Is it a laughing matter? When marketing with memes, it certainly should be. Memes are a powerful marketing tool that brands are now adopting to get closer to their customers. We spoke to Joana Vesselinova, Senior Marketing Manager at Seven.One Entertainment Group who leads on marketing campaigns for ProSieben formats about what works in the meme world and which brands are doing it right.
Firstly, what exactly is a meme?
A meme is an image or reel that makes fun of a typical everyday situation. It is overlaid with a short, humorous text and is usually spread through online social platforms. Here at Seven.One Entertainment Group we have found memes to be be especially useful for marketing our individual formats, particularly for ones aimed at younger audiences. Our memes for example have helped the U21 Championships, Beauty and the Nerd, Masked Singer and Germany’s Next Topmodel to achieve considerable reach and engagement on social media.
Why have memes suddenly become so popular in marketing over recent years?
Quite simply, they are bringing brands closer to the customer. By addressing a funny situation which everyone recognises from their own lives, brands can communicate with customers on their level rather than communicating messages from above like “buy our product because of X,Y or Z”. Because of their fun and entertainment value, users often share memes which means brands can achieve organic reach and engagement without huge ad spend. They have become more or less a social media language that everyone uses.
You mentioned memes work for younger audiences - what does young mean in this context?
Today it is less about defining young as a specific age category, rather the description now relates more to people with a younger mindset. People who are open to new things and using new media and people who do not take life too seriously. These are the people who are attracted to memes!
So if a brand wants to get started with memes - what are the dos and donts?
The first thing to note is that brands should not jump head first into this. Especially if your brand is perceived as traditional and reserved rather than approachable and emotional. Memes are meant to be funny so knowing your target audience is key. The better you know how your audience thinks, who they are, which lifestyle they have, the better you can link your content to situations they perceive as funny. In terms of subject matter, we wouldn’t send out a meme on just anything. We would not trivialise a documentary on right-wing extremism, for example, with a meme. It needs to be light and funny. Also, even if you find out it does work for your followers, you should not overdo it. Less is more as they say because it is important that your content remains authentic and fits to your core brand values and identity.
Are there any general rules to observe when designing a meme?
You are looking for funny and positive pictures, boomerangs or image sequences which people can relate to and which will attract people's attention. Generally, if it's an image sequence, the shorter the better because no-one will watch a meme which lasts 30 seconds because people's attention is rather volatile on social media. You have to catch them in between the first 3-5 seconds, otherwise they will scroll away. The text should be as short and as punchy as possible. It also works well if you address the viewer personally with a statement or question which starts with “always when I….” or “you know when…”
Are there any specific types of brands which memes work particularly well for?
Memes work particularly well for us because our business is visual content. In terms of our format types, followers of reality and show formats and also knowledge formats respond well to memes. We are really careful when it comes to any attitudinal topics. But there is no reason why memes should not work for all brands and some are doing memes really well. Car rental company Sixt for example regularly mocks situations people might experience in the car on Instagram:
Translation: “Me - “we definitely have enough snacks for this 8-hour journey”. Also me, after 20 minutes “I ffink wi gonto have to thtop again”
Grammar and proofreading service Grammarly shares language-based memes for Instagram and Facebook which poke fun at everyday speaking and writing truisms.
It can even work for smaller, more traditional enterprises. Blumen Hoffmann from Hamburg has found really creative ways to integrate music into their fantastic memes and has won over 40,000 followers since starting this year on Instagram.
What role do memes play in the marketing strategy as a whole?
Memes are one part of the social media strategy and we should decide individually based on our target audience how big a role they will play within the whole marketing plan. They are an extremely powerful element to connect with our audience using an emotional trigger and relatable content. In our business we recognise that younger audiences are increasingly moving from traditional TV to streaming services, and therefore we need to communicate with this audience where they are and in the right way. If you want to use social media as a channel then memes are a great way for companies to communicate their messages in a funny and light yet effective and engaging manner.