A Brief History of Marketing with Memes

Marketing Memes have started to take over, and they are about to hit big. Memes, once only to be found on Imgur and forums have now gone totally mainstream. They have been in the public consciousness for a long time but memes have now reached another level. We text them, our grandparents share them on facebook, and they could be a brilliant way to get your ad campaign noticed.

The Beginning of Marketing Memes

The infamous “Rick-roll” is probably the first time the average consumer noticed memes being used for marketing. The Rick-roll seems to have first appeared on 4Chan in 2007. Shortly after it’s appearance, Youtube Rick-rolled everyone on April Fool’s in 2008. The man himself, Rick Astley then Rick-rolled everyone at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. In 2015 Apple used it at the World Wide Developer’s Conference.

The Rick-roll may have paved the way, and others were keen to follow. The Harlem Shake was done by everyone.

Case and point:


It also seems like The Mannequin Challenge was created to be used for advertising:

Does this mean anyone can take any meme that makes them lulz and run with it? Not exactly, because memejacking is risky. If your audience is already sick of the meme you stole you’re going to look like your trying way too hard. The whole point of using memes is to connect with a younger audience, and trying too hard is the best way to distance them.

If you’re interested you better be plugged in and really good at guessing which meme will be big next. This VICE interview with @youvegotnomale is an insightful peek into the world of a professional meme-maker.

Go Forth and Make Memes

If you want to dip your toe in the marketing meme water but aren’t sure what your first step should be, then start small. The great thing about social media is how quickly everything moves. A tweet, facebook post, or instagram pic are all safe bets. As long as you understand the meme you’re using these are all great places to try it out.

Start with some help from the Online Marketing Institute’s handy Infographic, and these clever tips from Forbes.





Posted by Jen Martin


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