There’s no doubt that memes account for some of the most viral and hilarious content on the internet. But can they make money? The answer, it seems, is a resounding yes.
Warner Music group recently acquired Gen Z marketing company IMGN media for “just under $100M,” as reported by Tech Crunch. The most well-known piece of IMGN’s portfolio is the viral meme page Daquan, which today boasts over 15.8 million followers.
Why would Warner Music group shell out such a large sum of money for a borderline grotesque social media page? Simply put, it works. IMGN’s campaign for Netflix allegedly accrued 16 million views with only five posts. Their pages serve not only as advertising platforms but also social listening tools for a large swath of the world’s most plugged-in generation.
But memes don’t just work on teenagers. If you need another example of success, look no further than the alcoholic beverages industry.
Case Studies: Success in Meme Marketing
Just seven years after its debut, market forecasts predict that hard seltzer will have the fastest growth in the alcoholic beverages industry from 2020 to 2027. This niche is expected to be worth an estimated $14.5 billion dollars by the year 2027 and owes much of its success to White Claw’s capitalization on memes.
White Claw decided to take an organic approach to their marketing and encouraged content creators to help market their beverage. This strategy paid off when famous YouTube comedian Trevor Wallace memefied the brand with his viral video “*Drinks White Claws once*”. The video caught fire and currently has over five million views on the streaming platform.
From there, White Claw encouraged and often reposted viral memes referencing the infamous catchphrase, “There are no laws when drinking claws.” All of this buzz led the media to unofficially dub the summer of 2019 as the “Summer of White Claw.”
Anherser Busch replicated this approach when they decided to reverse-engineer White Claw’s viral success. Enter Doing Things Media, the brainchild of meme marketing pioneers Reid Haley and Derek Lucas.
Instead of going the more costly and traditional route of debuting Bud Light Seltzer as a Superbowl ad, Anherser Busch contracted Doing Things Media to post a series of memes on their Instagram page, Shithead Steve. This particular meme gained over 99,000 likes organically without any ad spend. Largely due to the success of the campaign, Bud Light Seltzer gained 11% of the hard seltzer market share in less than a year.
Marketing Memes in B2B
B2B might be the last to budge on marketing trends, but memes are undoubtedly becoming part of the repertoire in the business space. News websites like Bloomberg frequently mention “stronks” on their socials, Hubspot has been posting memes for years, and RevGenius even has a Slack channel devoted to sharing content that makes even the toughest sales reps giggle.
But before you spend millions on an Instagram page, here are some points to consider:
- Do memes fit your audience base? Memes work best for friendly brands that cater to Millennial or young Gen X audiences. If your ICP doesn’t understand memes or find them humorous, using them might have unwanted consequences.
- Where can you best utilize humor in your brand? You can use memes on your socials and leave them out of your newsletters. Or pop them in emails to a younger segment...like any content, you should tailor memes to fit the intended receiver.
- Do you know enough about memes to use them organically? If you or your team don’t understand a meme, keep it out of your marketing. Even if it’s circulating amongst your ICPs, using a meme incorrectly comes off as tacky at best.
Don’t just add memes to your marketing because they are a trend. While they may seem frivolous, memes convey their own special language and their short lifespans mean that they quickly go out of style. If you hop onto a trend too late, it may look like you’re “memejacking” - inauthentically using a meme to try to capitalize on its popularity.
Use memes to relate to your ICP, get eyes on your content and differentiate your brand.
How to use memes in B2B Marketing
Memes work when they succinctly convey that you “get” your target market. They meet your audience where they are and provide comic relief on common pain points. It’s more than just being funny - you have to hit them where it hurts.
Your ICP shouldn’t just laugh at it, they should want to share it with their friends. The virality of memes comes from the human instinct to commiserate on deeply-felt emotions. For this reason, the best memes are born out of experience and are difficult, if not impossible, to fabricate.
Ready to take the plunge? Here are the three steps you need to take to run a successful meme marketing campaign.
Step 1: Before you create any memes, invest some time in social listening. Follow relevant Instagram, Facebook and Reddit pages to understand what resonates with your target audience. By following the right pages, you’ll quickly notice microtrends and find popular meme templates.
Step 2: Customize your meme with humor relevant to your industry or product. Test your meme by sending it to 10 or more people. Do they get it? Do they think it’s funny? Could it reasonably be misinterpreted?
Step 3: Optimize your meme by sending it through the right channels and using relevant hashtags or captions. Remember to include your brand or product and a sharp CTA.
If you’re not ready to become a memester just yet, start by collecting and curating memes from other pages. While it’s always best to ask if you can share content, it’s widely acknowledged that memes are made to be reposted. Best practice is to give credit to the original poster in the captions.
Like all unconventional marketing, memes can be risky. But when done well, they make waves and promise a high return.
Bonus: 5 of our favorite sales memes
This post was a collaboration between Asaad Lewis and Jules Costa. You can see more of Jules' articles here.