Imagine this…

It’s time for lunch. You throw last night’s leftovers in the microwave and grab your phone to enjoy a little guilt-free social media time.

You open Instagram and start scrolling. At first, it’s pretty mindless.

You see influencers sharing their outfit photos, your family posting their vacation pictures, and social media gurus promising to help you go viral.

“Meh”, you think as you keep scrolling. 

With one more flick of your thumb, you land on an Instagram Reel that says, “Do you know how much money people are getting to post memes?”

“In 2016, the meme account @fuckjerry charged $30,000 PER SPONSORED POST on Instagram. What did they post? MEMES!” the host of the video says enthusiastically.

Your eyes narrow as your mind takes in this information. Eight years ago, somebody was making $30,000 per post…and all they were doing was….posting memes?!

Thinking back to the latte pictures you proudly posted in 2016 makes you cringe more than usual. “I could have been posting memes for $30k a pop?!” you think to yourself.

How did memes turn into a viable business?

In today’s edition of Why We Buy, we’re taking a look at Memes  – why memes can drive LOLz, action, and sales

Let’s get into it…

“Top Marketing Newsletters You Need to Subscribe To”

The Psychology of Memes 🧠

Today, when most people think about memes, they generally think about images with white, all caps font like this one of grumpy cat.

This type of viral imagery fits perfectly into a word coined by Richard Dawkins in 1976. 

As an evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins studied how information is transferred from individual to individual. 

He coined the word ‘meme’ to explain the unit of cultural transmission, such as an idea or belief, passed from one generation to another.

Memes can be images, like grumpy cat. But they can also be songs, like happy birthday. Or unique turns of phrase like, “Wasssssssssssup.”

The rise of social media led to faster transmission of memes than ever before.

And as Jason Levin explains in his new book, Memes Make Millions, Burger King was one of the first brands to recognize that memes were a marketing opportunity.

Burger King reached out to Elliot Tebele, the person behind the viral meme account @fuckjerry. They offered him $3,000 to post a meme on his Instagram account.

At the time, Elliot had 1.5 million followers. Despite the large following, he hadn’t used sponsors to monetize his account yet.

Burger King recognized that memes could be used to transmit more than cheap laughs. When used right, memes could transmit covert marketing messages to the masses.

Inside Your Buyer’s Mind 🧐

Your buyers don’t hang out on social media waiting to be sold to. They want to be wow-ed, educated, inspired, or entertained. 

Memes are relatable yet fun.

One scroll through their feed and they’re loudly exhaling at the funny memes crossing across their screens (because let’s be serious, we don’t LAUGH at memes, we just loudly blow air through our noses).

Marketing is a matter of relating to your customers.

Memes 🤝 Marketing 

Heinz shared memes to put gas on the fire of the long-term debate about whether tomatoes are a fruit or a vegetable.

These funny and relatable ads got noticed.

Heinz’s advertising agency shared the results of this clever campaign, “We were able to [achieve] four times the original goal, generating more than four-million impressions and 80,000 engagements across Instagram and Facebook.”

Buyers relate to memes and are likelier to share them than regular advertising campaigns.


Because sharing memes doesn’t make buyers feel like they are sharing a brand or product.

It makes people feel like they’re sharing a relatable experience. They’re distinct. And that’s what makes memes so viral.

How To Apply This 🤑

Alright, so how can we apply this right now to sell more?

Agitate your buyers’ fears but make it funny

Don’t confuse attention for intention. You can’t just post the top trending memes on your brand’s social media accounts and expect sales to come rolling in.

Use memes strategically to highlight problems your ideal customers are already experiencing in a humorous way. This gets their attention, but also makes them curious about your solution and increases their intent to buy. 

The Marketing Millennials frequently uses marketing-focused memes to promote their newsletter. 

Memes like this agitate buyers’ fears by poking at the elephant in the room (the lack of organic growth on Facebook). 

And this approach is much friendlier than saying something doom and gloom like, “Organic Facebook marketing is dead.”

Reuse popular meme images to get attention and frame your offer

People are more likely to stop scrolling when they see a familiar meme in their feed. Use popular meme photos and formats to create branded memes that capture attention and build brand awareness. 

