Memejacking: The Complete Guide to Creating Memes for Marketing


Success Kid. Old Spice Man. Rage Comics. These days, memes are spreading like wildfire all over the internet, and clever marketers are jumping on the opportunity to use these viral pieces of content to their advantage. Don't believe me? Check out these 10 memes masquerading as marketing campaigns.

And honestly, who doesn't love a good meme? They're funny, clever, and great for social sharing. So as a marketer, memejacking (hijacking popular memes for your own benefit -- in this case, for marketing purposes) can be a great way to create some fun, engaging content that shows off your brand's personality and likeability. And we could always use some more content. Am I right, or am I right, marketers? In fact, the image we used above takes on a memejacking approach itself!

What's a Meme?

Let's take a step back for a second for all you marketers we lost at the mention of the word 'meme.' First of all, just to keep you from sounding ignorant at your next marketing meeting or cocktail party, meme is pronounced 'meem,' not 'mem-ay,' as one anonymous HubSpotter here has been known to mispronounce it.

A meme is quite simply a concept, behavior, or idea that spreads, usually via the internet. Memes most commonly manifest themselves in a visual such as a picture or a video, but it can also take the form of a link, hashtag, a simple word or phrase (e.g. an intentional misspelling), or even an entire website.

In addition to the few examples we shared in the introduction to this post, check out some of the most popular memes of the past 15 years to get a sense of what memes can be about. Recognize any? Surely you're familiar with LOLcats.

Why Memejacking Is Awesome for Marketing

Memejacking for marketing is awesome on so many levels. We've touched on a few of these already, but let's elaborate, shall we?

1) They're Already Viral

A concept doesn't exactly get classified as a meme if it's not fun, engaging, and wildly popular. That's why memes are so great for marketing. Rather than creating something from scratch and crossing your fingers that it 'goes viral,' you're leveraging an idea that is already successful. 

2) They Make Great Social Media Fodder

You're aware of all the fuss about visual content lately, right? Visual content is practically made for social media sharing, and because memes are usually visually oriented, they make great fodder for your social media accounts such as Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest.

3) They Attract Traffic, Likes, and Links

Because memes are so share-worthy, they're fantastic for generating traffic and visibility to your social media accounts. Memes attract +1s, likes, repins, comments, and shares like crazy, making it more likely that your social content will gain traction in social media and spread.

hubspot sales meme resized 600 hubspot marketers meme resized 600

For example, when HubSpot memejacked the 'What People Think I Do/What I Really Do' meme for our Facebook page, our sales-themed meme generated an impressive 453 likes, 57 comments, 256 shares, and our marketer version accumulated a whopping 460 likes, 53 comments, 337 shares. And when memes are used on your own website/blog, you'll reap the benefits of traffic and inbound links, too!

4) They're Quick and Easy to Create

For inbound marketers, content creation is a daily job. Because so much of your marketing campaigns depend on content (and fresh content, at that), having some easy-to-create types of content at your disposal is a marketer's dream come true. Memes offer just that. They're easy -- and they usually take little time -- to create. More on this, well, right now ...

How to Successfully Jack a Meme

Because memes are often very simple (like the one I created by hijacking the 'Y U NO' Guy meme), they're usually very quick and easy to create. Some basic knowledge of a photo editing tool like Photoshop (or hey ... even Microsoft Paint can sometimes do the trick) can come in handy when hijacking brand new memes, but you'll find that there tons of meme generators out there like Meme Generator and quickmeme that make it extremely simple to hijack popular memes. For example, to create my meme for this post, I conducted a Google search for "Y U No Guy Meme Generator," and came across the tool that enabled me to create the meme pictured at the top of this post.

While most memes are very easy to hijack, some can be a bit more complicated if elements like video are involved. For example, DreamWorks featured its Shrek-based character, Puss in Boots playing the Old Spice Man in the following 2011 trailer to promote the movie spinoff, Puss in Boots.

That being said, even memes that have originated as videos have been successfully adapted into images, as evident by the Old Spice Man meme, which originated as a series of videos. But hey, if you have a talent for video and feel you can hijack that popular new video meme, go for it!

Ready to do some memejacking of your own? Here are our top memejacking tips ...

