it might be applicable to your company. When funny pictures are getting thousands of retweets and Instagram likes, it probably leaves you wondering how you can achieve that same level of success for your business.

Here’s the ultimate guide to using and marketing with memes!

What Are Memes?

What is a meme?
Source: techsmith.com

A meme usually features text overlaid over an existing image, whether it’s something from social media or a popular character. The message is used to highlight something either humorous or relatable about the image.

Memes help provide some kind of social commentary on something, but in an easy-to-digest, humorous, and visual way. You can get the point across with a funny image and a short caption that’s often no longer than 25 characters.

What is the History of Memes?

here's wonderwall meme
Source: runt-of-the-web.com

The word “meme” was first used way before the days of Facebook or Twitter. In 1976, Richard Dawkins wrote a book called The Selfish Gene where he used the word to describe the way a cultural trend spreads. It may not have been referring to a funny image of a cat, but the sentiment is still exactly the same!

One of the earliest forms of memes was the dancing baby, which took the internet by storm in 1996. If you were a 90’s kid, you also likely remember the peanut butter jelly time gifs and videos. Either way, these images and videos spread like wildfire in the earliest days of the internet.

As the years went on and Facebook was introduced in 2004, the popularity of memes began to skyrocket. Soon enough, Fast forward to the present day and you see memes everywhere. They decorate work cubicles, show up in the news, and have even been turned into a popular board game – What Do You Meme?

The most popular memes have been spotted in every corner of the internet. Whether they started on a message board or a social network, these favorites have a track record of making people laugh and share that laugh with others.

collage of popular memes

Some of the most popular memes of all time include:

  • Condescending Wonka
  • Grumpy Cat
  • Doge
  • Bad Luck Brian
  • Y u no
  • Futurama Fry
  • First World Problems
  • One does not simply
  • The most interesting man in the world
  • Aliens guy

These popular memes have been shared and reshared, posted and reposted. Everyone recognizes them and loves using them on social media or through text messages.

The most popular memes meme
Source: sayingimages.com

Memes are popular because they’re another way for people to share relatable experiences, sometimes with people they’ve never even met. Above all, memes make people ROFL! Since laughter is scientifically proven to be contagious, it only makes sense why memes are so popular.

Today, memes, gifs, and digital stickers also insanely easy to find and use. They’re part of the way we digitally communicate, which is why they’re seamlessly integrated into smartphone messaging systems. If your friends ever need a good laugh, all you need to do is tap on a meme, GIF, or sticker, and it’ll be sent as a text.

Are Memes Copyrighted?

Copyright infringement meme
Source: copytrack.com

Generally speaking, almost every popular meme is copyrighted. Unless the image is classified as a Creative Commons graphic or is generally public domain, it’s safe to assume you don’t truly have the rights to share it.

It also isn’t uncommon for the owners of these images to seek damages for their misuse. In fact, Getty Images recently settled several infringement cases involving the “Socially Awkward Penguin.” Of course, the internet is a large place, which means tracking down every instance of a copyrighted image being used can sometimes be like searching for a needle in a haystack.

Ultimately, if you’re gung-ho about using memes in your marketing, it’s best to consult a lawyer or legal team to know for sure if it’s permissible. It also doesn’t hurt to reach out directly to the creator whenever possible.

Should You Use Memes in Your Marketing?

When memes and gifs started to take social media by storm, marketers across the globe immediately started using them in their campaigns. Some companies hit the nail on the head with meme marketing, while others still get it completely wrong.

Hey girl I love how you use memes meme
Source: socialsamosa.com

Memes, unlike giveaway items, tend to have a very short lifespan. What’s funny to social media followers one week can be completely irrelevant the next. This makes planning marketing or email campaigns all the more complicated. The last thing you want is to seem like you’re trying to be hip, only to be way behind the curve!

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, incorporating memes into your marketing should be thoughtful and shouldn’t just be done randomly. Go ahead and use them on social media (as long as it doesn’t potentially violate any copyright laws). Better yet, create your own meme that’s unique to your business.

This communication method is recognized by the new generations you’re trying to target. As long as it makes sense and is legal, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t use memes in your marketing.

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