When Brands Meet Memes: A Cautionary Tale

Erin Duffy
August 14, 2019

Since starting as an account management intern here at ChatterBlast, I’ve gained a lot more insight into a company’s brand image and voice on social media platforms. Through working with social accounts for a variety of different companies, I’ve started to understand why different brands have different voices and how this comes into play when planning social media posts. 

As a Twitter fan, I always see brands trying to engage with their audience by using different memes. Most of the time, it doesn’t actually work out, and I scroll through my feed feeling second-hand embarrassment. But when it does work out, it can be amazing. Through working behind-the-scenes with brands and their voices, I’ve learned the implications of using memes, both when they work and when they absolutely do not. 

Here are a few of my favorite well-executed memes that I have recognized since the start of my internship.

The REAL #HotGirlSummer

Oh how you are so right, Wendy. The Hot Girl Summer meme has been roaming around since, well, the beginning of summer. It started as a term for the idea of focusing on yourself and enjoying the summer free of drama. Now, you can see users all over social media posting about #HotGirlSummer and Wendy’s definitely used this trend to their advantage. Since Wendy’s Twitter is already known for their abnormal brand tweets, it’s not much of a shock that they made my list. 


I have to admit that I actually did laugh when I saw this pop up on my timeline. Kool-Aid already seems to be somewhat of a meme account considering almost the only thing the account says is different variations of “oh yeah,” so posting a meme like this isn’t surprising. The Area 51 jokes began when 1.5 million people responded to an event on Facebook to storm Area 51. Since then, the memes have only gotten worse (or better, depending on who you ask).

The celebs are at it again

Okay, I know she’s not a company and the joke wasn’t executed perfectly, but come on—it’s R-I-H-A-N-N-A. This tweet format is another running joke about the way people tend to mention a lot of unimportant information without warrant. Here, Rihanna is poking fun at the fact that she said she would release an album in 2019, but now the year is halfway over without another word of it. Nice work, Rihanna. 

He just took a DNA test…

… turns out he’s 100% pea-nut. (That was awful, I’m sorry.) The emoji DNA thread originated on Twitter as a joke about the things that sustain us as humans. Most DNA threads have included coffee, pizza, or beer emojis, but Mr. Peanut is a peanut, so he is literally made up of peanuts and salt. A+, Mr. Peanut.

Smaller brands can play, too

This is a perfect example of a smaller brand using memes to their advantage. Here, we put a twist on a classic meme format to relate it to one of our very own clients, vybe urgent care. Name another urgent care facility with this sense of humor. We’ll wait.  

The king of Twitter

Gritty is the actual embodiment of a meme. Period. End of discussion.

Brands using memes can be an iffy move. In most cases, you know a meme is dying when a big brand uses it terribly and it makes you want to log off Twitter for a few hours and cringe. (Editor’s note: See “death of a meme”, 1:53.) 

This is why execution is KEY. Brands need to make sure that the meme is still actively in use and is actually funny. People can tell when brands try to force a meme to fit their product or service. Brands also need to acknowledge their audience. If you’re trying to reach a younger generation and your voice isn’t too self-serious, using memes may be a good opportunity for you. If not, well…don’t push it. 

The bottom line is this: Know your brand. If you are unsure that your audience will understand and enjoy the meme, your best bet is to not post it. Memes are a risk, but if used correctly, they can be golden.