How to Create a Meme 101: The Ultimate Guide

How to Create a Meme 101: The Ultimate Guide

It’s no secret that humor serves as a highly effective tool to persuade people. It’s also safe to say that memes go beyond their humor, especially regarding marketing. However, a meme design that is effective, humorous, and with its viral edge is tough to create.

If you try to make a meme that’s only relevant to a small group of people, it may not be as widely shared as an image that has more universal appeal. For designers as well as marketers, there are multiple things to consider when coming up with an effective meme design.

But first, let’s talk about what memes are exactly and how effective it really is.

What is a ‘meme’?

The word ‘meme’ has been around since 1976 by an evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins. It’s a combination of the Greek word ‘Mimeme,’ which means ‘imitated thing,’ and gene. By Dawkins’ definition, memes are cultural ideas that spread and repeat themselves across society. So, with the internet and its ever-changing humor, we now have various internet memes.

For the generation who grew up with technology and social media (the millennials and generation z), internet memes are a vessel of communication, a signifier of the comedic zeitgeist, and a device for channeling the inherent anxieties of youth.

So, why memes?

Online ads or promotional materials have transformed massively over the past decade. Like on Instagram, highly staged images with lots of polish and filters just don’t work anymore. It’s no longer cool to be manufactured. Most brands are embracing a raw format when telling their story online.

Due to this shift, we have also noticed an increase in some of the biggest brands turning to memes on social media every now and then. This gets them an edge over their competitors and conveys their message to a larger audience.

Bonus: The Best Marketing Memes to Enter

Understanding Memes: Design, Relatability, and Going Viral

There are three aspects to the making of a meme: design, reliability, and virality. Let’s talk about it! Plus, we’ll give some handy tips and tricks along the way, so keep on reading.

1. Meme design, mass appeal, and audience!

Memes hold great power to influence the way people think and respond. A meme that doesn’t consider its audience, or chooses shock value, can backfire and be tough to come back from. A meme that’s offensive, irrelevant, or out of touch can quickly lead to some facepalms or, worse, cancellations on social media.

Overall, a good meme is successful when it’s simple, funny, and appeals to a large audience.

Ryanair's meme via Instagram

Ryanair’s meme via Instagram

Keeping this in mind, meme design should keep your buyers’ persona at the center of their brainstorming process. Take it from this meme by Ryanair, an international airline company. It’s a simple photo showing a common experience among travelers (which is their target audience).

Sure, jumping on every viral meme trend might seem like an opportunity you shouldn’t miss. However, it might be in your brand’s best interest to reflect on the types of media your prospects and followers typically consume.

Simplified Tip: A good place to start with your meme design would be the interests and problems of your audience, where you might be able to find some common ground for humor.

2. Don’t forget to be witty

A meme isn’t a meme if it’s not funny, so ensure your memes are witty. The key to being witty is to play around with words and cleverly twist them to create some comedic gold. Think of puns, double entendres, or even just some good old-fashioned sarcasm. The goal here is to make people laugh, so don’t be afraid to let your creative juices flow.

Promotional post of Angkas via Angkas' Facebook page

Promotional post of Angkas via Angkas’ Facebook page

Angkas is a motorcycle-hailing platform that usually uses memes in a majority of its promotional ads leading to its immense popularity online. In this particular post, they’re announcing a new promo code for the month of December by using Taylor Swift’s song Back to December and switching ‘Speak’ to ‘Book,’ making the ad essentially theirs.

Another tip, it’s good to keep it short and simple, and Simplified’s AI photo caption generator can help with that. Plus, Simplified has an AI meme generator just for the music (like the one above!).

3. Create memes that are relevant and relatable

Whatever your brand or business is, make sure that the memes you’re creating relate to your brand’s personality. This way, your customers can easily relate to and associate your content with your business.

Here’s one example from Telfar:

Telfar meme

Telfar meme via Telfar’s Twitter

Telfar is a luxury fashion brand known for its iconic bags. In this tweet, they edited a scene from a movie to create their own meme that implies how special of a bag Telfar is and that they will be releasing something new at ’12 PM EST’.

Another thing to keep in mind is to never underestimate the power of timing. Memes are like a fine wine – they need to be shared at just the right moment to reach their peak hilarity.

Keep an eye on social media trends and jump on opportunities to create memes that relate to what’s happening in the world. Trust me, people will appreciate your wit and share your memes like crazy.

4. Social validation in making memes

A successful meme will always make the viewer feel a sense of social validation. From its name, social validation is when individuals follow or conform to the actions of other people to belong or ‘fit in.’ Like when you see a meme that you don’t understand, you immediately search it up so you’re not left behind on the jokes about the meme.

Let’s take a look at this meme by BarkBox:

Barkbox meme

Barkbox meme via Instagram

BarkBox is a company that sells monthly boxes of toys and treats for dogs. With their main audience being people with dogs, the meme that they posted is most likely an everyday occurrence in a house with dogs. This, then, can evoke a sense of collective identity and (a little bit of) frustration with dog parents who experience the same thing.

So, when creating a meme, factor in social validation and create a sense of a shared experience or collective identity around your company.

Simplified Tip: Collect the right materials for your meme. This could be a trending meme format or an old meme that everyone is familiar with.

5. Sealing the deal with humor and authenticity!

When deciding to design a meme that you wish to be a viral hit, you have to make sure that you get the humor right. A good meme is hilarious first and a marketing tool later.

Logically, the more people who can understand, appreciate, and relate to a meme’s humor, the more popular it will become. A tried and tested way to go about this includes conducting good research and staying up to date with the current trends and memes. Plus, choosing a subject both you and your widest audience can relate to.

OKCupid's Instagram

via OKCupid’s Instagram

This meme from OKCupid, an online dating app, talks about the woes of having the ‘same’ set of ex-lovers (shown through the red shoes) yet claiming to not look for any specific quality in a partner. It’s ironic (and that’s what makes it funny!) and a common enough experience to turn it into an effective meme ad.

Where does authenticity come in?

No, you can’t generate a viral trend each time you post, and that shouldn’t be the standard either. What we mean by authenticity is that the content you share on your social media should be as original as possible.

Having an original meme doesn’t mean you make your own from scratch, it’s getting an idea (from the many memes floating around social media) and adding a personal touch to it to make it yours.

Bonus: The Best Social Media Memes: A Roundup

Create fun memes with Simplified’s AI meme generator

Remember: use your humor, stay relevant, and time it just right. With a little practice, you’ll be making memes that have people rolling on the floor laughing.

Now, if you need that extra help in creating memes, we’ve got the right thing for you. Gone are the days of spending hours searching through images and trying to come up with the perfect caption.

Simplified’s AI meme generator

With Simplified’s AI meme generator, you can create fun and captivating memes in just a few clicks. All you need to do is type in your topic, click generate, and voila! You have your own meme. And for a witty hashtag to go with it, use Simplified’s Hashtag Generator.

Now that your meme is all ready, it’s time to post! Luckily, Simplified is also equipped with a social media scheduler that can post for you and give you analytic reports.

On a concluding note, we’d like to tell our readers that not all memes need to generate a laughter riot. A meme simply being relatable or compelling enough is totally okay! At the end of the day, it’s still considered content that can increase your brand’s visibility and improve engagement. Sometimes the wildest things become the most popular memes. And that’s exactly what’s so fascinating about meme culture as a whole.

Make your audience laugh and manage your social media at the same time with Simplified.

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Shubham Kulkarni
Design, Write, Edit videos, and Publish Content. Built For Teams.

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