What Is Meme Marketing? Meme Marketing In A Nutshel

Meme marketing is any marketing strategy that uses memes to promote a brand. The term “meme” itself was popularized by author Richard Dawkins over 50 years later in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene. In the book, Dawkins described how ideas evolved and were shared across different cultures. The internet has enabled this exchange to occur at an exponential rate, with the first modern memes emerging in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

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Understanding meme marketing

Most associated memes with the internet, but the first recorded instance of a meme appeared around 1919 in the Wisconsin Octopus, a magazine published by the University of Wisconsin. 

The meme, which featured two picture panes not unlike a comic strip, depicted the expectations and realities of dating.

A similar style meme was then published in satirical magazine The Judge two years later, describing the familiar situation where we think we look better in a photograph than we actually do.

The term “meme” itself was coined by author Richard Dawkins over 50 years later in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene.

In the book, Dawkins described how ideas evolved and were shared across different cultures.

The internet has enabled this exchange to occur at an exponential rate, with the first modern memes emerging in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Today, memes are as popular as they are diverse and multi-faceted. They are especially favored by younger consumers, with 75% of Millennials sharing memes and 38% following meme-based social media accounts

Brands have now realized the immense potential of memes as part of their marketing strategies. Memes are used in marketing because of their ability to communicate attitudes and situations with brevity.

Memes also allow the business to relate to consumers on a more personal level.

How can businesses incorporate meme marketing?

While there is no concrete process describing the creation of a meme marketing campaign, it can be useful to consider these pointers:

Define the brand

As with any marketing strategy, meme marketing must reflect the core values of the brand it is promoting. The business should choose its memes wisely and avoid using unrelated memes simply because they are popular.

Ensure the meme is relatable

The meme must also be understood by a broad swathe of the target audience for marketing to be effective. It is also important to consider any cultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic issues associated with the ideal buyer.

Take advantage of trends

The most popular memes that go viral tend to be associated with current events. In a process called memejacking, businesses can take advantage of these trends by adapting the meme or the event to suit their product.

Keep it simple

Marketers should also avoid using complex, obscure, or niche memes as a general rule. These memes are more likely to fall flat and, in any case, will only capture a small subset of the target audience.

Follow the rules

Consumers are repulsed by meme marketing that tries too hard to be humorous or is used in the wrong context.

To avoid these problems, marketers need to understand the meaning or humor behind the meme and most importantly, ensure it is still recognizable once it has been adapted to suit.

Meme marketing examples

Here are some of the more popular examples of meme marketing in recent years.


BarkBox is an online pet subscription box platform that sells dog toys, treats, and other goodies.

The company is a well-known proponent of meme marketing because so many memes feature dogs.

To that end, BarkBox is quick to latch on to any so-called “Doggo” meme to promote its products and bring its community of 600,000 dog lovers together.


The Gucci brand is built on luxury, grace, and sophistication.

However, the company decided to launch a new meme marketing campaign called #TFWGucci where it released a series of humorous and relatable memes in collaboration with famous artists.

In one such meme, the glum portrait of a woman painted by renaissance artist Agnolo Bronzino was accompanied by the text “When he buys you flowers instead of a Gucci watch.

The campaign showed consumers that Gucci was trendier and more up to speed with current events than many had assumed.

Burger King

Fast-food chain Burger King is also known for its witty and creative meme marketing campaigns. 

In one example, the company released an image with six chicken nuggets arranged to look like the abdominal muscles of someone who exercises. At the top of the image was the slogan “The only six-pack I care about”.

