October 19, 2021

Do Memes Negatively Affect Brands?

By: Julia Henson

With the popularity of memes on the rise, brands love to incorporate their products in them. However, sometimes they can backfire for the company and turns into something it shouldn’t have. There are countless times where brands have made memes to relate to users on social media and ends up being cancelled. This leads me to ask the question: Are memes a good way for brands to market on social media? 

It is important for brands to know how to deal with memes failing. A Crisis Communications Plan is something that is imperative for social media strategy. According to Rock Dove Solutions crisis communications “Refers to the technologies, systems and protocols that enable an organization to effectively communicate during a major threat to its business or reputation.” Brands need to be prepared for all kinds of potential crises and how to deal with them. 

The rise of memes has been popularized on almost all social media apps. Now, it is a way for brands to relate to social media and advertise their products. Business News Daily, has a great description of what memes are and how they can either benefit or be a drawback for brands. There are many companies that have problems with using existing memes to try and build their brand and problems with creating memes that become controversial. 

Most of the examples I found have backfired for the brand. One example is when FAFSA tweeted “Help me I’m poor,” to reference a movie. This meme received a lot of backlash because FAFSA is a financial aid for students in college. FAFSA assumed that people who need their service is poor and cannot pay for education. Another example is from Burger King. During International Women’s Day, they did the same thing; trying to hop on the trend. Both of these companies tweeted these tweets as “memes” to be funny and relate to users.

Although memes start a trend, overall, it can potentially hurt the brand. People on social media tend to have no filter and are not afraid to share their opinion. There are many more examples of when brands tried to create a meme and it backfired. Brands do take care of these memes but putting out an apology for it and deleting the meme. However, I do think it is sad to see that these memes/tweets do not always cancel a brand. Most of the time you see social media users reusing the meme and giving the brand more attention. Are there any ways brands can use memes without getting some kind of backlash? 

8 thoughts on “Do Memes Negatively Affect Brands?

  1. Julia, this was a super fun and interesting blog post to read. The FAFSA post just about killed me, I seriously can’t believe that was approved (even if it made ME chuckle, I know it’s insensitive in general). I think it’s so tricky because when a company DOES do a meme correctly, it can be so powerful and create such a fun presence for them on the internet, but it definitely requires really skilled communicators (preferably Gen Z conscious homies) to nail the trends and not outdate themselves.

  2. This is a really interesting take and one that I have never thought about. You added some great links/resources to back up your point. I heard about the Burger King one but never saw the FAFSA one. I feel like brands use means as a way to give light humor but as you pointed out it doesn’t always work out because people on social media might not understand your original intentions behind it.

  3. This is a really great topic to write about because I’ve noticed that memes have become a popular way for brands to be more relevant and trendy, but there are so many times where I see a company’s post and instantly know they’ve made a huge mistake. I think the reason memes are difficult is because they’re supposed to be humorous, yet on many occasions brands try to use them in posts about topics and issues that should not be discussed in a humorous way. I think there is a fine line between using them to be funny and offending people and I feel like they should only be used for light hearted and funny advertisements, not social issues.

  4. Hi Julia,

    This is actually a super interesting topic and I think it is very relevant because everything now-a-days gets turned into a meme. I personally do not think this was intended to be offensive but more relatable and humorous because FAFSA can be frustrating for a lot of people. I also can see how this can be very offensive for this reason as well. I can see how memes can help or hurt the brand.

  5. Hi Julia,
    Great post! I loved reading about how brands are using memes to stay relevant with its audience. I think using memes is an easy way for a brand to connect with target publics but I also think they should only be posting them if it makes sense for the brand. When a company posts a meme but it doesn’t align with its brand it can be confusing and in some cases offensive. I loved all the examples you added!

  6. Julia,

    I was so intrigued by your piece. I never stopped to think how a meme could be so potentially damaging to a brands’s reputation – I just usually read it and move on. However, as you so clearly pointed out, memes are just as damaging as any other original content produced by the brand. I think there is a benefit for brands in sticking with the ‘trends’ within culture because it attracts interest and makes the brand appear adaptable; however, it is a catch-22 because there is so much room for error. I think for brands to successfully use memes they need to put in as much attention to detail and potential repercussions that they would in creating and releasing organic content.

  7. Hi Julia,
    This is a really interesting topic, and memes are something that brands didn’t even need to start worrying about until recently. I actually wrote a case brief about the Burger King incident for my J453 class, and I agree it really hurt the brand. I loved reading your post!

  8. First of all, yikes to those memes. Both of those were made in bad taste. It is interesting to see companies try to be ‘relatable’ to youth by creating memes to try to promote their products. Memes are an interesting phenomenon to be franks. There is actually a study, whether it is legitimate or a meme itself is debatable called “memetics”. Thank you for the blog post it was well written.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.