There was a time when, if you told a brand to make fun of themselves in their marketing, your suggestion would likely have fallen on deaf ears. But in 2018, meme marketing has really taken off – and it’s no joke.

To recap, a meme (a word coined by renowned evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins) is defined as a virally-transmitted cultural idea – which these days mostly refers to captioned photos or viral videos shared online. While thousands are posted on and first gain traction in online communities such as 4chan and Reddit, many are shared more widely on more mainstream social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Instagram, as an image-sharing platform, has been the perfect breeding ground for memes, and its growth in monthly users – which surpassed 1 billion earlier this year – has corresponded with the rise of many influential meme accounts. Some of the biggest, like @epicfunnypage and @daquan, have attracted over 15m followers, reaching millions of social media users on a weekly basis.

This is enviable reach for even the biggest brands, and with the average person spending over 40 minutes on Facebook and young people spending over 30 minutes a day on Instagram in the US, it’s perhaps the perfect place to spread your brand message.

Viral examples such as Drake’s “Hotline Bling” dance and Gucci’s TFW campaign show that memes can be an excellent way to prompt engagements online and generate conversation at a wider scale – especially amongst a young and receptive audience.

‘’Going viral’’ is no mean feat however, and can be difficult for even the best marketers. To that end, here are our three top tips for making the most out of memes:

Work with the best – The social-media-savvy Gen Z can spot authenticity from a mile off, and when creating memes it’s important to tread carefully. Always work with those who know what they’re doing and have content created by the accounts who work in the space.

Know what you want to achieve – As with any campaign, it’s important to set your objectives – so be clear on what you want your brand to get out of a meme campaign, and in turn the content required. Without this, you’re in danger of getting lost rather than achieving stand-out.

Be reactive – Memes are current and trending. There’s a lifespan to them – tracked by sites such as Know Your Meme, which has documented over 12,000 memes since 2008. Once they’ve hit the big time, it’s often a matter of days before the next one’s being shared.

If you see a trend that is fit for your brand, get a move on, quickly.