Additional Case Studies

  • Denny’s Diner: Denny’s is known for its quirky and humorous social media presence. They often share memes and use internet humor to engage with their audience.
  • Wendy’s: Wendy’s Twitter account gained fame for its humorous and often sassy responses to customer inquiries. They incorporate meme-like humor to interact with their followers.
  • MoonPie: MoonPie, a snack brand, gained attention with its playful and witty Twitter posts. They frequently engage in meme-style humor to connect with their audience.
  • Netflix: Netflix uses memes and references from their shows and movies to engage viewers on social media. They create memes that relate to their content and share them to generate buzz.
  • Taco Bell: Taco Bell embraced meme marketing by creating memes related to their menu items. They keep their content simple and relatable, often focusing on humor.
  • Old Spice: Old Spice, known for its humorous advertising, incorporates memes and internet culture into its marketing campaigns. They create viral videos and posts that resonate with younger audiences.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: The official SpongeBob SquarePants social media accounts frequently use memes and references from the show to engage fans. They leverage the nostalgia and humor associated with the series.
  • Tide: Tide, a laundry detergent brand, ran a successful meme marketing campaign during the 2018 Super Bowl. They capitalized on the popularity of the “Tide Pod Challenge” meme by featuring actor David Harbour in a series of humorous ads that played with the concept of clean clothes and Tide Pods.
  • Distracted Boyfriend Meme: The stock photo of the “Distracted Boyfriend” meme has been used by various brands to create witty and relatable advertisements. Companies like Netflix, IKEA, and even the National Library of Scotland have used this meme to convey their messages.
  • Wendy’s “Nuggs for Carter”: Wendy’s engaged with a Twitter user named Carter Wilkinson who asked how many retweets he needed for a year of free chicken nuggets. Wendy’s replied with a challenge, leading to the viral #NuggsForCarter campaign. Although he didn’t reach the required number, Wendy’s gave him free nuggets and made a charitable donation.
  • “This is Fine” Meme by The Oatmeal: The webcomic “The Oatmeal” created the “This is Fine” meme featuring a dog surrounded by fire, representing a situation where everything seems to be falling apart. It was later used by brands like Firefox and the Houston Rockets to humorously address difficult or chaotic situations.
  • Arby’s: Arby’s social media team is known for creating artwork inspired by pop culture, video games, and anime. They share these images on their social media platforms, connecting with various fan communities and generating engagement.
  • “Two Buttons” Meme by Wendy’s: Wendy’s used the “Two Buttons” meme format on Twitter to humorously present choices related to their menu items, often poking fun at competitors.
  • Adobe Creative Cloud: Adobe ran a campaign titled “Adobe Creativity Can’t Be Beat” using memes and humorous videos. They highlighted how their software is essential for creating memes and viral content.
  • Spotify Wrapped: Spotify leverages user data to create personalized “Spotify Wrapped” memes at the end of each year. Users share these memes on social media, showcasing their music listening habits and promoting the platform.
  • “Doge” Meme by Snickers: Snickers incorporated the “Doge” meme, featuring a Shiba Inu dog with broken English captions, into their advertising. They humorously suggested that “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” by comparing it to the doge’s speech.

Key takeaways

  • Meme marketing is any marketing strategy that uses memes to promote a brand.
  • To implement an effective meme marketing campaign, the business should define its brand, ensure the meme is relatable, take advantage of trends, keep it simple, and follow the rules.
  • Meme marketing has been used to great effect by companies such as Gucci, BarkBox, and Burger King.

Key highlights of meme marketing:

  • Definition: Meme marketing involves using memes to promote a brand or product. Memes are humorous or relatable images, videos, or text that spread rapidly on the internet.
  • Origin: The term “meme” was coined by Richard Dawkins in 1976 to describe how ideas evolve and spread across cultures. Modern internet memes began to emerge in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
  • Popularity: Memes are immensely popular, especially among younger consumers. 75% of Millennials share memes, and 38% follow meme-based social media accounts.
  • Effective Communication: Memes are known for their brevity and ability to convey attitudes and situations concisely, making them effective for marketing purposes.
  • Brand Alignment: Successful meme marketing aligns with a brand’s core values and target audience. Brands should choose memes that resonate with their ideal customers.
  • Relatability: Memes used in marketing campaigns should be relatable to a broad audience and consider cultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic factors.
  • Trend Utilization: Capitalizing on trending memes and adapting them to a product or event, known as memejacking, can boost a campaign’s success.
  • Simplicity: Complex or niche memes may not appeal to a broad audience, so simplicity is key to effective meme marketing.
  • Adherence to Meme Culture: Meme marketing should respect the humor and context of the original meme to avoid backlash.
  • Examples: Brands like BarkBox, Gucci, and Burger King have successfully integrated memes into their marketing strategies, leveraging humor and relatability to engage consumers.

What are steps to implement meme marketing?

How brands are using memes?

Platforms like Twitter and Reddit have become where memes are created, spreading very quickly. Today, creating memes can be an incredible superpower for brands. However, it can also turn against them. Thus, it’s critical to understand how a meme might fit into the overall brand strategy. Take the case of how Gucci created a set of memes around the hashtag #TFWGucci where it released a series of humorous and relatable memes in collaboration with famous artists.

Is meme good for brand?

Memes can make brands much more relatable with their audiences and, in a sense, humanize a brand, as it makes it appear funnier. Indeed, younger generations use memes as a primary way to communicate, and brands able to master the art of creating memes can generate buzz and, at the same time, create trust with new generations.

