‘Make it make sense’
A meme, like any joke, has an intended audience, and the larger the crossover between that group and a brand’s own target audience, the more likely a meme post will land.
For example, the “Little Miss” meme has resonated primarily with Gen Z users, said Sam Hobson Fairman, founder and CEO of creative agency Sauce Media Group. This means that brands serving this demographic may have an easier time playing into the trend.
HBO Max and NBC Entertainment—both media companies that have strong Gen Z audiences—posted “Little Miss” memes of their own, as did Starbucks.
But even brands that cater to other generations don’t necessarily have to sit out for this kind of meme. These marketers will only need to tweak their posts in order to still speak the language of their target consumers, said Hobson Fairman. A heavy dose of self-awareness, perhaps even self-deprecation, reflected in the actual post, could boost the resonance for those wondering why the brand is posting in the first place.
“Make it make sense for your audience,” Hobson Fairman said.
Another way to be cautiously selective is for brands to embrace memes that match the tone or personality of their previous marketing. Consider Wendy’s, which tweeted “They’re a 10 but they say they’re lovin’ it.” The effort is risky in two ways: It enters the brand into a conversation that is all about naming negative character flaws—an easy way to ostracize fans—and it not so subtly takes a shot at a competitor (in this case, McDonald’s). But Wendy’s isn’t new to an irreverent marketing style. Its Twitter account is known for teasing people, culminating in an annual effort for “National Roast Day,” where it lambasts any brand brave enough to step into its sights.
“First and foremost, [our participation in memes] is about knowing who we are as a brand ... so when we notice a popular meme or trend that resonates with who we are, and who our audience is, that’s where we lean in,” wrote Kristin Tormey, social media and gaming manager for Wendy’s, in an email.