The Power Of The Meme For Brands


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How Internet Memes Can Be A Free Marketing Strategy

Since their creation, memes have been a key tool in bringing people together to help them relate to a single piece of media. Actually, the term “meme” is older than you think; the word came from Richard Dawkins’ 1976 book; “The Selfish Gene,” in which he introduced the term to mean “how ideas replicate, mutate, and evolve.” Looking at how memes are circulated today, this definition makes perfect sense. 

As we’ve seen, memes have most recently evolved into being used by companies and brands to appeal to a younger audience, and most of the time it works. So how can your company get in on this viral marketing strategy, and how can it benefit your business in the long run? In this blog, Hollywood Branded will discuss the history of memes, all the ways they can benefit your brand, and how you can get started on a social media strategy.

Allie Duke - The Power Of The Meme

How Memes Evolved

As we established, the first use of the term “meme,” was back in 1976, but the emergence of the internet meme was decades in the future. It wasn’t until the mid-90’s that internet memes started being shared between people on online forums.

When did we start calling them “memes?” No one knows for sure, but it is clear that the term was popularized in the early 2000’s when smart phones and social media platforms emerged.

Memes began as a popular form of entertainment for niche groups on the internet, often times between forums with specific interests like gaming or fan pages for musicians. However, as time went on and technology grew to be a part of everyone’s lives, so did memes. Today, memes are non-specific to groups and if anything, break down barriers to bring people together.

The Power Of The Meme - bad luck Brian

Styles of memes have also changed dramatically over the years. For a time, memes were often stock images, gifs, or popularized photos with capital white text letters over top. Pictured above is the photo associated with the popular meme “Bad Luck Brian.”

Then, memes started becoming more fluid. Today, a meme is anything with a subliminal joke which has gone viral in some way. You can even create your own these days, so long as you include some relatable rhetoric.

Businesses Who Have Benefited From Memes

Now, you may have seen some companies on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram post memes before. This is usually to promote the brand and to establish an online personality for the company.

One of the best examples of a business who has done this is the UK clothing company, ASOS. Since 2000, ASOS has worked to establish themselves as an international, multi-age, trendy clothing brand.

Their company name stands for As Seen On Screen which is even more fitting since the release of their shopping app in 2011. On social media especially, they have strived to create a trendy, young community where customers and influencers alike can be featured wearing their clothing.

Below are some examples of memes which ASOS has utilized recently to continue to grow their social media following, and their customer base. The success is in the likes of each of those photos and the thousands of comments under them.

Sharing memes not only makes their company attractive to young audiences, it opens the doors to more engagement possibilities as their customers will likely share them on their personal accounts.

The Power of the meme - ASOS

Another company who has established a clear social media presence is the fast-food restaurant, Wendy’s. For a few years now, they have gained the most attention on their Twitter account where they often respond to Tweets with satire and savage comedy.

While this strategy is more extreme, it couples nicely with they style of humor which stems from memes. In fact, it is actively turning every one of their tweets into a meme and increasing the likelihood that their content will go viral.

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 The Power Of The Meme - wendy's

Netflix has another unique strategy which gets them a lot of engagement. Instead of creating memes which relate to their company, or re-posting viral memes, they re-purpose their own content to create sharable memes.

Below we can see three high-engagement examples Netflix posts on their Instagram which features content from Moesha, The Prom, and On My Block.

The Power Of The Meme - Netflix

Again, the proof is in the numbers. Create their own custom content has not only been a great tool for advertising their product, but it has also given sharable material to their fans. This gives Netflix the ability to see which shows and movies are favorites by seeing how many times each post is re-shared on other accounts.

The Bernie Meme

We’ve all seen it, or some form of it, on our social media feeds within the last couple of weeks. What is remarkable is the fact that that statement is not an exaggeration.

The Bernie Sanders meme has been one of the fastest growing and most viral memes in the last couple of years. Personal accounts, small businesses, and big corporations alike have created and share their own versions of the Bernie meme.

The beauty of the Bernie meme is that is surprisingly un-political. Despite Sanders being a political figure, the meme is relatable because of his behavior as a person.

Sharing the Bernie meme does not show your advocacy for any of his policies, it simply shows that you can take a comedic lens to his picture and relate it back to everyday things.

Since the original photo went viral on inauguration day, Brendan Smialowski‘s photo has been shared by billions of people and companies. Some of the most notable ones are Shopify, Smile Direct Club, Wikihow, Netlfix’s Schitt’s Creek, and Benefit Cosmetics.