Visual Marketing Glossary

Account-Based Marketing

Account-based marketing (ABM) is a strategy where the marketing and sales departments come together to create personalized buying experiences for high-value accounts. Account-based marketing is a business-to-business (B2B) approach in which marketing and sales teams work together to target high-value accounts and turn them into customers.


Ad Ops – also known as Digital Ad Operations – refers to systems and processes that support digital advertisements’ delivery and management. The concept describes any process that helps a marketing team manage, run, or optimize ad campaigns, making them an integrating part of the business operations.

AARRR Funnel

Venture capitalist, Dave McClure, coined the acronym AARRR which is a simplified model that enables to understand what metrics and channels to look at, at each stage for the users’ path toward becoming customers and referrers of a brand.

Affinity Marketing

Affinity marketing involves a partnership between two or more businesses to sell more products. Note that this is a mutually beneficial arrangement where one brand can extend its reach and enhance its credibility in association with the other.

Ambush Marketing

As the name suggests, ambush marketing raises awareness for brands at events in a covert and unexpected fashion. Ambush marketing takes many forms, one common element, the brand advertising their products or services has not paid for the right to do so. Thus, the business doing the ambushing attempts to capitalize on the efforts made by the business sponsoring the event.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing describes the process whereby an affiliate earns a commission for selling the products of another person or company. Here, the affiliate is simply an individual who is motivated to promote a particular product through incentivization. The business whose product is being promoted will gain in terms of sales and marketing from affiliates.

Bullseye Framework

The bullseye framework is a simple method that enables you to prioritize the marketing channels that will make your company gain traction. The main logic of the bullseye framework is to find the marketing channels that work and prioritize them.

Brand Building

Brand building is the set of activities that help companies to build an identity that can be recognized by its audience. Thus, it works as a mechanism of identification through core values that signal trust and that help build long-term relationships between the brand and its key stakeholders.

Brand Dilution

According to inbound marketing platform HubSpot, brand dilution occurs “when a company’s brand equity diminishes due to an unsuccessful brand extension, which is a new product the company develops in an industry that they don’t have any market share in.” Brand dilution, therefore, occurs when a brand decreases in value after the company releases a product that does not align with its vision, mission, or skillset. 

Brand Essence Wheel

The brand essence wheel is a templated approach businesses can use to better understand their brand. The brand essence wheel has obvious implications for external brand strategy. However, it is equally important in simplifying brand strategy for employees without a strong marketing background. Although many variations of the brand essence wheel exist, a comprehensive wheel incorporates information from five categories: attributes, benefits, values, personality, brand essence.

Brand Equity

The brand equity is the premium that a customer is willing to pay for a product that has all the objective characteristics of existing alternatives, thus, making it different in terms of perception. The premium on seemingly equal products and quality is attributable to its brand equity.

Brand Positioning

Brand positioning is about creating a mental real estate in the mind of the target market. If successful, brand positioning allows a business to gain a competitive advantage. And it also works as a switching cost in favor of the brand. Consumers recognizing a brand might be less prone to switch to another brand.

Business Storytelling

Business storytelling is a critical part of developing a business model. Indeed, the way you frame the story of your organization will influence its brand in the long-term. That’s because your brand story is tied to your brand identity, and it enables people to identify with a company.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is one of the most powerful commercial activities which focuses on leveraging content production (text, audio, video, or other formats) to attract a targeted audience. Content marketing focuses on building a strong brand, but also to convert part of that targeted audience into potential customers.

Customer Lifetime Value

One of the first mentions of customer lifetime value was in the 1988 book Database Marketing: Strategy and Implementation written by Robert Shaw and Merlin Stone. Customer lifetime value (CLV) represents the value of a customer to a company over a period of time. It represents a critical business metric, especially for SaaS or recurring revenue-based businesses.

Customer Segmentation

Customer segmentation is a marketing method that divides the customers in sub-groups, that share similar characteristics. Thus, product, marketing and engineering teams can center the strategy from go-to-market to product development and communication around each sub-group. Customer segments can be broken down is several ways, such as demographics, geography, psychographics and more.

Developer Marketing

Developer marketing encompasses tactics designed to grow awareness and adopt software tools, solutions, and SaaS platforms. Developer marketing has become the standard among software companies with a platform component, where developers can build applications on top of the core software or open software. Therefore, engaging developer communities has become a key element of marketing for many digital businesses.

Digital Marketing Channels

A digital channel is a marketing channel, part of a distribution strategy, helping an organization to reach its potential customers via electronic means. There are several digital marketing channels, usually divided into organic and paid channels. Some organic channels are SEO, SMO, email marketing. And some paid channels comprise SEM, SMM, and display advertising.

