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

Celebrities vs locals- the rise of the micro-influencer

Emily Stonham 7th December 2018 — 5 mins read
T

his used to be the best way to use influencer marketing in business. Looking to sell a new perfume? Find out who your target audience is, figure out who’s on the posters on their bedroom wall and there’s your answer. And there’s nothing wrong with this, per se. Celebrity endorsements do still work, specifically for brands and luxury goods on social media.

But there’s a fairly new form of endorsement sneakily taking over the marketing and advertising industries: micro-influencers. Using these influencers is becoming more and more common as modern brands see the value of scaling down their campaigns to reach a more targeted audience.

Firstly, what exactly is a micro-influencer? Tribe (a popular platform which connects influencers to brands) defines micro-influencers as ‘everyday people with a decent following’ who post about specific niche interests and passions. ‘Micro’ is fairly subjective, but in terms of social media it usually revolves around having a few thousand followers who interact with your content regularly.

This is a great way of summing it up, as one of the main advantages of micro-influencers is that they’re just normal people who’ve done well for themselves online.

One of the reasons that celebrity endorsements sometimes don’t do as well in modern society is because consumers are now aware of how polished and honed a celebrity appearance online is. Sure, they might be raving about how much they love that new sweatshirt, but they’ve probably been given it for free on a PR list and had six people work on the social media post before posting. It looks great, but it just isn’t authentic.

Most modern consumers want authenticity - specifically younger consumers, for whom this form of marketing is so relevant. Despite the media raving about how younger generations are addicted to social media and celebrities, many are actually turning away from a digital-focused life. The pressures of keeping up a perfect appearance online and trying to live like idols can have a huge impact on mental health and well-being.

Thus, highly polished celebrity endorsements just don’t have the same impact that they did 10 years ago. There seems to be a rising lack of trust in big brands and celebrities, which is affecting the way consumers behave. Just Google a brand name with ‘conspiracy theory’ or ‘scam’ behind it. There’ll probably be someone who’s convinced that the brand works for the Illuminati. And who’s to say they don’t?

In all seriousness, marketers need to be aware of this shift in attitude, especially if they’re targeting younger audiences. Micro-influencers are the perfect way to promote products and communicate with an audience, without losing their interest and trust. This may not seem like the best marketing strategy if you’re a large brand, but like I said earlier, there’s a lot of large brands using micro-influencers to their advantage.

One key example of micro-influencers being used is ASOS’s insiders. The ‘insiders’ are a team of fashion influencers who use their personal social accounts to promote ASOS content and engage with their audience. This particular influencer marketing scheme is famous in the industry as it’s incredibly successful.

The influencers all have unique styles, ranging from 90s tomboy chic to over-sized LA vintage. There’s something for everyone, and it’s clear that these are all styles that the influencers are genuinely passionate about. Therefore, it’s easy for consumers to relate to these people and feel more invested in their lives.

Obviously, these influencers now have large followings, but they all started out as just regular folk posting on Instagram. They’re now present across multiple platforms and constantly growing their audience. The appeal is how normal these people are. Who would you rather listen to for a review? A multi-millionaire celebrity or someone who you’d probably bump into in your favourite store?

Another great user of micro-influencers is Glossier. The company has a great online presence, particularly on Instagram. There are two elements that it’s aced for influencer marketing: fashion micro-influencers and niche memers.

Firstly, it uses a lot of user-generated content and micro-influencers to promote its products. It recently launched a referral program to reward its most loyal and influential fans online, which is boosting its profile even further.

Glossier creator Emily Weiss said recently in an interview that something that motivated her team was the idea of ‘every woman being an influencer’. This can be seen on its Instagram where it frequently reposts and celebrates its followers who promote its products. The overlap between micro-influencers and user-generated content is growing, and it has created nothing but positivity for Glossier.

It has also cracked the niche meme market well, which is notorious for the number of micro-influencers it’s created. Niche memes are a unique style of online content, specifically found on Instagram, which are very personal and visual posts. They’re often in the style of mood boards or aesthetic posts, but they originally started as more of a scrapbook/visual diary-styled post for people to express themselves and talk about sensitive topics online.

The fact that these niche memes are so personal means that people often post about their favourite brands and shops, and this is where micro-influencers come in. Glossier has collaborated with a number of moodboard/niche meme accounts and given them discount codes to promote to their followers.

This was a great move on Glossier’s part, as niche meme followers are normally incredibly invested in the pages that they follow and trust the owner’s opinions much more than they’d trust a celebrity. A lot of brands have done this, but few have achieved the success rates and status that Glossier gained from this marketing move.

So, what does this mean for your business?

If you’re considering using influencers, it’s worth looking into micro-influencers. Take some time to research what pages are relatively popular on your chosen platform, or look into influencer platforms like Tribe or AspireIQ. Using a smaller but more targeted page can often lead to better results and a more positive reaction from your audience.

If you’re set on using a celebrity or someone with a huge following, think about the authenticity of your message. Would that person’s audience really like what you’re asking them to promote? If not, your brand is going to seem fake and untrustworthy. Try chatting with them for a while to find out more about their audience and previous sponsored content, to get a better feel for how you could work with them.

On a broader level, think about the authenticity of your brand’s advertising and marketing campaigns. Consider whether your audience is going to actually like your product and your message, or whether you’re just trying to reach as many people as possible. Modern consumers are intelligent, and they can spot a fake review or endorsement a mile away.

 

Thirty Seven is proud to offer a huge range of content creation and marketing services. Get in touch with us today to see how we could help your business.

Adam Fisher
2nd February 2018 - 5 mins read

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

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