5 brands killing it with memes (good and bad)

Jake Madsen talks about his love affair with memes and highlights the brands fuelling our group WhatsApp chats…

I loved the World Cup, but more entertaining than the football was the World Cup meme machine. #ItsComingHome memes were everywhere and I made it my goal to see every one of them.

Source: Wired

Why my mania for memes?

Memes are a refreshing antidote to the noise of the internet, perfectly encapsulating the timely culture of the day. And what’s more, you know they’re good because they come to you pre-approved, endorsed by the people you trust most – your mates.
Getting geeky, the Wired Guide to Memes chronicles the genesis of the meme (essential reading for anyone looking to get up to speed) and describes the meme as “bits of cultural DNA that encode society’s shared experiences while also constantly evolving”. More frankly, a meme is a shared understanding of like-mindedness reflected in culture, and must be funny.


The brand bandwagon

I’m always interested in how brands get involved with memes. To my mind, they represent one of the last real chances of content virality. There are also some cringe howlers that make for light entertainment. So let’s look at some brands that have used memes well and not so well.


It’s all Gucci

When brands get involved with memes, they usually kill it (not in the good way) but Gucci played a masterstroke with their timepiece campaign last year, based entirely on memes. Why did it work? It was genuinely funny, unexpected, tapped into meme culture but didn’t cheapen the brand. Some commentators thought it was naff, but if you get the brand and what Creative Director Alessandro Michele is trying to achieve, it all ladders up.


Simple yet effective: Greggs

I like how memes are evolving too, adapting to each medium the internet throws at it, from rudimentary graphic images where brands like Greggs really know how to play the meme game well. What’s great is that Greggs know their audience and what makes them tick; it just feels natural.


The innovators: Adidas

On the flipside, there’s heavy innovation witnessed through Adidas, again coming from the World Cup. As The Drum points out, GIPHY recently partnered with Instagram to allow branded transparent emoji stickers, enabling audiences to create their own meme content, with subversive brand integration and, as you can imagine, Adidas’ partnership was achingly cool.

The Netflix effect 

Netflix’s advertising always fascinates me, so it was no surprise that when taking on memes they didn’t just stick to digital as is convention; they took the concept and applied it above the line to Tube adverts, targeting ever-growing numbers of mobile viewers.


William Hill

Increasingly brands are trying to get in on the act of memes, and why not. Except, as we know, audiences are savvy and will sniff a half-arsed corporate fake a mile away, remember ‘damn Daniel’? Well, brands tried desperately to get involved there too. 

If you were to come across a ‘how brands shouldn’t create a meme’ starter pack, elements of the example from William Hill might well be in there. The betting brand got caught up in the World Cup excitement, as Campaign rightly reported, the ill-judged exploitative promotion of the hashtag #ItsComingHome meant that anyone who used it would see a William Hill branded emoji football shirt. Yep, even under 18s. So much for ‘Gamble Responsibly’. Though the thing that really peeves people off in this instance, is that creatively it’s lacking.

But credit where it’s due, they tried to get involved and that takes guts and trust, which is a shame because not many brands allow that.

As a brand keen to hook into our cultural love affair with memes, the scope for success is not so simple. Contrary to industry opinion, there is no easy recipe for a killer branded meme. Like all content that sticks, it must be clever.

Admittedly, the best memes seem to appear out of thin air, and so with that, I leave you with this. My favourite, quite possibly the epitome of a meme, or mémé

Got a meme to share? Email it to me at Jake.Madsen@Seven.co.uk