Field Marketing

Field marketing is a general term that encompasses face-to-face marketing activities carried out in the field. These activities may include street promotions, conferences, sales, and various forms of experiential marketing. Field marketing, therefore, refers to any marketing activity that is performed in the field.

Funnel Marketing

interaction with a brand until they become a paid customer and beyond. Funnel marketing is modeled after the marketing funnel, a concept that tells the company how it should market to consumers based on their position in the funnel itself. The notion of a customer embarking on a journey when interacting with a brand was first proposed by Elias St. Elmo Lewis in 1898. Funnel marketing typically considers three stages of a non-linear marketing funnel. These are top of the funnel (TOFU), middle of the funnel (MOFU), and bottom of the funnel (BOFU). Particular marketing strategies at each stage are adapted to the level of familiarity the consumer has with a brand.

Go-To-Market Strategy

A go-to-market strategy represents how companies market their new products to reach target customers in a scalable and repeatable way. It starts with how new products/services get developed to how these organizations target potential customers (via sales and marketing models) to enable their value proposition to be delivered to create a competitive advantage.


The term “greenwashing” was first coined by environmentalist Jay Westerveld in 1986 at a time when most consumers received their news from television, radio, and print media. Some companies took advantage of limited public access to information by portraying themselves as environmental stewards – even when their actions proved otherwise. Greenwashing is a deceptive marketing practice where a company makes unsubstantiated claims about an environmentally-friendly product or service.

Grassroots Marketing

Grassroots marketing involves a brand creating highly targeted content for a particular niche or audience. When an organization engages in grassroots marketing, it focuses on a small group of people with the hope that its marketing message is shared with a progressively larger audience.

Growth Marketing

Growth marketing is a process of rapid experimentation, which in a way has to be “scientific” by keeping in mind that it is used by startups to grow, quickly. Thus, the “scientific” here is not meant in the academic sense. Growth marketing is expected to unlock growth, quickly and with an often limited budget.

Guerrilla Marketing

Guerrilla marketing is an advertising strategy that seeks to utilize low-cost and sometimes unconventional tactics that are high impact. First coined by Jay Conrad Levinson in his 1984 book of the same title, guerrilla marketing works best on existing customers who are familiar with a brand or product and its particular characteristics.

Hunger Marketing

Hunger marketing is a marketing strategy focused on manipulating consumer emotions. By bringing products to market with an attractive price point and restricted supply, consumers have a stronger desire to make a purchase.

Integrated Communication

Integrated marketing communication (IMC) is an approach used by businesses to coordinate and brand their communication strategies. Integrated marketing communication takes separate marketing functions and combines them into one, interconnected approach with a core brand message that is consistent across various channels. These encompass owned, earned, and paid media. Integrated marketing communication has been used to great effect by companies such as Snapchat, Snickers, and Domino’s.

Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is a marketing strategy designed to attract customers to a brand with content and experiences that they derive value from. Inbound marketing utilizes blogs, events, SEO, and social media to create brand awareness and attract targeted consumers. By attracting or “drawing in” a targeted audience, inbound marketing differs from outbound marketing which actively pushes a brand onto consumers who may have no interest in what is being offered.

Integrated Marketing

Integrated marketing describes the process of delivering consistent and relevant content to a target audience across all marketing channels. It is a cohesive, unified, and immersive marketing strategy that is cost-effective and relies on brand identity and storytelling to amplify the brand to a wider and wider audience.

Marketing Mix

The marketing mix is a term to describe the multi-faceted approach to a complete and effective marketing plan. Traditionally, this plan included the four Ps of marketing: price, product, promotion, and place. But the exact makeup of a marketing mix has undergone various changes in response to new technologies and ways of thinking. Additions to the four Ps include physical evidence, people, process, and even politics.

Marketing Myopia

Marketing myopia is the nearsighted focus on selling goods and services at the expense of consumer needs. Marketing myopia was coined by Harvard Business School professor Theodore Levitt in 1960. Originally, Levitt described the concept in the context of organizations in high-growth industries that become complacent in their belief that such industries never fail.

Marketing Personas

Marketing personas give businesses a general overview of key segments of their target audience and how these segments interact with their brand. Marketing personas are based on the data of an ideal, fictional customer whose characteristics, needs, and motivations are representative of a broader market segment.

Meme Marketing

Meme marketing is any marketing strategy that uses memes to promote a brand. The term “meme” itself was popularized by author Richard Dawkins over 50 years later in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene. In the book, Dawkins described how ideas evolved and were shared across different cultures. The internet has enabled this exchange to occur at an exponential rate, with the first modern memes emerging in the late 1990s and early 2000s.


