View all posts Go to

A meme to remember: The Psychology of memes in marketing

In times when user-generated content is the talk of the town, having memes as an unexplored territory is not an opportunity you’d want to miss, especially as a creator of content for social media. Memes today include a lot more than just viral templates. Mimetic videos – a reminiscence of what used to be famously called vines, and today TikTok too come under the same umbrella of content creation. But most importantly, what it does impart is a look straight into the consumer’s behaviour with content. 

It induces ’participatory culture’ – among users, and thus more specifically, the audience you aim to reach. The secret behind participatory culture? Establishing a shared language that has memorable moment elements that later result in positive association with the brand.

PC Mag using memes
PCMag is a popular computer magazine that slowly transitioned into a meme-based post format.

Take a moment to ponder: The lifespan of a meme is short in the internet space and yet its rate of conversion through replication is high. For brands, this makes for an ideal framework to embed themselves into the consumer’s mind. So how do you incorporate the psychology of memes into marketing and advertising?

Here’s how:

Novelty in Framework

Pick any meme template of your choice. Every meme is essentially a symbol. 

There exists a narrative in every meme that can be personalised to suit the viewer or creator. Such flexibility in its dispersion can be credited to the fact that the piece of content or rather, the meme template is able to create an emotional association through its symbolism.

Bernie Sanders meme in marketing

For brands, symbols are elements that require the least mental energy to be recognised and yet hold the power to be associable as an informative resource. To be able to use brand elements in novel methods while still staying dedicated to the prescribed framework showcases the versatility of the brand itself, and its limits of communication.

Cultural Strategy

Memes today are available on a plethora of platforms, in multiple versions. The reason templates, mimetic videos, or reactions are easily recycled is owed to the ability of this form of content to be reaction-friendly.

As brands, looking to compete for attention comes not from advertising superiority but rather from taking stands that have functional or emotional impact on the target audience. Opening up doors to allow for critical reactions to phenomena (provided it aligns with your brand) will hammer home a value that they are unlikely to find in competitors.

Tools of social marketing

With access to social media networks getting easier than ever before, engaging with media is more a habit of the muscle than conscious effort. Memes fit this bill perfectly. They are short pieces of information, more often than not – humorous and flexible to use in any platform. That reddit meme he screenshotted on instagram is still just as funny. 

While access increases, attention is on a steady decline. Users have a shorter span of attention which means that the process of encoding and decoding needs to be swift and effective all at once. How is this achieved? Through simplicity and repetitiveness. 

Imagine brand marketing and communication campaigns following the same mantra – creating multiple versions of the same content that is short enough to fit the consumer’s allotted viewing time span and ensuring reliability that nudges the action of sharing with others.

Zomato marketing strategy
“cool brand posting lit memes to stay relevant 🔥” – Zomato’s Instagram bio tells it all.

Advertising is no longer a hierarchy. Consumer opinions shape brand image. While as a brand, you are in control of the content until it’s posted, it takes life based on the consumer’s perception of your ideology.  This is the modern-era equivalent of word-of-mouth advertising. 

All these options and you still choose the road most taken? You are missing out on an internet culture that is here to stay.  In order to leverage the popularity of memes in the right way for marketing and communications it is important to remember what’s functional for your platform and business. If the fundamentals are right, swerving through the competition is almost…easy (almost!) 

Share this article