Professional Comment

How Memes Can Be Used To Motivate Employees, Strengthen Brand Awareness, And Improve Engagement

By Max Kraynov, Group CEO of FunCorp, an entertainment tech developer

Driving engagement, whether it be an internal initiative, or a social media campaign, can be daunting. Trying to strike a balance between getting your own desired message or instruction across, while at the same time attempting to build a relationship with an individual or group, presents a challenge in terms of how genuine your communication comes across, as well as its intended impact. While retail marketers, leadership teams, and HR, are always trying to find innovative ways to make connections with staff and customers – they could benefit from simply taking note of how their target audiences prefer to communicate online.

GlobalWebIndex data reveals that 54% of Gen-Z, 41% of Millennials, and 21% of Gen-Xers seek out or engage with new memes on a daily basis. In my position at FunCorp, an entertainment tech developer since 2004, I’ve had a front row seat in seeing how the creation of memes has become not only a mainstay of pop culture, and a lens through which news is viewed and immortalised, but also how they’ve been used to persuade and inspire.
Conversation in the workplace can often feel routine, with the exchange of the same work or ‘how was your weekend?’ pleasantries, and the same post-meeting summaries – which often devolve into an unnecessary post-meeting meeting. This Truman Show style of mundane, repetitive interaction can make people feel like they’re in a rut – and engagement with work begins to taper off. Sometimes it’s just better to let the GIFs do the talking.

Shorthand communications like memes are great for memory and engagement. Using a clever or funny meme that sums up a bunch of bullet points in a presentation slide (not a dry stock icon), will create a reaction, and that reaction or feeling is what stays with people. Your employees may see a related image, or a different version of your meme posted elsewhere, and have the positive association with work reinforced, and for the visual learners, it’s a faster way of retaining notes and information.

For engaging customers and strengthening your brand, memes can be a great unifier – being relatable never really goes out of style. While memes can cover controversial topics and cause tension or division if used politically or either side of the pop culture references, most of them stem from expressing commonly shared feelings about how we experience the everyday.

The brands that most successfully leverage memes for engagement always take into account their current and target demographic, the media they consume, and have an awareness of self. Self acknowledgement, or even self deprecation through memes is more effective than simply saying you’re great – because where’s the fun in that? Being able to make fun of yourself, making your humour more observational and authentic than promotional and desperate will always win out.

Domino’s are a great example of this. They know that people tend to over indulge when consuming their products – and they also know at some point, most of their target audience have experienced a ‘food baby’ (bloating and discomfort) as a result. By creating a meme about it, Domino’s revel in the silliness of the situation, while making it intrinsic to the brand, and tell us ‘Yes, we know this happens. Yes we experience this too. Yes, we’re people.”

If memes are used in a genuine, non pandering way, it reminds the viewer that there are actual people behind the company – and that’s what people rate to, not a sales pitch.

Memes can centre around a colleague or customer groups’ favourite shows, music, or topics they enjoy. By observing how others use memes, you tap into their sense of humour, what they respond well to, how they’re likely to engage in conversation – all of which forms essential knowledge for working out your own engagement strategy.

From lightening the load throughout the working day, to making people aware of the personality of your brand, or even just being an effective tool for establishing tone (an essential in the world of hybrid and remote work, where plain text can be harder to read exact intent or emotion) – keeping things playful with a meme helps to break down walls. It can lead to inside jokes, expedite relationship building with customers and employees (including the remote ones), and ultimately create connections by meeting people on their level – all of which is essential to achieving successful engagement.