Best Practices for Memejacking Creation

Try to Jump on it Quickly

The most successful instances of memejacking for marketing occur when a meme is at its tipping point -- it's started to spread wildly, yet few have hijacked it. This is your memejacking sweet spot, since memes can start to feel old after everyone and their mother has hijacked it.

To stay ahead of the curve and stay on top of trending memes as they start cropping up, browse social bookmarking sites like Reddit or StumbleUpon, which are known to surface up-and-coming memes before more mainstream social networks like Facebook and Twitter. In fact, just staying well connected online and abreast of the latest news can keep you on top of the latest breaking memes. 

Understand the Meme

Before you memejack, make sure you're well educated about what the meme means and implies. The last thing you want to do is offend your audience or memejack something you wouldn't have if you had fully understood the connotations of it. Luckily, the folks over at Know Your Meme are usually on top of the popular memes, their histories, and their claims to fame so you can determine whether a meme is appropriate for your audience.

Ask Yourself, "Will Our Audience Appreciate It?"

To piggyback off the last point, understand that using memes will only be successful in your marketing if your audience appreciates the particular meme you're hijacking. If your audience doesn't have any connection to the meme, doesn't understand it, or doesn't think it's funny, it doesn't matter if it's already been wildly popular among a general internet audience.

Make Sure it's Relatable to Your Brand

Most importantly, make sure your memejacking isn't at the expense of being relatable. The way you hijack your meme should have something to do with your brand, industry, etc. If it's a stretch to create a funny meme that relates to your brand, then it's probably not worth doing. The most successful memejacks are those that cleverly incorporate some essence of the brand -- its industry, messaging, mission, slogan, etc.

Remember, according to a Facebook study, posting content about subjects related to your brand generates the most engagement (at least when it comes to Facebook posts). In other words, posting content unrelated to your brand -- like the latest internet meme that can in no way be aligned with your brand -- just isn't going to cut it.

Be Funny/Witty/Entertaining

The most successful examples of memejacking have entertainment value, so while it's critical to make sure your audience can relate to it, don't aim to be serious. The tone should be funny and/or witty, so use language and copy that achieves those goals.

Align With the Original Meme's Core Components

Make sure your memejack sticks to the original meme's format, style, and includes the same components. Otherwise, you'll have a memejacking #FAIL on your hands. Remember the meme above that HubSpot hijacked on our Facebook page -- the 'What People Think I Do/What I Really Do' meme? Take another look at our 'Marketers' version. It appears to be missing the critical 'What I REALLY Do' frame, doesn't it? While this oversight (luckily) didn't really affect the success of our meme, we did feel a bit silly about it when a commenter called us out on it. Whoops! 

hubspot marketers meme resized 600 error

How to Spread Your Memes

Okay, now you understand some of the key memejacking for marketing best practices. So once you've created a meme to use in your marketing, what do you do with it? Well, as we mentioned earlier, memes make for really awesome visual content to use in your social media marketing efforts. But it doesn't have to stop there. Here are some great ways to make the most out of your funny new meme:

1) Share it in Social Media

Plain and simple, plant your meme in prime sharing environments -- social networks. Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest are perfect social networks for memes, because they're all sites where visual content thrives. Post your meme to your Facebook and Google+ pages accompanied by a witty remark or brief description, and pin it to an appropriate pinboard on Pinterest (perhaps you can create a board dedicated to memes). Share it on Twitter, in addition to other niche social networks you might have a presence on.

2) Use it as a Visual Element in Other Website Content

Don't stop at just sharing your meme in social media. Create a blog post featuring your meme, and add a call-to-action to the post so you can optimize it for lead generation and convert any visitors into leads. This will also give you something to link to when you share your meme in social networks. Consider also using it within other content or on other web pages as a visual enhancement, if and when appropriate.

3) Optimize it for Social Sharing

If you do decide to put your meme on your website -- either in a blog post or on another web page -- be sure to optimize that page for social sharing. Make it easy for your visitors to share your meme themselves by adding social sharing buttons, particularly for visual social networks like Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest. This will help to extend the reach of your meme, as visitors will share it with their own personal connections in social media, getting visibility for your meme beyond your direct network.

Have you ever done any memejacking for marketing? What were the results? Share a link to your meme in the comments!

download 60 customizable social media graphic templates