TikTok Trends and Pop Culture: Incorporating Viral Memes into Branding

TikTok Trends
TikTok Trends

Today, memes have a special place, influencing conversations and setting trends across various platforms. With its short, catchy videos, TikTok has become the epicenter of meme culture. While they are used for entertainment purposes by the general public, memes have also been noticed by businesses. For brands aiming to significantly impact this cool platform, using InfluBoss to grow your followers on TikTok can guarantee that your content garners the attention it deserves.

Whether capturing a reaction to a particular event, illustrating an idea or a state of mind, this format makes it possible to hijack an image or video by appropriating it humorously. As visual formats well-suited to communication on social platforms, they have great viral potential for originally engaging a community.

TikTok is a powerful platform for promoting services and goods. Brands are actively using it to increase their audience. Memes are now a good weapon for such an increase. How can businesses benefit from a meme marketing strategy? In this article, we look at the principles of memes and how to exploit their benefits for your brand.

What is a Meme?

From “Sad Keanu”, which hijacks a cliché of the American actor Keanu Reeves, to that of a Turkish butcher known as “Salt Bae”, the meme concept has spread widely on the Internet over the last few decades. According to the good old dictionaries, a meme is “an idea, behavior, style or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture”. Memes have become such a craze because they fit into our culture. They are developed and spread based on our people and real-life situations.

The concept first appeared in 1976 in the book “The Selfish Gene” by British biologist Richard Dawkins, who defined it as a cultural object transmitted from one person to another through imitation and misappropriation.

How to Use Memes in Your Marketing Strategy

With the development of digital culture, the meme corresponds more specifically to an image or video with a caption, usually humorous, which spreads rapidly within a community of Internet users. This format is, above all, popular for its potential for unique and unlimited re-appropriation: each Internet user can reinterpret an original meme and adapt it to a new situation, sometimes extending its lifespan over several years.

Often referring to elements of popular culture or current affairs, the Internet meme is based on four main characteristics:

  • the humorous tone of its message
  • the diversity of its formats
  • its format, which Internet users can customize
  • its ability to spread virally on social networks.

Like audience targeting, content localisation is becoming important as many audiences still want to feel connected to their roots. As every brand strives to increase customer engagement, localisation becomes essential – local memes easily resonate with audiences, increasing their loyalty.

The Characteristics of a Meme

Another factor in the success of memes is their universality. They generate strong public identification with everyday situations, behaviors and cultural references while appealing to their emotional capital through humor. This universality makes it easy to share with a large community that can easily identify with the message being communicated.

Memes Encourage Engagement

While social networks, especially TikTok, are an opportunity for companies to raise their profile, the sheer volume of content published makes it a challenge to capture consumers’ attention. Users can quickly spread them among their community because they arouse natural emotion, whether laughter or curiosity.

Moreover, memes encourage sharing and appropriation by design, meaning several people can post the same content frequently for widespread visibility on social platforms.

Interestingly, many memes originate on TikTok and are already different from those that go viral on other social networks. Therefore, you should also pay attention to this.

Memes Reveal the Human Side of a Company

Because of their humor, brands use memes to break away from traditional promotional publications. They offer their audience a human and offbeat form of communication and can demonstrate a brand’s ability to surprise and play with the codes of its industry.

At a time when Internet users are looking for realistic and original content online, particularly on social networks, marketing memes can help bring the public and companies closer together. In this way, memes can help forge a brand’s identity. Not only will localized content interest your audience, but it will get more likes and shares as people will be able to associate it with your content.

Original Communication Opportunity for Companies

So, memes are an interesting way for companies to engage consumers. However, it would help if you remembered a few basic rules to make the most of this format.

  • Memes are by nature entertaining: make sure your message remains informal while respecting your brand image.
  • Memes hate complication: keep your message clear and concise so that as many people can understand it.
  • Memes are an important interaction source: ensure your community can easily share content on their preferred networks besides TikTok.

Integrated into your marketing strategy in this way, memes can be a simple but creative way of giving your brand a high profile while creating an unexpected connection with your audience. This content has several advantages, making it an original tool for communicating with your community and creating a significant word-of-mouth effect around your corporate communications.

