Memes; Dos or Don’ts in Marketing Communications?

We’ve all been there before. While scrolling through our favorite social media app we see the absolute *perfect* meme to use for a client’s social pages or potential marketing campaign. “It would be so easy!” you whisper as you start brainstorming potential applications. But before you even THINK about putting pen to paper and committing resources to your idea, I want you to take a deep breath and PUT THE MEME DOWN before someone -mainly you and your professional reputation- gets hurt.

That’s because behind memes’ shiny exteriors hide a slew of potential landmines that could blow a marketer’s entire body of work up within minutes of posting.

For one, memes are NEVER FREE. Even though the images or gifs are easily shareable and downloadable, copyright laws state that they are forever and always the property of their creators. Even if you could identify the source (which is tough in itself), unless you have express written permission from said creator to use that meme in your campaign, you’re exposing yourself and your client to costly litigation that could cost you thousands in legal fees and penalties.

Second, it reflects badly on the integrity of your brand and business as a marketer. Resources need to be properly compensated. Assets need to be paid for. And by taking a meme and using it in your for-profit campaign as-is, you’re showing the world that you wouldn’t bat an eye at effectively “stealing” another person’s work for your own gain, which is bad optics at best.

That’s not to say that it’s impossible to leverage the power of memes in your campaigns. The savvy marketer can always find clever ways of incorporating a slice of pop culture in their content by alluding to or referencing them in their original assets. If they get greenlit on behalf of the original creator(s), even better.

While the internet is a veritable gold mind of organic and user-tested ideas, always use caution, your best judgement, and the advice of a good legal department when evaluating whether a meme-based campaign’s pros outweigh the cons.

So repeat after me: crediting is GOOD, copy-pasting is BAD.

Now go forth and make content!

-Val (The Idea Gal)

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