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PT2: Digital Marketing Trends for 2021: Memes and Activism

Updated: Jan 1, 2021

2020 has been an influential and impactful year for a ton of reasons. The global pandemic, the resulting work and school from home life and a heated presidential election all impacted and changed our lives and our mindsets.

Digital marketing has changed as well. 2020 set some digital marketing trends in motion that do appear to be going away.

We talked about a few earlier this month, and here are some more to add to your 2021 social media plan.

Let’s start with memes!

Memetic marketing has been around for a few years. While the year 2020 has been hard on us all, for memers (makers of memes) this has been a year prime for the content picking! 2020 may be the year of the virus or the election, but it is also the year of the meme.

And memes are not going anywhere. They are wildly popular and ubiquitous. Lull in the conversation, talk about a meme you saw. No time for a phone conversation with your family or friends, send them a meme. Need a laugh. Yep. Meme!

Memes are powerful. So powerful that Russian bots and hackers used them to influence the 2016 election and they are still being used to spread misinformation.

While the above is dangerous and scary, it does speak to the power of the meme.

There are social media accounts dedicated to just making memes.

So as we enter 2021, and your company begins to roll out the social media plan, consider how memes might fit in.

Memes are easy to make. You can create original memes. Or you can use popular meme images and change the words to make it fit your brand/product/service/messaging.

Using a popular meme image is not seen as corny or played out. That is the purpose of memes. They are meant to go viral. The original meme sets the tone, and then creators use that image and tone to apply to a different situation. It helps the viewer receive the message. It creates engagement and mutual understanding.

However, just imagine if your company created a meme image that went viral! Talk about brand recognition!

Another great thing about memes is they are basically free to create. The internet has a ton of meme maker websites. These are easy to use and intuitive sites.

The hard part of meme creation is the creativity required!

Brand Activism

My father ran a small business in the Philadelphia suburb for over 30 years. My father was a season ticket holder for the Philadelphia Eagles for close to 55 years. There was not one thing in his business that signified his love for the Eagles because he thought it would be divisive.

This is extreme, but he was from the school that you keep your politics and religion out of your business.

And while it is still good practice to keep politics and religion separate from business, we do know that more and more people, especially the younger generations, are buying with their morals.

And while moral issues are not exactly political issues, there can be an intersection.

We have seen very successful commercial campaigns in the last few years that would qualify as brand activism. Below are some of the most popular.

  • Nike and Colin Kaepernick

  • Starbucks’ pledge to hire refugees

  • Ben and Jerry’s political inspired ice cream flavors

  • Adidas’ recycled shoes

It seems that taking a stand is more and more becoming a risk that businesses will have to take.

We talk often about a brand being authentic and creating relationships with the consumer. Brand activism does just that.

Memes and brand activism seem very opposite. Hilarious pictures and important social, political, environmental or economic issues do not seem to have much in common, yet here they stand as two important tools for marketing in the upcoming year.

But if we look closer, these two tactics both forge bonds between humans. Humor and activism bring engagement and that is what marketing is all about. So with both of these tools, it is important for companies to stay on brand and align these with their values.


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