top of page

The Game of Memes

‘The science of humor is no joke!: A statement that you will be convinced with, at the end of this article!

A study conducted by the management at the Australian National University concluded that short exposure to humorous stimuli improves the perseverance of people in completing tedious tasks. The group under study, watching humorous content, completed their task in almost half the time as against the other group, watching positive motivational content! Surprising isn’t it?

Various researchers have also concluded that humor not only provides a ‘mental-break’ but also boosts the immune system and helps to recover from stressful situations. This pretty much explains the essential human need for fun and laughter; and what is a better source of humorous content than the internet itself?

Marketers worldwide have used creative ways to feed our various needs and we cannot help but say the same when it comes to fulfilling this psychological need for humor. Enter: Meme Marketing or Memevertising!

Before we jump to the concept of Meme Marketing, let’s understand how memes originated?

Firstly, where did the word 'meme' come from?

The word 'meme' was first used by Richard Dawkins in 1976, in his book 'The Selfish Gene'. 'Meme' was derived from a 'Greek' word 'mimeme', meaning 'that which is imitated'. As of course, memes are imitated. He described it as "a piece of cultural information or concept that spreads across a culture like a wildfire."

In today’s context, memes have become a unique and fun way of communicating feelings, attitudes, and events/situations. Because of this ease and popularity that comes along with memes, every brand today wishes to increase its brand engagement through this medium! Here’s a graph showing the ‘Interest Trend’ of ‘memes’ that has grown in the Indian sub-continent, over the past 5 years.

Now that we know what memes are, let’s understand Meme Marketing!

Meme Marketing refers to an indirect selling strategy, wherein marketers use humor, to buy space in the client’s mind and successfully create a positive brand image, while they were only ‘joking-around’. This strategy has by far proven to be the best marketing strategy to connect with the GenZ, as it creates a win-win situation, for both, the companies and its target audience. Here’s how…

First of all, let’s be honest, millennials are the most ad-averse target audience. Didn’t quite understand? What better way to explain, than a meme!!

Thus if brands want to catch our attention (and not get ignored or forgotten) meme marketing proves to be the best way to communicate with us! Technically, it not only helps the brand to gain higher brand awareness and interaction on social media but also satisfies our psychological needs of humor. (Now you know why we all always end up scrolling our social media feeds the most while studying for an exam or at work-place). Also from the company’s perspective, this is the most cost-effective marketing strategy. In order to create impressive memes, the cost-benefit analysis is unconvincing, because memes are almost free to create (just require some knowledge, creativity, and relatable + funny content). However, nowadays content creation has become a booming industry in itself, thanks to meme marketing! On the other hand, the return on investment (the benefit) is unthinkable. These memes have a high potential of going viral; and going viral is what every company dreams of! One can never gain such benefits (at almost zero cost) using traditional marketing strategies.

Meme Trends

An important concept that has evolved under the umbrella of meme marketing is ‘Trends’. Any meme idea that goes viral, and is recreated by several brands and marketers becomes a trend. However, trends gain popularity for a few weeks (or months) and vanish with equal speed. A few Meme Trends of 2020 include the ,#EverythingIsCake MemeTrend, Funeral Coffin Dance Memes, #WhenYouAccidentlyType Meme Trend, Dalgona Coffee Vs. Chai Memes, Corona Virus Memes, and many more. Here are some examples of brands that rode the tides with these trending memes:

Now let’s see examples of some brands that have successfully capitalized on Meme Marketing and are reaping the fruits of their creative work.

1. Netflix

Netflix already boasts of a huge social media following but that doesn’t stop them from posting memes about all their old and upcoming content; to daily attract a large number of people to their feeds. The first most popular meme that our country was taken by was a part of the ad campaign of their thriller BirdBox. This campaign went so viral that it compelled several customers to watch the movie, just in order to understand the memes!

2. Tinder

Tinder, an online dating app, is a brilliant example of a brand that not only used memes to gain engagement and awareness; but they used memes for mere acceptance of their brand, in India. Meme Marketing successfully helped them gain a firm hold of the Indian market, which was initially not very pro-tinder. Even though people won’t be using the app, everyone loves the funny and witty content they post!

3. Mumbai Police

Although not a brand or a company, this government organization, too has turned the tides with their new Instagram page, which gained about 0.2 million followers in just 3 months; through meme marketing. Their Instagram page is handled by Sunchika Pandey and her team, along with regular inputs from various members of the Mumbai Police department itself. Their strategy focuses more on infotainment and using puns and sarcasm to make people aware and alert. The difficult times of COVID, have been strategically used as an opportunity by them, to not only spread awareness but to also lighten people’s moods by delivering a laugh or two.

There are many more brands that have highlighted Meme Marketing as their core Social Media Marketing Strategy to reach and engage with young audiences. Among them are Dineout, Fevicol, Swiggy, Zomato, Gucci, Amul, ParleG, Kolkata Knight Riders, Dharma Movies, HBO, Imperial Blue, to name a few!

However, Meme Marketing, if not planned and executed in the right references, can prove to have a downside as well. It does not mean that the content has to mandatorily be funny. But, it MUST be relevant and simple to understand. Most importantly, one should always beware of offensive content and not create jokes on sensitive issues, because just like appreciation, social media also houses unending criticism, which can jeopardize the brand-image.

The bottom line is that Memes are not just meant for college kids or bored office goers! This strategy is a sure-fire means to endear the brand in the hearts of its followers, by increasing its reach and influence. Thus, I’d say that Meme Marketing is here to stay and it’s a lot more than being ‘just a joke’; it’s an addiction on which the sharp-witted brands are successfully capitalizing!




bottom of page