One does not simply create a marketing strategy out of thin air. When turning to memes and GIFs in your brand messaging, it pays off to do a little research. Who is your audience? Is the meme or GIF relevant, or are you just adding to the noise online? What is it doing for your brand?\u00a0 These are serious brand questions and, if you ignore them, you might just end up on the failed messaging list. Lucky for you, we\u2019ve detailed the proper use of memes and GIFs in your branding strategy. Brace yourselves\u2026\u00a0 First things first, what are memes and GIFs? Memes and GIFs often get confused with each other in pop culture. Although similar, these two can have different uses and different impacts.\u00a0 In its most basic form, a meme is \u201can image, video, piece of text, etc. typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by Internet users.\u201d Although memes can take the form of video, they are most often static images. These snippets of social commentary are typically humorous, playful, or satirical. They also often capitalize on current events, adding their angle or take on them.\u00a0 A GIF, on the other hand, is an animated image that plays in a circuit. Although there is some debate on the pronunciation (is it GIF or jif?), GIFs are like flipbooks with multiple images playing quickly to achieve an overall effect. Like memes, GIFs deal with socially relevant topics and \u201care a large part of internet culture.\u201d\u00a0 For marketers, memes and GIFs are tools that can be used to further your point, enhance your messaging, and connect with a younger audience. When done correctly, they can make a mundane moment memorable (say that three times fast).\u00a0 Benefits of memes and GIFs When you use these tools correctly in your branding strategy, it can make a positive impact on your brand. Some of these benefits include:\u00a0 Adding motion to your grid\u00a0 Most Instagram feeds are full of bright, static images. To break from this mold, brands are beginning to add movement to their grid in the form of videos and GIFs. Using animation (without overdoing it), \u201celevates an image from static to dynamic.\u201d\u00a0 Utilizing psychology\u00a0 Sure, you might think GIFs and memes are funny and shallow. But there\u2019s a science behind using them. As in the case of GIFs and other video formats, your brain processes a message 60,000 times faster with video than with text. Memes, which deal with current content, often have an inside joke feel. That \u201callows for some bonding between those sharing them.\u201d You want your audience to know you\u2019re in on the joke.\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0 Getting more impressions\u00a0 GIFs generate about 7 billion impressions per day. Imagine getting even a fraction of those impressions for your brand. With a GIF, you have the \u201copportunity for consumer brands to get more engaging, high-quality impressions with consumers than they could with billboards, TV commercials, or interruptive digital ads.\u201d Plus, they\u2019re infinitely shareable.\u00a0 Tips for using on social media\u00a0 The most common location for GIFs and memes is on social media\u2013\u2013their natural habitat. On social, ideas can run wild and sprout wings. They can take a different direction than at first planned. Social is also where you can be playful with your brand messaging. Including the use of memes and GIFs.\u00a0 These tools often fall into the category of \u201cshort-form media.\u201d As such, they should be used as an \u201cadditive to a user\u2019s experience online without detracting from their support of the brand or business that produced it.\u201d This means you should memes and gifs to complement your brand and get your message across in a better (maybe funnier) way. Both memes and GIFs are pieces of quick, relatable content. Some tips for using them in your brand messaging:\u00a0 Go custom when you can\u00a0 There are thousands of memes online that you can draw from. While the odds of you finding a meme to fit the idea you\u2019re trying to make are good, it\u2019s often smarter to create a custom meme. With a custom meme, you can \u201cdevelop content that\u2019s specific to your brand,\u201d and more relevant to your audience.\u00a0 Keep it short and sweet\u00a0 Attention spans are short. Keep GIFs at a reasonable duration to avoid losing your audience\u2019s attention. It\u2019s also important to make sure the \u201csize of the file is small enough to load quickly on mobile devices.\u201d When files are too large or complicated, the load time can impact your message and frustrate your audience. Don\u2019t be that brand.\u00a0 Don\u2019t overdo it\u00a0 Just like other marketing tools, you can have too much of a good thing. If you decide to incorporate memes and GIFs into your branding strategy, make sure you share sparingly and only when relevant. The less you share, the more \u201ctruly valuable content\u201d you curate.\u00a0 Staying relevant\u00a0 If you want to connect with younger audiences, you need to have an authentic understanding of pop culture. One way to do this is by creating a meme or GIF that\u2019s relevant to your brand or makes fun of a known problem in your brand. Like MoonPie\u2019s hyper-aware and hilarious tweets that don\u2019t try to \u201cconvince you that their products will make you cool and fun and happy.\u201d\u00a0 When sharing, make sure the meme or GIF enhances your brand messaging, makes sense for your audience, and \u201cshows you share their sense of humor and sensibilities.\u201d Overall, the best uses for GIFs and memes in your branding strategy are via social media marketing, community management, blogging, and email marketing. These outlets are where the above tips help your brand come to life. When not to use them\u00a0 With marketing tools comes great responsibility\u2013\u2013that\u2019s how that quote goes, right? If you view memes and GIFs as the tools they are (albeit fun ones), you are setting yourself up for appropriate use of them.\u00a0 One of your biggest responsibilities as a marketer (and a human) is to stop the viral spread of negative memes. This does not necessarily include memes that might have a satirical angle or darker humor. Instead, it refers to memes that are racist, sexist, or offensive in any way. Of course, we all make mistakes. With the prevalence of memes and GIFs circulating on the internet, it's no surprise that they are occasionally tone-deaf. If this happens to your brand, \u201cit\u2019s wise to immediately and broadly communicate a sincere apology.