Memejacking: why it works so well and how to do it

Mar 18, 2014
Memejacking: why it works so well and how to do it

Memes. What began as fun cartoons to get a laugh out of viewers has turned into marketing vehicles capable of going viral almost instantly. These amusing cartoons that speak to everything from being a mom to poking fun at public figures engage users and are shared without the publisher even needing to ask. Simple, fun and well-received, memes are here to stay.

Enter memejacking. The practice of hijacking popular, already established memes for the benefit of marketing your brand or product is an excellent, simple way to engage existing followers while reaching out to a whole new market.

What Exactly Is a Meme?

The term “meme” was first introduced in 1976 by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins; it comes from the Greek word mimema, which means “something imitated.” It was first meant to describe the method of humans transmitting social memories and cultural ideas and truths to one another; ideas that travel from one mind to another.

Now, almost exclusively online and available in various forms, memes are concepts that spread from one person to another in viral fashion online. They can be written word, spoken phrases, images or videos.

Why Memejacking Works

When exploring marketing options, the idea of using a meme may not have occurred to you, perhaps because of the seemingly complicated nature of creating them. This is where memejacking, or, as it’s sometimes called, memevertising, comes into play. By using an already established meme, most of the work is already done. Need more convincing? Here are five other reasons that memejacking is a successful marketing tactic.

  • They’re already established. Based on the previously mentioned definition, memes are not memes unless they’re already a popular, spreading theme throughout society. By using something that’s already popular and attaching a branded message, you’re leveraging the success of something that’s already gone viral without starting from the beginning. It’s easy street at its best.
  • They draw traffic. One of the most frustrating aspects of any marketing campaign is trying to drive traffic to a specific website. Memes do it for you. Regardless of their form, when they’re attached to a link, visitors are likely to check out the message behind the meme. They also attract likes and followers, increasing social network presences across the board.
  • We live in a culture that likes to share. Social media users of today are accustomed to going online and sharing the information they find. Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or another network, each one is designed to help users engage one another through sharing. If you’re meme attracts attention, it’s likely to be shared unlike any other marketing form.
  • They’re practically designed for social media. Along with being easy to share, social media networks tend to prioritize images and videos. Users want to see information that’s easy to process and sends a message without a lot of thought. This is a basic tenant of memes.
  • They couldn’t be easier to create. For any marketer, content creation is a regular activity that requires intense effort and thought. There’s no way around it: marketing campaigns are driven by targeted content. Because memes are simple to create and easy to share, they could become a staple of any successful marketing initiative.

Getting Started with Memejacking

Know the Basics

You don’t need to be a professional designer to hijack a meme. But, you should have a basic idea of how to use editing software like Photoshop or even an online iteration, such as Pixlr or Canva. (Heck, half the time I just navigate to Pixlr to avoid firing up Photoshop, if what I’m doing is easy.) If these are above your level, online platforms like Meme Generator exist to make the process even easier.

Be Ready

You never know when the right meme will come along. Be on the lookout and ready to jump. The most successful examples of memejacking have happened when a meme has gone viral, but there have been little to no additional highjacking attempts. You want to be the original one to put a spin on the meme for best results.

Understand That Memes are Fair Game

As a marketer, you’ve probably considered the implications of copyright infringement frequently. Luckily, there have been no examples of companies being punished for memejacking. Use common sense and try to track down the owner of the image if you’re going to be making a lot of money on the piece, but, understand that for the most part, memes are fair game. One of the most popular current memes for hijacking is based upon Dos Equis’s Most Interesting Man. So far, there have been no complaints or issues.

Think About Tying the Meme into Your Brand

A meme will not work as a marketing tool if it’s not somehow related to your brand. So, while something may be perfect, if it can’t be applied to what your brand offers, it’s best to stay clear.

From Sprint to Old Spice to Wonderful Pistachios, it seems like everyone’s promoting themselves with memes, be it on their Facebook page, their website, or even on a billboard, as was the case with Virgin Mobile and their ads using “Success Kid.”

Brands with millions of followers aren’t the only ones using memes, though. A great example of a business with around 30,000 Facebook fans using memes to reach out is Mosquito Magnet, a company known for their repellent products. Their memes, shared regularly on the company’s Facebook page, use funny and relatable images to draw attention to the fact that we all deal with mosquitoes.

Even individuals are getting in on the action – in 2012, riding the wave of Carly Rae Jepson’s hit song “Call Me Maybe,” animal activist and pet fashion designer Anthony Rubio created an “Adopt Me, Maybe” campaign for a local shelter.

Have Fun

Unlike the more tedious aspects of marketing, memes are about fun, not just for the viewers and sharers, but the creators. Think of messages that resonate with you and consider how your target market would react. Have fun and use creativity to your advantage.

Memejacking is set to become one of the most simple, cheap and effective marketing forms that exist online. Are you ready to incorporate it into your strategy? If so, consider the ideas above and stake out, your opportunity could be waiting just around the corner.

Adrienne Erin is an outreach specialist at WebpageFX who is obsessed with social media marketing. She has written for Content Marketing Institute, SiteProNews, and Socialnomics. Catch up with her on Google+ or Twitter to see more of her work, or check out her blog, Design Roast.

Photos: TribalCafe | Bikini Marketing | Stephen Cannon | Anthony Rubio

About the author

Social media blogger/designer who loves sharing ideas and making awesome stuff. I write for @SiteProNews @BlogHerald @Socialnomics. Health tweets: @foodierx

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