In-Scope: The meme-ification of brand messaging on social media

Lauren Gibb is a Social Assistant in OMD Word, navigating the world of social influence and emerging communications platforms.

As a typical millennial born on the edge of Gen-Y and Gen-Z, I’ve got a pretty standard method in how I form brand opinions. I research and watch reviews on YouTube, I care about a brands stance on social and environmental issues, and if you throw a Simpsons meme at me, you’ve won me over instantaneously.

Brands and agencies are becoming increasingly familiar with what makes my fellow millennials and I tick. Social video content is on the rise (43% of Australian aged 18-29 years used social media to watch videos in 2016), content is becoming increasingly ‘snackable’, and there’s been a rise in a particularly unorthodox method of community management on social.

Over the past year or so, some major brands have been trying their luck at a style of community management inspired by meme-worthy content, witty replies and general ridiculousness. Most brands conducting community management in this style fall under the FMCG umbrella, with low involvement products fitting well within the style of interaction. Seen on the likes of Boost Juice, Doritos, and the much-loved Wendy’s US Twitter account, some of the conversations created by these brands are both hilarious and priceless when it comes to forming brand affinity among their millennial consumer base.

 

Although this phenomenon has proven to be wildly successful for some brands, there is a fine line between what is and what isn’t acceptable for your brand. Obviously funny replies and memes don’t work for every business, and it’s best to be carefully aligned with your brand personality and message. In other words, if you’re selling things like life insurance or financial services, it may not resonate or sit well with your audience.

A recent concern surrounding the use of memes by brands has fallen around the unauthorised use of intellectual property. Being part of a larger cultural phenomenon has somewhat protected the general public from prosecution for the use of memes that contain IP, however, on social media where brands are conducting an aspect of marketing, using memes containing certain copyrighted material from other brands could land you in hot water. In this sense, it’s often best to err on the side of caution when taking inspiration from an established meme that has taken over your newsfeed.

However, any brand can benefit from great community management in general. It can add immeasurable value to interactions, drive conversation, raise amazing brand sentiment, and can even go as far as to incite direct purchase.

The key, depending on context and your brand’s voice, is to have the courage to challenge your audience. This isn’t a great idea when dealing with actual customer complaints or issues, but when you’re served a “why does this not come in green” or “this isn’t funny”, it can really provide the perfect opportunity to proactively reach out in a witty, humorous way.

 As unorthodox and strange as it may seem, this method of communication is a great and playful way of driving brand affinity. If driving long lasting, genuine relationships between brand and consumer is your goal, then this new trend could be one important step in your journey towards it.

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