Each company took a unique spin on the photo, representing relatable struggles or thoughts associated with them. While this may sound counterintuitive, its actually a great way to validate and acknowledge the struggles of your customers. A great example would be the ASOS meme where they are relating to people who are impatient waiting for their package to arrive.

Ikea bernie meme

While many companies have used the meme for social media engagement, Ikea took it one step further. They developed an ad for a chair they sell which resembles the one which Sanders is seated in in the viral photo. The ad ran on multiple social media platforms recently. It is unclear if the ad resulted in an increase of sales, but it definitely made a statement.

Even Sanders capitalized on the virality of his own meme, starting a merch line in which all the profits (1.8 Million Dollars) were donated to charity.

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The Benefits Of Memes For Businesses

Now that we’ve seen some examples of successful meme and social media strategies, let’s talk about all of the benefits that can come from them.


This is one of the biggest goals for new and expanding companies because it means your content can be seen by more eyes, often new customers. Memes are a great way to do this because they are a multi-genre piece of media, in other words, anyone can share them and leave a trail back to you.

2.Brand Awareness: 

This often comes along with reach; however, it only happens if people interact with your content and discover your social media profiles. When someone shares your content and then discovers your company by association, they are now becoming aware of you as a brand and may grown interest in you. The more you share, the more your name gets out there.

3.Customer Interaction:

Memes often have higher interaction than any other type of social media post because of the ridiculous nature of them. Users could comment or share them because they think they’re funny, or because they think they are absurdly ridiculous. Either way, this is good news for you because you want people to start talking about your company eventually. As you establish an internet presence, memes will also be a great space for you to interact with your followers about you as a company.

4.Company Culture:

Taking Wendy’s and Netflix as direct examples, using memes also helps you establish your company culture to your customers and potential future employees. In the age of technology, everyone is looking for their information on social media instead of on search engines. Job hunters are more likely than not to look at your social media accounts for information on what it would be like to work for you, so you want to make them feel welcome. In addition, customers are more likely to buy from a company who treats their employees well and has a strong team.

5.Establishing an Internet Presence:

This is possibly the most important benefit from a social media strategy, and it should be your primary goal. Again, with the growth of the internet and how much people look to it, it is vital for your company to have a strong online presence. This means you are active, you have established a clear personality, and you are interactive with other accounts. Additionally, your legitimacy as an account and as a company will be determined by your following, so the longer you keep up your accounts the more legitimate you will appear. This goal is harder to work towards, and is time consuming, but the more you post the easier it is to establish.

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How To Use A Meme As A Company

There are a couple of things to keep in mind before you just start posting memes. As seen in the examples I gave, it takes practice and particularity to have a successful meme campaign. Posting old or non-relevant memes may land you in the judgement zone where social media users ridicule your post.

The world of social media comedy can be a cruel one, but you can’t let that stop you. Before posting, ask yourself; Is this relevant to my company, product, or service? Is this a trending meme or is it a couple of years old? Is it politically charged? Will it offend anyone? Could I find something better?

The second thing you need to be on top of is when something is trending. Its good practice to keep an eye on the trending pages of social media and to look to your competitors to see what topics may be of interest at the time. If you see something funny that is going viral, act fast and relate it back to your business.

The last and most important point is to do your research. If you don’t know what something means, or if there is an underlying meaning that you don’t want to portray, you should avoid posting it.


Nothing is worse that a horde of social media users calling you out for inauthenticity and lack of relevancy, not just to your company but to social media in general. By this I mean, things become irrelevant when they are over shared after a few weeks.

Despite all this, nothing trumps authenticity and uniqueness. As we’ve seen, you can create your own memes which are related to your company or which repurpose some of your company’s material.

This is the ultimate goal, and one which is not always successful the first couple of times. If you don’t already have a strong social media presence, you may want to start with trending memes instead of making your own. This will help get your name out there, grow your following, and open you up to new social media possibilities. And as always, you should be having fun doing it, after all, they are jokes.

In Conclusion...

The moral of the story is that in this day in age, your presence on social media is crucial and requires a well-thought-out strategy. Getting started can seem daunting and required more time and energy than you may already be spending, but the pay-off is well worth it.

Want to learn more about how to establish a strong social media strategy? Check out some of our other agency blogs on the subject:

You know what would make your social media strategy even better? A social influencer campaign to help increase your brand awareness. Check out our User's Guidebook for some tips and tricks. 

How To Connect Your Brand With Social Influencers