Merging Memes in Your Nonprofit Marketing

If you’ve been online at all within the past five years, you’ve probably seen one of the latest Internet crazes: the meme. A meme shows a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc. copied—often with slight variations—and spread rapidly by Internet users.

Memes often include bolded, capitalized text on the image and are virally shared across social networking platforms. They are meant to be funny or satirical, and often are in reference to something current in popular culture. 

Not surprisingly, almost as quickly as memes came into existence, brands jumped on board to use them in their marketing efforts. Memes are a great way to reach out to contemporary audiences and engage with potential constituents for your nonprofit organization, but they also run a fine line.

How can your nonprofit (NGO) use memes effectively in your marketing strategy? Today, we’re going to discuss some ideas to get you started.

Identify your audience.

The first step in adding memes to your marketing strategy is deciding whether or not they have a place in your organization. Memes are a recent trend in a very new and technological environment. If your constituents aren’t adept to the Internet world, adding memes into your marketing strategy may go completely over their heads, and end up having a negative impact.

If, however, your audience is younger—or you’re trying to reach a younger generation—then meme marketing may be the right step in your plan. The last thing you want when using memes for your charity is to isolate any potential donors, so be careful in considering who you want to reach in your marketing strategy and if memes are a good decision.

Outline your goals.

Next, outline your goals and purpose for using memes in marketing. Maybe it’s to draw more social media users to like your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram page. Maybe you want to attract users from social media to your website. Also, consider the type of humor you want associated with your nonprofit. If you’re trying to reach out to a younger generation, maybe pick a goofier meme to reach those goals. Or if you’re trying to change up your image, choose a meme which alines with your rebranding goals.

Be careful with humor.

Most importantly when using memes, be careful with humor. Used correctly, humor can boost your NGO brand and engage with more constituents. Used incorrectly, humor can confuse and even hurt your nonprofit organization. Before doing anything with memes, seriously ask yourself: Are you really that funny?

Memes are often sarcastic or satirical, and produce immediate reactions—both good and bad. Comedy proves one of the best ways for constituents to let their guards down with your NGO, but can sometimes come off as inappropriate or insensitive.  

Make your own meme.

One way to go with marketing is to simply make your own meme for the nonprofit. First, find a funny image of an employee, event or service. Next, add text to the top and/or bottom of the image. Check out this example from Quick Meme and see popular ideas for your own meme:

  • Sayings from popular television shows or movies.
  • Animals saying/acting in human ways.
  • That moment when…
  • Popular or classic quotes.
  • Babies saying/doing adult things.

Several online sites allow you to make memes for free, but will add their own watermark to the bottom of the image. If your NGO has a designer or Photoshop service available, you can also make your own meme without a watermark. Meme Generator, Imgflip and Make A Meme are all websites where you can create a meme for your organization.

Or go for memejacking.

If your nonprofit doesn’t want to spend the time making your own meme, you can also try memejacking. Memejacking is when brands use previously created memes within their own marketing strategy. This often means taking a well-known image and adding your own twist on the caption. Popular images are not copywritten, so don’t worry about grabbing an image from online and adding your own text. Here’s an example of memejacking (with a marketing twist):

Using a well-recognized meme will increases your chances of grabbing viewers’ attention and has a safe use of humor. Most importantly, whether you make your own meme or jack a popular one, make sure your meme is easy to consume, relates to your audience and can be shared.

If your nonprofit organization wants to get in on current marketing trends, try adding in a few memes to spice things up and show your humorous side. Be careful, though. Trying too hard to be funny can be considered “uncool,” and the wrong joke can backfire on your NGO’s efforts.

But, when used appropriately, memes add a fun new layer to your marketing strategy, and help constituents relate and engage better with your brand. Give them a try and see the impact on volunteer and donor bases.

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