Microtargeting is a marketing strategy that utilizes consumer demographic data to identify the interests of a very specific group of individuals. Like most marketing strategies, the goal of microtargeting is to positively influence consumer behavior.

Multi-Channel Marketing

Multichannel marketing executes a marketing strategy across multiple platforms to reach as many consumers as possible. Here, a platform may refer to product packaging, word-of-mouth advertising, mobile apps, email, websites, or promotional events, and all the other channels that can help amplify the brand to reach as many consumers as possible.

Multi-Level Marketing

Multi-level marketing (MLM), otherwise known as network or referral marketing, is a strategy in which businesses sell their products through person-to-person sales. When consumers join MLM programs, they act as distributors. Distributors make money by selling the product directly to other consumers. They earn a small percentage of sales from those that they recruit to do the same – often referred to as their “downline”.

Net Promoter Score

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a measure of the ability of a product or service to attract word-of-mouth advertising. NPS is a crucial part of any marketing strategy since attracting and then retaining customers means they are more likely to recommend a business to others.


Neuromarketing information is collected by measuring brain activity related to specific brain functions using sophisticated and expensive technology such as MRI machines. Some businesses also choose to make inferences of neurological responses by analyzing biometric and heart-rate data. Neuromarketing is the domain of large companies with similarly large budgets or subsidies. These include Frito-Lay, Google, and The Weather Channel.


Newsjacking as a marketing strategy was popularised by David Meerman Scott in his book Newsjacking: How to Inject Your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage. Newsjacking describes the practice of aligning a brand with a current event to generate media attention and increase brand exposure.

Niche Marketing

A microniche is a subset of potential customers within a niche. In the era of dominating digital super-platforms, identifying a microniche can kick off the strategy of digital businesses to prevent competition against large platforms. As the microniche becomes a niche, then a market, scale becomes an option.

Push vs. Pull Marketing

We can define pull and push marketing from the perspective of the target audience or customers. In push marketing, as the name suggests, you’re promoting a product so that consumers can see it. In a pull strategy, consumers might look for your product or service drawn by its brand.

Real-Time Marketing

Real-time marketing is as exactly as it sounds. It involves in-the-moment marketing to customers across any channel based on how that customer is interacting with the brand.

Relationship Marketing

Relationship marketing involves businesses and their brands forming long-term relationships with customers. The focus of relationship marketing is to increase customer loyalty and engagement through high-quality products and services. It differs from short-term processes focused solely on customer acquisition and individual sales.

Reverse Marketing

Reverse marketing describes any marketing strategy that encourages consumers to seek out a product or company on their own. This approach differs from a traditional marketing strategy where marketers seek out the consumer.


Remarketing involves the creation of personalized and targeted ads for consumers who have already visited a company’s website. The process works in this way: as users visit a brand’s website, they are tagged with cookies that follow the users, and as they land on advertising platforms where retargeting is an option (like social media platforms) they get served ads based on their navigation.

Sensory Marketing

Sensory marketing describes any marketing campaign designed to appeal to the five human senses of touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound. Technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are enabling marketers to design fun, interactive, and immersive sensory marketing brand experiences. Long term, businesses must develop sensory marketing campaigns that are relevant and effective in eCommerce.

Services Marketing

Services marketing originated as a separate field of study during the 1980s. Researchers realized that the unique characteristics of services required different marketing strategies to those used in the promotion of physical goods. Services marketing is a specialized branch of marketing that promotes the intangible benefits delivered by a company to create customer value.

Sustainable Marketing

Sustainable marketing describes how a business will invest in social and environmental initiatives as part of its marketing strategy. Also known as green marketing, it is often used to counteract public criticism around wastage, misleading advertising, and poor quality or unsafe products.

Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Word-of-mouth marketing is a marketing strategy skewed toward offering a great experience to existing customers and incentivizing them to share it with other potential customers. That is one of the most effective forms of marketing as it enables a company to gain traction based on existing customers’ referrals. When repeat customers become a key enabler for the brand this is one of the best organic and sustainable growth marketing strategies.

360 Marketing

360 marketing is a marketing campaign that utilizes all available mediums, channels, and consumer touchpoints. 360 marketing requires the business to maintain a consistent presence across multiple online and offline channels. This ensures it does not miss potentially lucrative customer segments. By its very nature, 360 marketing describes any number of different marketing strategies. However, a broad and holistic marketing strategy should incorporate a website, SEO, PPC, email marketing, social media, public relations, in-store relations, and traditional forms of advertising such as television.

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