Mainstreaming Memes

In late August, Bud Light announced an open position for Chief Meme Officer. Part publicity campaign, part giveaway and part actual job opening, the beer’s Chief Meme Officer role boasts a $5,000 per month salary for three months in exchange for creating five memes per week. Not a bad gig. Though the position appears to have not yet been filled, the announcement still signals insights about the role memes play in content marketing for brands. Progressive brands like Bud Light are evolving how they want to engage with their audience. It’s a bold move to let go of some creative control and allow a fan to drive the voice, tone and emotion of the brand, but the move is just another evolution of how brands wade deeper into the secret language and conversations of pop culture.

The best PR and social media work happens where an unchanging brand identity meets a real-world truth, and nowhere is that better illustrated right now than in memes. Brand-driven memes represent how a singular emotion is connected to a moment in pop culture or time, and as brands continue to evolve themselves to be more human, memes are a great creative tool they can use to talk with their audiences about how they feel and what they believe in.

Navigating Potential Issues with Memes

Memes make it okay to poke fun and toy with boundaries, but there are memes with questionable origins, which is why some brands can be hesitant to jump in. This is where having an agile system in place to vet and review comes into play. Passing proposed memes through diverse teams for a quick Google search, news research and an honest gut check can protect brands from a mishap that damages reputation and alienates consumers. 

Since memes come from real life, someone or some brand owns the initial right, so another big issue has always been the questions surrounding adding paid media dollars to a meme. However, we could argue that memes have become a form of digital language in our society, not unlike emojis, and by leaning into that, brands can use memes as a form of protected free speech for organic content. By creating their own memes and using the power of their brand as a pop culture icon, brands like Bud Light are learning, adapting and adding legitimacy to memes. 

Are Memes Right for Your Brand?

Memes work for some brands, but they’re not right for everyone. Deciding whether to use memes in digital content requires an understanding of target audience and the nuances of each meme opportunity. 

No matter who a brand is though, everything they do ultimately gets put through the “dad joke” or the “they are too old” filter. Just a few years ago, we were having the same conversations about emojis and Snapchat. Memes are no different. Just like then, every brand needs to make its own decision on when, how and if to use memes, especially based on who their intended audience is. More than ever, a brand’s job is to connect with its consumers and be relevant. 

A strong in-house team and an agile agency partner can help make meme magic, acting on an intimate knowledge of target audiences and a finger on the pulse of pop culture and trends. Or, if you’re feeling daring, you could always just hire a Chief Meme Officer.

About the Author: Jason is the VP of Public Relations and Social Media at OH Partners. He’s a communications executive with over 15 years of experience across a diversified and has seen his fair share of crisis situations. Through all of it, he believes in challenging conventions and driving creative solutions and communications plans that add real value and breakthrough.



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