\u201d Memes and GIFs also require appropriate timing and alignment with your brand. Using these tools might make sense if you primarily use social media to connect with your audience, if you cater to Millennials and Gen-Zers, or if your brand persona is humorous or satirical. Because memes and GIFs are usually entertaining, using them \u201cdepends on the nature of the service you provide\u2013\u2013if you\u2019re a divorce law firm or a funeral parlor, it\u2019s probably not appropriate.\u201d\u00a0 Examples of brands doing it right\u00a0 Some brands, like Google, are obvious contenders in the meme-sharing department. Others are surprising their audiences with the right meme or GIF at the right time.\u00a0 Denny\u2019s\u00a0 Denny\u2019s Diner is arguably an American classic. Yet, with more food choices than ever, they\u2019ve had to find new ways to stay relevant and relate to a younger audience. Their \u201cRisk It for the Biscuit\u201d and Conversation Eggs Instagram posts were custom memes that played on classic concepts. Both ads inserted humor into their brand and took the diner conversation a little further.\u00a0 The Great British Bake Off\u00a0 A cult favorite, The Great British Bake Off became popular with American audiences as well after debuting on Netflix. The baking competition series is very active on Twitter and uses animated GIFs and those created from \u201clooping, captioned clips straight from the show.\u201d In addition to being on-brand with their colors and dry humor, they also help to inform their audiences with show updates.\u00a0 Netflix\u00a0 Netflix is known for being playful and a little snarky online. Their @netflixisajoke account on Instagram focuses solely on meme-marketing that \u201cmakes memes out of their own shows instead of using the already viral templates.\u201d The benefit of these memes is twofold\u2013\u2013to strengthen the brand purpose and increase viewership.\u00a0 Starbucks\u00a0 Starbucks is highly active on social media, where it connects with most of its younger audience members. The coffee juggernaut often creates GIFs of their Frappuccino brand that users can apply to their accounts and Stories.\u00a0\u00a0 And brands that are missing the mark\u00a0 Brands that miss the mark often do because they are sharing overused memes, those that aren\u2019t relevant to their brand, or are attempting humor where it doesn\u2019t make sense.\u00a0 Doritos\u00a0 The flavored chip company typically delivers on hilarious, unconventional ads. But their attempt to create memes using their chips \u201cmiss the point of memes because they depend on already existing tropes.\u201d Their Dorito-turned-guitar-pick and Dorito snow angel memes were an \u201cunconvincing attempt\u201d at humor and did nothing to further the brand messaging.\u00a0 Wendy\u2019s\u00a0 Wendy\u2019s Twitter account has become known for its snarky, hilarious tweets and responses. Yet, they took their brand relevance a step too far with their \u201cLike a Boss\u201d spot. The TV ad featured an on-screen meme (with the classic white block letters) that played on the \u201coutdated\u201d Like a Boss meme. The response on social was less than favorable.\u00a0 Gucci As a high-end brand, Gucci could easily stay away from memes, and it would make sense. The fashion brand used \u201cinternational meme creators\u201d for their #TFWGucci campaign that strayed from Gucci\u2019s typical marketing. Memes like \u201cWhen your girl doesn\u2019t notice your new watch\u201d and \u201cWhen she asks u what time it is but u wanna flex so u let her see for herself,\u201d were \u201cmet with countless requests for the brand to \u2018please stop.\u2019\u201d\u00a0 Anti-Smoking Campaign Despite being a PSA brand against smoking, their attempt at relating to a younger audience was a major misstep. In their \u201cSmoking Memes (It\u2019s a Trap)\u201d spot, they \u201chired a bunch of YouTube stars...to get memed at after they make ignorant claims about casual smoking.\u201d In what is supposed to be a serious ad, the brand essentially made the entire thing a meme (in a bad way).\u00a0 What about emojis?\u00a0 Emojis could be considered the younger cousin of memes and GIFs. Engineer Shigetaka Kurita developed the emoji in 1998 \u201cfor customers to communicate through icons.\u201d Scroll through any social media account or even your messages, and you will likely run into a fair share of emojis along the way.\u00a0\u00a0 A study by Emogi \u201cfound that people utilize emojis because they believe it helps them to be better understood, and to create more personal connections. What\u2019s more, research shows that people respond to emojis \u201cas they would react to a human face.\u201d\u00a0 When brands want to integrate emojis into their branding strategy, they usually do it in social posts or comments and replies to their audience members on social platforms. The tricks here are to keep emoji use simple, don\u2019t overuse them, and make sure you know what the emoji expresses. The other benefit? \u201cEmojis aren\u2019t bound by language barriers\u201d so you can potentially reach a wider audience.\u00a0 Where to source memes and GIFs Okay, now that you understand the basics, how do you go about sourcing a meme, GIF, or emoji? If you decide to use meme marketing, you can download directly from free-use memes through sites like Know Your Meme and 9Gag. To create a custom meme, you can source from these sites and add your spin or go through Canva or Photoshop to start from scratch.\u00a0 Many GIF databases, like Giphy, are integrated with apps and social networks for easy use. You can also create a custom GIF through Giphy and Tenor to keep messaging aligned with your brand.\u00a0 Emojis, of course, are located on most modern keyboards or apps. If you decide to create a custom emoji, you can do so with your in house designer or a digital marketing agency.\u00a0 Meme-marketing and GIF giving\u00a0 Memes and GIFs can be incredibly useful and playful marketing tools. They have the power to connect and bond with your audience when used appropriately. They can also add some humor and humanity to your brand. When considering using a meme, GIF, or emoji in your branding strategy, always ask yourself: Does this help my brand? If the answer is yes, happy meme-making!