Memes: How can they be used by brands?

If you accessed the internet today you probably come across some memes out there. This content, mostly funny and shared through videos, images and audios, has already taken over the social networks and other digital environments. Some even say that they have become the official language of the Internet, especially among the young people of

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If you accessed the internet today you probably come across some memes out there. This content, mostly funny and shared through videos, images and audios, has already taken over the social networks and other digital environments. Some even say that they have become the official language of the Internet, especially among the young people of Generation Z. But the question remains: can brands also use memes in their strategies?

But first, let’s think: What exactly are memes?

Amazingly, that term didn’t come up in the age of the internet. The origin of the word “meme” dates back to the 1970s, when geneticist Richard Dawkins coined this concept in his book The Selfish Gene to refer to cultural information that can propagate itself. In this research context, memes were those ideas, sounds, drawings and values that are shared among individuals in a similar way genes does.

But as you may have realized, this definition doesn’t have much to do with the memes we’re used to. The best explanation that fits nowadays comes from the Memes Museum – a Brazilian a webmuseum with only this kind of content in its collection. According to the site, memes are a typical internet phenomenon and can be presented as a collection of texts, images, behaviors, challenges or shared memories. They are basically contents that spreads across networks, preserving common references, but can be changed to new contexts and meanings.

And how can memes be interesting for brands?

The answer to this question come in the form of a number: 85% of Brazilians like memes on the Internet, according to the study In Meme We Trust, made by the platform Gente, powered by Globosat’s, in partnership with Consumoteca.

The number may seem high, but it makes perfect sense. Because of the huge speed of today’s life and the big amount of content circulating on the Internet, the ability to share thoughts, emotions, and viewpoints through an easy replicable content, fit like a glove. No wonder memes have become the great creative power of the digital age – after all, who has never come across one of them and thought, “This is a masterpiece”?

That’s why, even with the volatility of everything on the internet, memes survive very well. They have the ability to stand out in a series of content that vie for people’s attention, acting like a “in-joke” of the internet (remembering that nobody likes to don’t understand a in-joke!). For this reason, if brands can participate in this environment, valuable new points of contact with consumers are opened.

Memes and their benefits

According to the survey of the platform Gente, 63% of Internet users looks for memes on the Internet when they want to be distracted, which offers a good opportunity for brands. If they launch a product or campaign in this format, for example, their chances of engaging with people increase significantly. In addition, there is a good chance that the audience’s relationship with this content will occur spontaneously and pleasantly – something quite difficult to achieve on the Internet.

It is worth remembering that memes are a typical form of communication of the young people of Generation Z (born between 1990 and 2010), they are the biggest drivers of this culture. Therefore, using memes on a communication can be a good strategy, if we consider the cultural and entertainment value that such content already has.

But it’s good to be aware…

One of the key features of memes is that they arise and propagate naturally – and that is not a mere detail. In fact, it is a feature that can put brands in complicated situations. If a company uses a certain meme and the public understands that it is sounding “unnatural” or that the content has been misappropriated, the whole strategy can go down the drain. And there’s the risk of seeing the action or campaign itself becoming a meme – which is even worse!

Another important point to note is that in the digital environment, Generation Z has the habit of skipping advertising content to return to the “regular schedule” of social networks. This “ad-averse” feature is very common among younger people, so you need to be aware of some rules before you start publishing memes, like:

  1. Join the internet culture – trying to sound cool without being cool will never work. Your company language must have something to do with the language of the people who share this culture.
  2. Target content to your audience – Understand what’s catching the attention of your public and don’t try to target your strategy to everyone. It will only succeed if people know your brand – and nothing better than doing it to your audience.
  3. Pay attention to timing – There is only one rule: it’s only funny if it’s fresh. Timing is everything!

What already worked?

Several brands have been able to talk to the internet generation by working the language of memes into their campaigns. One of the prime examples comes from the delivery app, iFood, which has been known for its humorous – and impeccably timed – notifications offering discount coupons to users. Thus, in addition to doing well in the perception of the connected public, the brand can often gain organic repercussion when its actions are spontaneously shared.

Another good example comes from Skol. In social networks, the company has always been known for positioning itself in a funny way, which facilitated the use of this kind of content in campaigns. In this Instagram post, for example, the brand took advantage of the brazilian meme wave “Juntos e Shallow Now” to publicize their different types of beer. The post was produced in the style of the internet (just a picture and text in white font) and yielded a lot of engagement for the brand.

In packaging, memes are not left out either. In 2014, the Friskies brand made a limited edition of its feed package, highlighting the “Grumpy Cat” (nickname of the “grumpy” cat that became sensation on the Internet). And in 2018, a McDonald’s campaign put soccer player Neymar’s tweets inside the sandwich packaging.

There is no doubt about it: memes are far from over. Driven by the young people of Generation Z, they must flood all fields of the internet for quite some time yet. That’s why it’s important that brands not only get used to this new kind of language, but start using it when positioning themselves competitively in the digital age.