Emily Stonham
2nd January 2019 - 7 mins read
W

e’re a strange bunch, and it’s because of this that brands have found it so hard to market to us. How can you expect to see results from a lovingly crafted, artistic marketing campaign on TV when the height of comedy for my age group is someone doing surgery on a grape?

There’s been plenty of examples over the years of brands trying to capitalise on our strange humour, ranging from the mildly successful to the downright embarrassing. Brands using memes in marketing seems to be one of the main offenders here. If you’re not familiar with memes, Google defines them as ‘an image, video, piece of text, etc., typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by Internet users, often with slight variations.’

My generation in particular (Gen Z, born from 1995 onwards) is often berated by the media for being glued to our phones. Whilst I disagree with this being true for every teenager, stereotypically it can be true for quite a few of us.

A lot of us adore social content, and would rather be on Netflix or YouTube than traditional TV channels. Memes in particular form a large part of the content of many social media platforms for my generation now, specifically Instagram, Reddit and Tumblr. Despite all this, a lot of brands seem to be missing the mark with their attempts at humorous marketing.

Here’s three of my favourite examples of corporate meme usage - good and bad - with some insights on how to use memes and modern humour to your brand’s advantage online. 

 

Denny’s Twitter Account

The American diner Denny’s has found a unique niche on Twitter. Namely, it’s one of the weirdest corporate accounts out there - and people love it. In 2013, the brand’s social media was taken over by the EP+Co agency. They had one simple aim, which was to make the brand’s social media activity not sound like a corporate account.

Fast forward to 2018, the brand is infamous for its bizarre and occasionally disturbing breakfast-themed content on a number of platforms. They’re experts at hijacking popular trends and current news and popular culture events on Twitter, such as the removal of the iPhone headphone jack.

 

 

Such is Denny’s success that they have international followers from places that don’t even have one of these restaurants. Its Twitter account even helped kickstart a new meme format a while back, by hiding a message in a pancake.

 

 

Gucci Memes

Here’s a surprising one. Out of all the brands to use memes in marketing, would you expect a luxury, high-end retailer to get involved? Not many people did, which is why these were received with gleeful concern.

Gucci created #TFWGucci (That Feeling When Gucci) to promote its new line of watches. They commissioned a number of pieces of artwork, and then had popular meme creators make content with them. The results were fairly mixed.

 

  

 

Some were pretty funny and went down well online, but others just seemed a bit odd and out of touch. Fashionista made some pretty good points in this article, mentioning how it’s strange for a large, established brand like Gucci to be making memes, as the origin of niche memes involved talking about topics like mental health - which were too taboo to talk about in mainstream media.

 

 

Overall, it was interesting but seemed a little bit out of character for such a high-status brand. To really appeal to the meme community, Gucci should have probably had a bit more existential dread

 

Wendy’s Memer Advert

This one is a little older, but it still makes my soul hurt.

When it first came out, it had people debating whether this was deliberately meant to be so terrible, in order to create hype online.

Anyone who’s been vaguely aware of memes for the last few years or so will see the glaring issues with this advert.

It’s just cringey. Plain and simple. There’s no punchline, there’s not even really an element of self-awareness – which is one of the elements that memes are normally recognised for.

This meme format with the bold white text and ‘like a boss’ arguably hasn’t been funny for a good ten years or so. It’s completely out of date, which defeats the objective of using memes (they’re topical and based heavily around online trends).  

Regardless of whether this was genuine, self-aware or an attempt at possibly creating nostalgia for meme fans, I don’t think it worked very well. It left many online viewers feeling irritated and enraged by how out of touch it was.

If the point of the advert was to get people talking about the brand (and how out of date it was), then fair play. But if the point was to make sales, I don’t think this was the best strategy as many seemed more annoyed with the brand than engaged with it.

There’s even a Reddit thread dedicated to this sort of mishap, called r/CorporateFacepalm. It’s worth checking out before you try any sort of memes out yourself – or if you just want a laugh.

There’s plenty more examples of corporate memes dotted all over the internet - some mildly funny, others just simply embarrassing.

In all seriousness though, creating memes can be a dangerous game to play when using them for advertising or marketing a brand. For example, memes can have hidden meanings or symbolisms that will be understood by people active on particular parts of social media, but skate right over the heads of corporate teams.

Pepe the frog, for example, was a very popular meme a while back.

 

 

Pepe was widely used by the media and political campaigns until he was found to have associations with the alt-right. Pepe never originally had racist associations, but it was hijacked by certain groups of people to suit their own causes.  

By the time Pepe was used in the 2016 United States presidential election campaign, he had already been branded a hate symbol. He’s now in the Anti-Defamation League’s guide to hate symbols, much to the amusement of some parts of the internet.

This happens fairly frequently, and unless you have someone working for you who spends the majority of their time looking at memes, you might accidentally post something that has horrible hidden messages associated with it. It’s a big risk to take, especially for large or well-established brands.

Another negative to using memes is how quickly they age. As I was researching for this blog, I came across a bunch of meme adverts from around 2012-2015. This article from Digiday has some good examples of what I mean- specifically, the Virgin Media one. My first reaction was that they were terrible, simply because of how outdated they automatically seemed to me.

Thinking about it, it’s quite likely that these campaigns would have been funny when the memes were on trend. They fit the meme well, and they’re not too awkward. But they seem so bad to us now because of how old the format is.

Meme trends change so quickly and so do reactions to them. In the time that it’s taken me to write this blog and get it through the editing/approval process, the ‘doing surgery on a grape’ meme I referenced in the opening paragraphs has already gone out of date and is now considered to not be funny.

