the picture that launched 1000 memes: boyfriend looks at another woman while girlfriend gets annoyed
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In a world of ad blockers and fake news, customers are increasingly wary of direct advertising attempts. While Generation Z consumes more mobile and digital media than previous generations, 69% deliberately avoid advertising.

These people are the future business decision-makers, so B2B brands should look to new strategies to target this demographic, and meme marketing might just be the way forward.

What Is Meme Marketing?

You've probably seen plenty of memes before, but in this context, Deepak Shukla, SEO director at Pearl Lemon, describes a meme as an “often comedic image, video, or phrase that has become part of popular culture." He thinks it could be mainstream pop culture or even niche pop culture. Shukla considers memes a "massive part of the digital experience, particularly for millennials and Generation Z." This is not something he thinks forward-looking B2B brands should ignore.

“As for meme marketing," Shukla adds, "brands can edit and leverage these memes to get involved in the comedy while simultaneously drawing attention to their brand, service or product." Marketers can easily take memes and modify them to fit with a brands message using simple meme generators. They can even create their own memes, but this is often more difficult than taking advantage of the popularity of existing memes.

Sean Pour, co-founder of SellMax, described "meme marketing as a comedic way to grab someone's attention. In most cases, it's using a funny picture, phrase or a character from a show they resonate with, with a funny caption." Memes have tremendous value because they're entertaining and don't seem like ads.

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Can B2B Brands Use Meme Marketing?

Many brands are successfully using meme marketing, but others are still hesitant to add humor to their B2B marketing campaigns. Meme marketing, however, can be a great way to give brands a more modern personality and differentiates a company from its competitors. The marketing tactic also creates a human element to a brand, makes the brand more relatable, and is a great way to generate word of mouth marketing.

Pour said, "[meme marketing] is relative to your target demographic." If you're targeting high-end B2Bs like accounting or law firms, "I think you would want to refrain from meme marketing as these businesses tend to be more formal."

Some B2B audiences are more open to meme marketing than others. Pour said, "we love meme marketing, and we've used it for B2B marketing a lot. In fact, it's how we recruit tow truck companies to onboard with our company." He reckons it depends on who your target audience is. "For us," Pour adds, "we knew that tow truck drivers have a more relaxed working environment, so we wanted to make them laugh and get [their] attention."

Brands like CarMax use memes to get more impressions and higher user engagement. One strategy for generating leads involves driving traffic towards valuable assets like a whitepaper or other gated resource. Meme campaigns also open brands up to the possibility of going viral because they're easily sharable, entertaining and often relatable to social media users.

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How to Get Started With Meme Marketing

For brands looking to get into meme marketing, here are some points to consider:

1. Find Examples

Shukla recommended "keeping tabs on influencers in your space" by browsing hashtags on Twitter and checking the r/Memes subreddit on Reddit. Through this, you'll find for example, that Gary Vaynerchuk and his team use memes to drive traffic to their Instagram pages. Their use of memes ranges from caption images of 'the entrepreneur' persona to popular videos edited for comedic effect. You should see if your competitors are successfully leveraging meme marketing.

2. Look for Trends

From there, Shukla recommended, "brands monitor what memes are trending within their audience segments before creating any of their own memes." You want to see which memes go viral, and become popular for the right reasons. The last thing you want is to hurt your brand with a meme that is out of touch with your audience and spreads quickly throughout social media. Instead, you'll want to make sure you develop the right brand voice and ensure the origin of the meme is appropriate.

3. Act Quickly

"Memes also have a relatively short life span," adds Shukla, so brands "will need to leverage popular memes within days or weeks of them first appearing across social media." Meme marketing only works well if you're able to respond to trends within your target audience quickly. That said, the potential for memes to go viral is considerable, and your brand could be the next big thing.