Simplicity is the Essence of a Meme

Creating a meme can be a simple technical process. It is, therefore, possible for a company to create its memes without mobilizing significant resources. All it takes to create a meme is an image belonging to the company or one free of copyright and a relevant message. But before designing this type of content, it is essential to ensure that the meme is consistent with a brand’s communication strategy and relevant to its audience. Otherwise, it could lead to bad buzz.

Yes, every brand wants to reach as many audiences as possible and promote their brand. However, it’s okay for brands to take a step back and not promote their brand occasionally. This golden rule is especially true when it comes to meme marketing.

When scrolling through a meme, it is the entertainment element people seek. Anything promotional can drive audiences away. Non-advertising content tends to go viral because it is usually useful and not limited to a product or service. It also helps a brand develop as an opinion leader.

When Memes Adapt to Corporate Messages

The viral potential of memes has yet to escape the attention of companies. Some have opted for a “meme marketing” strategy to promote their brands or products. But how can this format, designed for entertainment purposes, be turned into an asset for businesses?

4 Tips for Mastering Meme Codes

More than half (57%) of users feel free to express their creativity, finding in the application a unique territory of expression. TikTok offers a place like no other where music (the sound in videos is always on) accompanies users’ stories and is often the starting point. The full-screen vertical format makes it easier to view, share and enjoy the visual experience so dear to the “smartphone generation”. The way the application works means it’s accessible to everyone, and it’s popular for its ease of use and ‘all-inclusive’ proposition.

While a meme marketing strategy can interest businesses of all sizes, certain considerations must be considered. Because of its viral potential, a meme can be both an ally and a risk for a brand’s online reputation if the principles are not properly mastered.

Here are 4 tips to keep in mind when creating your corporate meme.

  1. Target your audience.

A digital culture phenomenon, the meme is a format that has won over Generation Z and millennials. It can be a lever of engagement for any company wishing to address this target audience using a familiar format. By using humorous codes and pop culture references, companies can use them to capture the attention of this type of audience.

However, as humour is not reserved for a single user category, it is possible to broadcast a message that will likely reach a wider community who could identify with it.

  • Surprise without rushing.

What is amusing for one audience may be perceived as offensive for another. Brands can face judgment from their community if their message needs to be revised.

Before using a meme, it’s important to consider its implications in terms of the following questions:

  • Can the meme offend certain communities?
  • Does it include ambiguous language and terms?
  • Is the visual appropriate for the general public?

A meme can be considered for publication if it complies with these points.

  • Stay relevant.

Although a meme is an opportunity for a company to modernise its communications, its use must align with the image it wishes to convey. Beware of the gender bias that can make memes counter-productive for a brand.

A meme can help reinforce a company’s identity only if used wisely. By appropriating this type of content, a traditional company can demonstrate its ability to appropriate a trend while remaining true to its image and the values it usually communicates.

  • Keep an eye on trends.

Whether you create your meme or adapt a free meme, it must align with what your company offers and the needs of consumers. Knowing what current topics drive TikTok and what trends your audience shares is a prerequisite for any meme marketing strategy.

By analysing their behaviour and habits, for example, through TikTok monitoring, you can create appropriate content that is likely to be shared.

Conclusion and Concerns

Although customers want their TikTok memes to be funny, marketers need to realise that there is a very fine line between funny and offensive. Therefore, one should do all sorts of research before posting memes on social media. If the audience finds the posted meme offensive or affecting their feelings, the brand will immediately lose its reputation.

As with ARGs (Alternate Reality Games), brands are trying to get to grips with these viral digital media. The aim is to create an open brand image that does not rely on simple top-down communication. But using a meme to communicate is good, doing it well is better. As Lucile Reynard, Director of Development at Conversationnel, a digital marketing consultancy, explains, brands are more followers than initiators.

However, companies find it difficult to use truly viral memes for one practical reason: they have to respect the copyright of the image, which is not always the case for the Internet user who created it.

Some brands are forging partnerships with meme creators. Such is the case with the ready-to-wear brand Maje. To promote its spring/summer 2020 collection, it has called on vogueturfu, an Instagram account with almost 150,000 followers that hijacks fashion images. The collaboration, called #MajeDoesMemes, seems convincing, as it respects the subtle codes of memes while remaining a classic fashion advertising campaign. This willingness to take risks gives the brand a younger identity.