If your brand is modern and has a fairly young audience, it can be a highly effective marketing strategy to use memes and edgy jokes in your content. If not, your audience may be confused by your attempt at being trendy. Bear in mind your target market, especially if you’re attempting dark humour with your campaigns.

And steer clear of using memes unless you’re absolutely certain that your audience will enjoy them, and that you understand the meme properly. It’s not worth the effort if your campaign is just going to end up being mocked on a Reddit thread.

At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or an eBook.

Marketing

How to make and start a business podcast

Tom Idle 28th February 2020 — 6 mins read
A

ccording to Ofcom figures released in the autumn, 7.1 million people now listen to podcasts each week – that’s one in eight people and an increase of 24 per cent over the past year.

There are currently more than 860,000 podcasts in existence today and half of all the podcasts in existence were created in the last two years alone.

Clearly, more and more people are realising the benefits of creating long-form, in-depth audio content.

With figures like these, you might ask whether the world needs another podcast right now.

Well, as someone who set up and run their own podcast, I think you should, and I feel my experience could help you to get started.

I got into podcasts when I was commuting from Kent to Oxford for work. I was spending a lot of time in the car and podcasts were my salvation.

I listened religiously to several different shows and began to try to work out the functional elements of those shows and how they were put together and how it related to what I was doing.

When I left that job to set up my own business, podcasting seemed like the perfect content marketing tool to promote what I was doing. Not only was I passionate about podcasts, but I was a trained journalist who had specialised in radio journalism at university.

Additionally, no-one else was doing them in the sustainable business area, so there was a huge gap in the market.

So, I launched the Better Business Show. It was a weekly show with new episodes every Monday morning and the idea was to showcase some of the innovators, start-ups, small businesses – as well as some of the legacy businesses – that were working out ways of doing things differently and more sustainably to create better businesses.

It was a magazine show and at the centre of it was an in-depth interview, usually with a start-up and then we wrapped it up with some news and some conversations with consultants and experts in the field. We brought different elements together in a 40-minute podcast.

We launched it in 2016 and I think it is fair to say we achieved some success. We got more than 3,000 listeners, we found some good sponsorship, we branched out into multiple countries and we had lots of repeat listeners (38 per cent repeat listeners). In short, we built a nice community.

Why was it successful?

Well, there were a few factors and one of the key ones was planning and getting ahead. When we launched, we had three episodes which was important in terms of building credibility. If people are discovering you for the first time and you only have one episode, they won’t be sure whether you are serious or whether you are going to come back with more episodes.

In the first few weeks, we worked hard to get our ranking on iTunes as good as we could. Doing this was as simple as getting friends, family, colleagues and customers to give us a five-star review. It worked wonders and we ended up getting on to the ‘new and noteworthy’ section’ of the business podcasts. We stayed there for about three months which built early traction.

I think that consistency was also key. We made sure the podcast came out at the same time every week – 9am on a Monday – and that helped to build behaviour among the listeners where they were looking out for each episode. If you are saying on your episode ‘we’ll be back next week’, then you need to be back next week.

Having evergreen content was also important. Although we included a news section, the rest of the content is still relevant and will continue to stick around.

So, if the podcast was successful, why am I not still doing it?

The main answer to that is that it achieved what we set it out to do. It won me a lot of work and new connections and helped me to grow my business.

It is something I’m glad I did and even now the archive lives on and we are getting new listeners and plays a month.

For me, there is no engagement like having a podcast where you are capturing someone for 40 minutes every week and they are listening to you while they are doing something else like driving, cooking or working out in the gym.

Here are a few tips from my experience to help you get started:

 

Recording device

It sounds simple but you need a decent recording device – I can’t state how important this is. Your content can be strong, but if there is background noise or the recording is just not good enough quality, then listeners will instantly switch off. I carried my interviews over Skype and used a free app to record them. For the interviews that were carried out on location, I used a £100 Dictaphone. But the iPhone technology has moved on so much that I would probably use that more now.

 

Editing equipment

In terms of the edit, I used Apple Garageband, which is easy to use. It was great for splicing and adding music to intros.

 

Hosting the podcast

I hosted my podcast because I wanted to market myself, but that doesn’t mean that sourcing a decent host for your show isn’t important. If you do want to do it yourself, some of the presenting and hosting skills can be learnt and honed from Thirty Seven’s sister company Media First.  

 

Noise

I’ve already mentioned that background news will be a big distraction for your listeners, so make sure you have a quiet office to record your podcast or hire a studio. Failing that, sit under a duvet when you make your recording – it sounds crazy but this is something BBC journalists do often on location.  

 

iTunes

Although Spotify has now entered the podcast market, iTunes remains the main platform. I submitted my podcast to iTunes from day one and I think it was an important part of its success. Once you have done that you can submit it for free to other platforms, like Deezer, to extend your reach.

 

Social media

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that social media was a really important way of sharing my broadcasts. LinkedIn worked particularly well for me. I also created a blog on my website to hold each podcast.

 

Ask for help

If I was to relaunch my podcast now, I wouldn’t hesitate to ask for some help. I might look at outsourcing some of the editing, or scripting or maybe someone to look after the logistics of organising interviews.

As a trained journalist I know how to structure podcasts and create captivating audio content. If you don’t then please hire the professionals to help you.

You don’t have to go it alone.

 

Get in touch with one of our account managers to find out how we can help you get your podcast started.

 

At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is a podcast or email marketing.

Aimee Hudson
3rd October 2017 - 8 mins read

Every company wants to be an authority in their sector - those that engage the media usually are

Media First designs and delivers bespoke media and communications courses that use current working journalists, along with PR and communications professionals, to help you get the most from your communications plan.