You’ve worked hard to create your product or service. You dream of it becoming the next big brand, a household name. Those same dreams were realized by the creators of today’s most valuable brands like Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and many others. Why not yours? 

After all, didn’t most of these brands begin with a great idea and not a lot of money? Unless you have a substantial marketing budget, the task can seem impossible. And with venture capital investors pulling back these days and your rich uncle’s portfolio getting hammered, you’d better not sit back and wait for the marketing money. 

Marketing a product or service with a small budget can be done and with fantastic results. A term of art has evolved to describe the process: guerilla marketing. There are many guerilla marketing tools you can deploy, and the principles are much the same for all, but let’s discuss the home run of all guerilla marketing, the viral meme. We’ve all seen them on social media sites and in emails from our friends and families. For example, Domino’s Pizza’s has done a great job of meme marketing. Their campaigns are done with a sense of humor while always subtly curating brand awareness. 

Memes cost almost nothing to produce but can make a huge impression – good or bad, but more about that later. Imagine having your meme going viral, reaching hundreds of thousands of people, and your product or service going viral along with it! Sound exciting?

Before you grab your phone or laptop and begin, you’d best stop and think. While a good viral meme can help take your product or service to the next level, a bad meme can pretty much sink it, as in personal interactions; you get just one chance to make a good first impression. Think about which memes have resonated with you and try to understand what in them appealed to you. Just as importantly, look at your social media feeds with a critical eye. Which feeds do you gloss over? Why? Have any of them personally offended you? Apply the lessons learned to your own memes.

Always begin any project with an objective in mind. Your guerilla marketing meme campaign especially needs at least one. Start with positive brand awareness. Your primary objective is to create or foster a positive impression to the viewer or reader while at the same time associating with your product or service. Actually, this is easier than it sounds. 

Let’s look at the Dos and Don’ts of creating a viral meme. There is no single way to do it (otherwise, they’d become boring, right?), but there are some rules to follow: 


Have a plan.

Understand completely what you want to convey to your audience and, more importantly, understand who they are. Knowing your target market and, therefore, their likes and dislikes is a marketing fundamental that’s so frequently overlooked. A lot of research and thought should go into identifying and understanding your current and future customers. 

Be creative.

Creativity is perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of viral memes. The successful meme takes a common person, place, or thing and applies an uncommon (or impossible) action to create a humorous combination. For example, the dancing baby or talking cow. Humor is so important here. Nothing bonds humans quite like a good laugh together. Don’t buy into the doubt that you’re not creative. We all use creativity in negotiating our daily lives. You’re not trying to create a masterpiece only to produce a chuckle.

Be provocative.

This goes along with being creative. The core of all humor is the artful use of the unexpected. It’s OK to shock your audience, but best to do so without becoming offensive.

Be genuine.

Nothing turns us off more than insincerity. We, humans, have an instinct for it.

Be consistent.

Focus on just one or two points you want to make and stick to it. The Domino’s Pizza memes always unobtrusively show the Domino’s name and logo. Everything else changes, but the logo (think brand) remains consistent. 

Be brief.

Simple conveys best. You cannot sell your product or service in a meme, so don’t try to do it. Rather, you’re trying to get folks to recognize the brand. Create a positive image, and they will want to know more. 

Use SEO to spread the word.

A good SEO is an invaluable tool in your guerilla marketing campaign.


Don’t oversell.

Folks will avoid a pushy sales pitch. It’s the worst thing you can do if you’re trying to create a positive brand image. In fact, it’s usually wise not to sell at all in a meme.

Don’t enrage.

Stay away from divisive subjects. For example, politics. You’ll lose half your audience and create a negative impression. 

Don’t be illegal.

Consider copyright and trademark rights, if applicable. 

Keep these points in mind as you build your campaign, and you’ll be off to a great start. Good luck!