Can I Has Meme Pictures for Ads? You Certainly Can!

crying face on the phone

If you’re like the majority of the global population, you’ve spent a lot of time on the internet, which means you’ve also seen plenty of meme pictures. If you’re unfamiliar with them, memes are captioned images that make jokes, illustrate ironies, express opinions and make comparisons. Think Baby Yoda holding a cup of tea, the “Success Kid” or the woman holding back her furious friend in one frame while a white cat sits at the dining table in another frame. These are just some of the famous funny meme pictures of the decade.

But consider this thought: what if memes meet your marketing strategy?

Plenty of famous brands have been using memes to draw interest and build relationships with their followers. Think BarkBox, Netflix, Seamless, and GUCCI (yes, Gucci). You can follow in their footsteps by incorporating meme pictures into your marketing activities and brand designs. Think of it as one of the best ways to boost your content marketing efforts, too.

Can You Use Memes in Advertising?

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash


Memes are humorous tools you can use to make a point successfully. But they are also limited. If you want to make a tasteful meme ad, using any template to make it fit your message will not work.

You have to use the image’s context to execute the ad perfectly.

So before you use funny meme pictures for your ads, learn how they work first because one does not simply use memes without research (see what we did there?).

What are Memes?

Memes are the reaction images you see repeated multiple times online. Most of these meme pictures are often captioned with white font outlined in black. Usually, the photo or caption changes to make a witty observation or a joke.

Evolutionary biologist and author Richard Dawkins was the one who coined the term “meme.” He defined it as an idea or behavior that spreads from one person to another. These people must be in the same culture to fully appreciate the meme.

Similar to other pieces of pop culture, these funny meme pictures have life cycles. When a meme attracts attention from people, it will be shared often until it reaches its saturation point. But when you see less of a meme picture, its popularity is declining. Most memes eventually reach the end of their life cycles, but some memes, like the distracted boyfriend, have left their permanent mark on the internet.

Why Memes Work

Photo from Medium

So why should you use memes for your marketing strategy? Short answer: they work.

Long explanation: memes are carriers of culture.

Whether you use popular memes or simple cartoon memes, memes collect emotions, actions, and ideas in simple and transferable form, which makes them perfect for spreading your message in an online environment.

Other points for using meme pictures for marketing are:

  • They simplify capitalizing on shared knowledge
  • They lead to higher audience engagement
  • They humanize your brand, giving you an authentic online presence
  • They increase the chances of people remembering your brand when they see the meme somewhere else

Another incredible thing about memes is that you can use them in almost any marketing material: email templates, presentations, flyers, ads, social media banners (and other forms of digital marketing) and brand merchandise. You can even have a meme profile picture (but you’ll have to learn more about copyright).

No matter where you use them, these reaction images are an easy way to add fun to your marketing strategy.

So how can you use memes in your marketing?

How Can I Use Memes for My Marketing?

Photo from Pace

Here are ways to tastefully include funny meme pictures in your marketing strategy:

Make Sure the Meme Matches Your Brand

Memes are appealing to audiences, but not all ads with memes work in terms of maintaining brand consistency. As memes become more mainstream, however, even bigger brands are experimenting with memes to grow a following. Memes significantly expand your reach, especially if your target audience is composed of the younger generation. They also make your brands more accessible on social media.

The key to using memes is to not overthink and still be authentic. Edgy advertising demonstrates your brand’s unique voice and personality.

When refining your tone, define your target market first:

  • What content will your customers consume?
  • How can you catch their attention?
  • What are their hobbies and preferences?
  • What are their pain points and how can you assure them?

Once you have an idea of your target market’s potential content, make relatable jokes or create commentaries on cultural trends and relevant fads. Commit to a niche or a subculture is your endgame. Also, refrain from including an action item. The point of the meme is not transactional; you want to grow your following, which can eventually increase your sales in the future.

Build Your Meme Library

To develop your meme picture library, create your own or leverage existing memes.

If you want to create original memes, know that it takes more time and creativity. Original memes are challenging since you have to source the materials for the meme, overlay commentary, and decide on the format. It can be time-consuming, but you have more chances of increasing your ad’s shares.

Try turning funny clips that you accidentally catch into a GIF or a looping video. If you are selling physical products, display them in unexpected use cases. If you have products that the customers can take photos with, ask your community if you can use their videos and photos.

If you want to repurpose existing memes, browse through popular meme collections, such as Giphy, imgflip or even 9GAG (aka THE meme haven). Look through viral videos or meme templates then add an original caption.

One of the best ways to repurpose memes is by reimagining dialogues from popular movie scenes. This method is easier for first-time meme-makers since they can use the format for context, as well as a stable joke outline.

Incorporate Memes in Your Content

The first way you can do this is by reacting to a recent cultural phenomenon. Post a reaction to a trending event, like random holidays (May the 4th Be With You) or a live event, like Monday night football. You can also repost relevant user-generated memes. Since most meme creators accept the reposting of their content, reshare and repost memes with your original caption.

Is Using Memes Legal? Can It Backfire On You?

Photo from Plagiarism Today

Although there are no restrictions on meme usage, as well as how you can use them well, there are many ways you can protect your business in case the meme pictures backfire on your business.

  • Check the rights of the meme. Be aware of the risks that you’re taking when it comes to using an image. Internet memes are often free to use. If you don’t have the rights to the original image, however, you have to obtain copyright protection. But the legality of use still depends on a particular meme. Still, some memes are not protected by copyright.
  • Create a clear policy. Learn your brand’s tolerable level of copyright risk and develop guidelines that everyone on the marketing team will abide by.
  • Consider the alternatives. If you want to use a specific image but aren’t comfortable with the implications, consider alternative paths.

In general, most popular meme pictures are copyrighted. Unless the photo is classified as a Creative Commons graphic or is under the public domain, assume that you don’t have the right to share it. Unless you’ve secured permission to, you may face meme-owners seeking damage claims for the misuse of their images.

So before you use memes for your marketing strategy, consult with a legal team or a lawyer to know if it’s permissible.

The Bottom Line

Memes are exploding on the Internet and more people are consuming memes online. Many brands are using memes to improve their marketing strategy. When you choose to do the same thing, trust your instincts for humor. If you don’t think the meme is interesting, insightful, or even funny, your customers won’t either.

Always use your best judgment when making marketing materials with memes. So, go forth and make ALL the memes.

GIF from Giphy

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