Injecting Humor in Your Marketing With Memes

Written by Courtney Raguso, Social Media Content Creator

What are memes?

If you’ve spent any amount of time on the internet, you’ve seen memes. A meme is formerly known as an idea, behavior, or style that spreads by means of imitation from person to person within a culture and often carries symbolic meaning representing a particular phenomenon or theme. Typically, they are just viral jokes that people can make relevant to their own life or brand. Think of “Doge,” “Success Kid”, Baby Yoda or the woman holding back her angry friend while an apathetic white cat sits at a dining table. All of these are viral memes, and they can come in the form of a humorous image, video, or piece of text that is copied, often with slight variations, and can spread rapidly amongst internet users. 

The History of Memes

The word “meme” derives from the Greek word “mimeme” and “gene.” So think about it as a cultural gene because it is really just an element of a culture. The term originally came from evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, back in 1976, describing how ideas replicate, mutate, and evolve, are a way to carry a shared idea or trend to engage a target group. He argued that virality didn’t just apply to infectious diseases, but also in anthropological settings. He defined a meme as any shareable cultural artifact that spreads through a culture like wildfire. Dawkins’s work definitely did popularize the idea of memes as cultural transmission, no matter the medium. Now if you think about it, memes were around well before 1976, with the earliest dating back to 300 B.C. Take an ancient mosaic, which might have been the very first YOLO. One depicted several frames of a man running away from taking a bath while being chased by an older servant. The last scene shows a skeleton sitting casually while drinking wine which reads, “Be cheerful, Live your life”. This pretty much says, your perish is inevitable, so you might as well live your life your way. Flash forward to 1996, the first digital meme came out which was the viral dancing baby. This just demonstrates that even though internet memes haven’t been around long, their staying power can be strong. In fact, internet memes have become so popular now, according to Google Trends, “memes” are becoming a more popular search term than “Jesus”. When it comes to these types of memes, they not only reflect a single idea but groups of ideas that users get to decide what stays gets copied and shared. However, not every meme is worth passing on because not every idea is great. If it’s irrelevant and can not be applied to the culture of the community and resonate, then it is not going to stick with users. 

Using Memes in Your Marketing

Today, memes have a specific connotation to our digital environment and are all about creating engagement and building community. This is achieved by sharing something that’s relevant by communicating something that everyone in your circle understands and can apply to their life. It’s a matter of combining reality and humor and communicating those attitudes, feelings, and situations. Many consumers now making up gen z and millennials prefer to see a brand show authenticity through relatable humor rather than just promotion. It’s just a matter of obtaining the right balance and using the right meme at the right time with the right audience. When it comes to marketing, memes aren’t supposed to be overly promotional; social media is for entertainment not just promotion. If you use it for only promotion, your audience will eventually get annoyed and never become loyal to your brand. If you can make people laugh with a casual reference to your brand and create that same sense of community, then meme marketing can be very effective for your brand. Just be aware that there are also offensive and off-color memes that can be too controversial to pursue, such as Pepe the Frog, which went from harmless to becoming a hate symbol. If you are uneducated and post a meme for the sake of it being a trending meme, it might really hurt your brand more than help. When it comes to using memes in your marketing content plan, you can either take an existing one or create your own. They can either have a short or long cycle depending on the success of the meme, and it’s up to brands to keep their ear on the pulse and look out for what’s trending. Just keep it original and make it your own, and make sure it makes sense to you and the audience. Take BarkBox for example. They created a meme that compares a dog before and after seeing the treat he will be getting. The first picture depicts a dog licking his mouth as he awaits his treat with a headline saying, “when mom gets out a treat”. The second photo beside shows the dog’s let down expression with the text above saying, “then you see her break it in half”. This meme was successful because it played off the trending comparison meme, but was also relevant and humorous towards their brand. The trick with achieving this is ensuring your meme aligns with your brand voice and feels like you are speaking directly to your audience. Reposting user-generated content is also a good way to boost engagement because it’s giving your audience recognition. It’s a win-win situation. Creating your own meme is pretty easy, and you can use editing software such as Imgur. However, creating the content of the meme can be more challenging because it’s new and isn’t trusted by your audience yet. This might sound intimidating, but if you play your cards right, you can really start a new viral meme and set a trend.

At MSM DesignZ, we put in the time and energy needed for success, so you can ensure you are using every dollar for maximum return. With over 20 years in the business, we have watched marketing evolve from traditional to digital. Whether you need a website refresh, more attractive email, or a quality online presence, we can do it all. When we take on a client, we put in 110% and treat every brand as if it’s our own. We will always continue to place our clients’ needs at the heart of our operations. From web development to social media management, we’ll work directly with you to build a personalized strategy to not only retain but also gain business. We are assisting in all areas for our clients. Visit our contact page at, and we’ll work with you to devise a custom plan that will keep your brand alive and well. We look forward to working with you!