Memejacking: 4 examples of brands making the most of viral memes

Virgin Media success kid lrge

While memes are mainly for fun and entertainment, there is a lot of marketing potential behind them. Memes have been described as being “infectious.” But instead of just passively sharing memes you enjoy, what if you set out to strategically use theme to distribute your content?

When used effectively, businesses can use these little nuggets of internet gold to create buzz around products or services and get massive exposure in a short period of time. Here are some ways brands have used memes to their advantage and integrated them into marketing campaigns.

Honey Badger Don’t Care meme.

What started out as a YouTube sensation led to the company Wonderful Pistachios jumping on the meme and creating a spoof video for their campaign. The infamous honey badger even got a special mention in TV series Glee.

‘Success Kid’ for Virgin Media

Virgin Media success kid

This little man originally gained internet fame when his mother, Laney Griner, posted a photo to her Flickr account as well as Getty Images in 2007. The photo pictured her then 11 month year old son Sammy on a beach, clutching a fist full of sand.

The image spread across the internet and was quickly adopted and often accompanied by captions reflecting sentiments of either success or frustration (he’s also commonly known as ‘I Hate Sandcastles Kid).

A good example of a brand taking advantage of this internet phenomenon was when the photo was featured on a billboard campaign run by British media company Virgin Media in February 2012, with the caption, “Tim just realised his parents get HD channels at no extra cost,” perfectly embodying the sentiment for which Sammy’s original image is known: success.

Old Spice Man for Puss in Boots

The original claim to fame was the commercial series called ‘The Man Your Man Could Smell Like’ featuring that ‘man’ (AKA Isaiah Mustafa) – a marketing campaign for Old Spice. While the advertisement was initially created and débuted in 2010 to market Old Spice’s Red Zone After Hours Body Wash, because of its raging success, the campaign was extended to promote the brand’s other products, and the Old Spice Man lived on. It quickly turned into a popular internet meme and could be found in meme generators throughout the web.

While not the only Old Spice Man parody around, DreamWorks featured the cat from the Shrek series playing the Old Spice Man in its 2011 trailer to promote the movie spinoff, Puss in Boots. The clip featured a mashup of scenes from the series of Old Spice commercials using Puss in Boots as the ‘Old Spice Man’.

Sesame Street’s “Call Me Maybe”

When Carly Rae Jepsen released her hit single “Call Me Maybe” in 2011, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would have predicted how much of a viral phenomenon it would become.

A Twitter endorsement by Justin Bieber led to an explosion of covers, parodies and tribute videos à la Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know,” Rebecca Black’s “Friday” and Psy’s “Gagnam Style.”

What was particularly remarkable in the case of “Call Me Maybe” was how quickly some iconic brands (like the Miami Dolphins and Abercrombie & Fitch) were able to leap into the fray with tribute videos of their own in order to make the most of the song’s incredible viral energy.

Sesame Street was one such brand and 13-million views later, the video is a fantastic example of how memejacking done well can work brilliantly.

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