Brands that Ruined Memes for Everyone

By Shun Bueno

Memes have taken over the internet and now became its language. They’re a piece of content that typically exists to make fun of something or to express an opinion, and most of the time are humorous or satirical. Images, videos, catchphrases, or even just words, literally anything that goes viral on the internet can be turned into a meme. 

For brands and community managers, memes are a great opportunity to reach out to their community and spark fun and interesting conversations. However, it can be considered a double-edged sword that can also be disastrous to the brand’s reputation if not done properly. 

And we’ve seen time and time again, the repercussions of using memes without much thought. Here are a few examples of brands that ruined memes for everybody:

Know when to use memes

New Zealand’s road police posted a meme after a car crash where people lost their lives. Alongside a gif featuring American Office comedy star Steve Carell, New Zealand Police’s post read: “When we have to tell someone a member of their family died in a crash.” 

This tweet that makes light of a tragic accident was met with a lot of backlash from netizens labelling the post as tone-deaf and offensive. The post was deleted and the New Zealand Police issued an apology statement. This tells us that we should not cross the line when using memes and that we should know when to appropriately use them.

Know your meme

McDonald’s UK had a go at jumping into memes but astronomically failed. After they recreated the “Barber meme” (meant to make fun of botched haircuts) without understanding its context, they were booed and called out and received disapproval from netizens.

Macca’s failure of understanding the meme beforehand and jumping right on the bandwagon was really cringe-worthy and made them the meme themselves. So, when in doubt, just don’t use a meme.

Know your mission

In an attempt to attract people to sign up for healthcare, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recreated the “Doge meme” and it was not well received by the whole world. It became popular, but obviously not for a good reason. Netizens described it as a very desperate effort to enlist more consumers. 

We always want to ask ourselves, “what do people want from us as a brand?” If you’re a healthcare provider with a mission to enhance the health and well-being of all Americans, people expect you to take that seriously and do your job properly. The best way to use memes will vary depending on your audience and your mission, and creating content like this is not helping you achieve that mission. 

Before jumping into memes, there are a lot of things that you need to consider. You need to understand your audience, what they care about, and trending topics. When you have a good sense of whom you’re talking to, you get to create engaging content that resonates with your audience, and not half-baked memes. 

Need help incorporating memes for your brand? Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you connect with your audience.