Digital trends: Meme marketing for more shares and likes

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on November 26, 2020 Published on November 26, 2020

Web TV series Mirzapur

Ameme on OnePlus Nord

Brands, especially the young digital ones, are taking this route but not all can make it work

During this IPL it seemed that the memes on players travelled as fast as the scores, arriving in your social media feed literally as the cricketer got out or scored a six! Memes have become so popular nowadays that often one catches up on a piece of news or trend through them. Not getting the context, you google it and come up to speed.

Obviously, brands would love you to google stuff about them, so several, especially the young digital ones, have jumped headlong into the world of meme marketing. Take phone maker OnePlus, which has elevated meme marketing into an art. OnePlusNordMemes is quite the trending hashtag on Instagram.

When OnePlusNord was about to launch, it announced information about the phone in a meme. Then Carl Pei, co-founder of the company, announced a fun meme competition wherein the best OnePlusNordMeme would get the smartphone free upon its launch. That had meme creators scrambling to put out hilarious posts.

Competitions are one way to get users to create memes. But there are also platforms like Meme Chat that connect brands with meme makers. Set up by two 22-year-olds, Meme Chat is a mememaking app that won the People’s choice award in the Atmanirbhar challenge this year. Co-founder Taaran Chanana is pretty gung-ho about meme marketing. As he says, “When you post an ad on YouTube you are forcing someone to watch it, but memes tend to travel on their own.”

Also, he asserts, “Memes are full of humour and hence traction is high.” From the young to the old, memes appeal to every age group, he argues. For Amazon Prime’s show Mirzapur, Meme Chat helped in the creation of viral memes. “The main character Kaleen Bhaiya became a virtual template,” says Chanana, describing how the memes on the show created so much curiosity about it that many went on to watch it.

Almost all the OTT platforms, from Netflix to Alt Balaji, thrive on memes on their shows. When a character from a show becomes a popular meme, you know that the show has arrived.

Getting it just right

Globally, American fast food company McDonald’s has also tried memes but with mixed results. Meme marketing may seem easy but it is fraught with risks.

Cautions Vigyan Verma, Founder, The Bottom Line, “Brands need to ask a few questions before embarking on memes. What sort of personality have they built over the years? Memes are best suited for brands that don’t take themselves too seriously even in their regular communication.”

He feels that thoughtful and purpose-driven brands should steer clear of memes generally because attempts at creating humour will get scrutinised hard.

“The challenge for any brand is to get the tonality right. Not treading into zones that are sensitive or potentially offensive. Durex, for instance, usually does it very well, in spite of being in a sensitive category. Since meme content is not seen as a big piece of communication and rushed into creation, often at odd hours to be in-the-moment, the risk of the content not being run past seasoned minds is high,” he says.

Chanana of Meme Chat says that they do scrutinise the ad boards and moderate the memes passing through them. However, since the hashtags are open there is no denying the risk.

“Brands can be fine creating and riding a buzz if they have a lighter point of view in general and there is a team that’s not only quick to spot opportunities but is smart enough not to ruffle too many feathers with the content,” concludes Vigyan.

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Published on November 26, 2020
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