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A meme (rhymes with “team”) is an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture. Memes involve ideas and symbols gone viral through writing, speech, gestures and rituals. And a meme gone viral can gain one million or more followers and shares on social media in less than one week.

So, how can you jump on the meme bandwagon to increase website traffic, social media use and your bottom line? Read more to find out.

Using memes for marketing
Before we discuss using memes for marketing, it may be helpful to further define a meme by examining the different types.

  • Photo meme: A photo meme imitates a familiar position or action. Think imitations of Rodin’s “The Thinker,” Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” or Tebowing (Tim Tebow of the Denver Broncos® praying).
  • Video meme: Video memes are viral videos shared via social media, like Randall’s honey badger, the Harlem Shake and the Dancing Baby.
  • Word meme: Word memes are often seen in the form of Twitter® hashtags, retweeted across social media, such as #love or #Superbowl.
  • Image (macro) meme: An image, or macro meme re-captions a well-known image, as in the case of the Most Interesting Man in the World or Grumpy Cat.

Now that we know what a meme is, we can define what makes one popular and how an organization can create a meme that equates to success. Popular memes that go viral have some similarities. They are:

  • Easy to understand: Some of the most popular memes possess nothing more than a simple image and caption, making them easy to comprehend. Memes like Grumpy Cat and “McKayla is not impressed” do a great job capitalizing on this concept.
  • Shareable: In order for a meme to go viral, it has to be easily shared. The more accessible, the better. Memes should be posted to your website and on social media—and including social media share buttons is a must. Direct customers to your meme with promotional products. Imprint the URL on Eye Poppin’ Pals, Nutty Putty and goofy pens to carry through on the fun theme and drive traffic.
  • Familiar and funny: The best memes are not only easy to understand, they are familiar—meaning consumers can identify with them. And, humor is a must! The funnier, the better, and the more likely they will be shared.
  • Evoke feelings of being “in on something”: As memes gain momentum, people tend to feel like they’re part of an inside joke. This increases the likelihood of shares.

In order to create an effective meme, you have to know what’s hot in pop culture and you need to work quickly to capitalize on it. Make sure you:

  • Do your homework: Know your audience and be sure your meme is a good fit. Do a little research and browse top memes to see what may work for your organization. It may be helpful to poll your customers, both in-store and online. Ask them for their favorite meme to gauge what resonates with them. And show appreciation to those who provided feedback with custom-printed Cord Stashers or keyboard cleaners as thank-you gifts.

  • Be a critical author: When developing your meme, play with the wording, be brief and produce several drafts. Then get feedback—lots and lots of feedback. Ask for suggestions and interpretations from colleagues, customers and employees. Thank those who took the time to provide their input with a logo’d tumbler or folding tote.

  • Have fun: Remember, memes are meant to be silly. Be fun, be creative and don’t forget to laugh!

There are several resources available to get you started developing memes for marketing. Meme generators such as QuickMeme.com or MemeGenerator.net can help you create your own meme or copy one and make it your own. And don’t worry; copying a meme, known as memejacking, is perfectly legal and an acceptable practice. For more information on using memes for marketing, check out our Blue Papers®.

“Memetics.” 4imprint.com. N.p., 13 Mar. 2014. Web. Retrieved 20 Mar. 2014.

Quinn, Jana. “7 Things Marketers Should Know About Memes.” Quality Logo Products Inc RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. Retrieved 03 Feb. 2014.

Young, Takeshi. “How To Use Memes to Build EASY Backlinks & Traffic.” Moz. N.p., 15 Mar. 2012. Web. Retrieved 17 Feb. 2014.

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