How-To: Memes for Marketing

Apr 24, 2013


Article ImageThe word Meme (pronounced "meem") was coined in 1976 by biologist Richard Dawkins. According to his book, The Selfish Gene, a meme "refer{s} to any cultural entity that an observer might consider a replicator..." Of course, Wikipedia defines it more simply, as "how cultural information spreads on the internet."

Businesses are just beginning to learn how to use these powerful tools. Memes are often used to create market buzz online. Some memes have been known to go from one viewer to 40,000 in less than a week. The business that knows how to properly use memes can gain exposure not possible through traditional marketing methods.

Deciding On Your Topic

Before you create or participate in a meme, think carefully about the feeling you want to elicit in the and then plan accordingly.

Additionally, you'll want to brand your meme with your business name/website so when it separates from your website, people will still know where it came from.


Memejacking is the practice of borrowing from an already popular meme. This is far easier than trying to think of brand new concepts and ideas - and hoping it goes viral. There are two ways to "jack" a meme, by borrowing the words/sentiments or by borrowing the picture.

Borrowing images can get tricky because of the legalities involved. However, there are meme generators online that specialize in licensed images. 

For businesses that feel uneasy about borrowing pictures, there's still a way to jack a meme. Instead of borrowing the picture, you can always borrow the concept. Borrowing the concept is one of the best ways for a business to create its own fresh and original memes while still tapping into the power of ones that are already viral.

The best example of memejacking a concept is the popular "What People I Think I Do" memes. These types of memes allow for enough creativity to be considered original while still following a proven format. 

Creating the Meme

To make a good meme, all you need is PowerPoint, an image, a bold, attention-getting font, and imagination. With its advanced photo editing features, PowerPoint enables you to insert images, use backgrounds, overlay words right on top of the pictures and use word art. It even lets you save your work as a jpeg.

The following sites offer a plethora of free images with forgiving Terms of Service. However, be sure to read the rights on the particular image you're considering before using it:, Wikimedia Commons, , and

Getting Your Meme Seen

Creating a meme is pointless unless it finds an audience. Uploading it to your own site first will help ensure that you are cited as the original creator. To better the chances that your meme will go viral, make it easy to share, by placing large share buttons in its direct proximity.

Then email your marketing lists about your new meme and include a link. Also provide a way for them to share your email.

As soon as your meme is live on your site, share it via your social media channels. Memes are extremely popular on Facebook and it's a way to reach many people very quickly. Pinterest's visual focus makes it a great place to share memes - and doesn't limit you to simply sharing with your followers.  Not only can you share your meme directly on Pinterest, Pinterest also has a built in Facebook app so your fans can see what you've posted on Pinterest.

Good memes can capture the attention of thousands, if not millions of people very quickly. Though no one can actually predict which memes will go viral, putting out a steady stream of memes that brand your business and call out your customers is a great place to start.