Any meme can be relevant to your industry with enough creativity. Peep Laja shares this viral pizza moment with an, unfortunately, extremely relatable experience for marketers.

Many marketers know the pain of having non-marketers weigh in on their work.

In just 13 words, Peep sparks emotion within marketers that have had a similar experience. 

This meme is funny, but it’s also smart. Peep is the CEO of Wynter—a message testing platform. And for marketers who are sick of internal squabbles about what should be on the homepage, message testing promises an unbiased outside perspective. 

Leverage negativity bias to boost engagement

Messages with a negative slant often garner more attention, clicks, and conversions.

Create or use memes that have a negative slant if you’re looking for engagement.

This doesn’t mean that you should spread negativity – it’s just a matter of creating copy in a cynical way that makes your audience laugh (and feel heard!).

Here’s a perfect example from Cyber Patterns:

The Short of It 💥

There is money in memes. Memes are a vehicle for sharing relatable experiences and relevant information.

When you share memes strategically, it can make buyers feel like you really understand them and see the world the same way they do, which can make them like you more.

Just be careful – buyers can see right through “lame” meme usage that’s surface-level.


Until next time, happy selling.




Wanna really get inside your buyer’s head?

There are a few ways I can help:

  1. Get explosive clarity about what works with buyers by learning how to conduct 1:1 Clarity Calls (3200+ happy students)
  2. Learn how to mine online reviews from real buyers to generate ideas and copy that converts (400+ happy students)
  3. Book a 1:1 strategy call with Katelyn and get the answers you need to get unstuck and move forward with confidence

Thank you to our featured sponsor

Written By Katelyn

Katelyn Bourgoin is the CEO of Customer Camp, a 4X founder, and a cheese lover. She lives by a simple mantra: whoever gets closer to the customer wins.

Related Posts

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation Bias

Let’s explore Confirmation Bias – why we seek out information that confirms what we want to believe.

Growth Flywheels

Growth Flywheels

Let’s explore Growth Flywheels—why the most successful businesses in the world use them to grow smarter (instead of harder).

Empathy Gap

Empathy Gap

Let’s explore Empathy Gap—why we often underestimate how much a buyer’s emotional state can influence their behavior and decisions.

The Labor Illusion

The Labor Illusion

Let’s explore The Labor Illusion—why we may value something more when we think it requires a lot of effort.

Regret Aversion

Regret Aversion

Let’s explore Regret Aversion – why we make choices to avoid regret.

Pratfall Effect

Pratfall Effect

Let’s explore the Pratfall Effect—why imperfections can actually make people like you (or your brand) more.



Let’s explore Gong—the company that harnessed customer interactions to become the undisputed leader in revenue intelligence.

Generation Effect

Generation Effect

Let’s explore the Generation Effect—why we remember something more if we put effort into generating it.



Let’s explore Mascots—why we love and buy from brands that use mascots.

Nostalgia Effect

Nostalgia Effect

Let’s explore the Nostalgia Effect—why we spend more when we remember our past.





Wanna get inside your buyer’s head? Join our newsletter and get one customer psychology tip delivered straight to your inbox each week. It’s like a 2-min workout for your brain.

You're in. Giddy up! 🤠

Become the go-to customer EXPERT

If you can figure out what makes people tick, click and buy, you can make bank

We’re often asked if we offer a certification program teaching our in-depth research methods. The answer is… not yet. But we’re working on it.

Want first dibs when we launch our new certification program? Jump on the waitlist.

You're in. Giddy up 🤠


Wanna get inside your buyer’s head? Join our newsletter and get one buyer psychology tip delivered to your inbox each week. It’s like a 2-min workout for your brain.

You're in!


If you can figure out what makes people tick, click and buy, you can make big $$$. We're working on a new research certification program. Want first dibs when we launch it? Hop on the waitlist.

You're in!


Wanna get the buyer insights you need from key stakeholders (and look like a boss)? Our new Stakeholder Mining Kick-off Session training is coming soon. Join the waitlist to get first dibs.

You're on the waitlist! We'll reach out soon!


Wanna get the buyer insights you need from key stakeholders (and look like a boss)? Our new Stakeholder Mining Kick-off Session training is coming soon. Join the waitlist to get first dibs.

You're in!