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meme and brand reputation

How memes influence brand reputation

Everybody knows that “content is the king”. Nowadays not only professional marketers can deal with content marketing, but also users, consumers of a brand can unconsciously become content creators for their favorite brand. 

How? Through User Generated Content, particularly through the use of memes. Memes can be a double-edged sword for corporate brand reputation: they can make you smile but they can also create a crisis.

In KPI6 we are always eager to meet new talents, to collaborate with important institutions, and to launch innovative challenges.

We have recently started a collaboration with the LUISS Guido Carli University, participating in some classes of the Bachelor’s Degree course in “Management & Computer Science” held by prof. Francisco Villaroel Ordenes.

The challenge wanted to test our young analysts on a real challenge that they will face up in one of their first job experiences.

The goal was to solve a problem for its management, using the data offered by KPI6 on the market, on the players, and above all on consumers. The challenges involved many industries, from automotive to technology, passing through retail and entertainment.

Team 4


  • Dario Moceri
  • Nicolò Pagliari
  • Aurora Spagnol

The goal of this challenge consisted of analyzing how the use of viral memes on social media could affect the brand reputation of a tech company. Using, of course, the  KPI6’s market research suite.

Viral Marketing and Brand Reputation perception

Digital Content Marketing can be interpreted as an important vehicle for fostering consumer awareness, engagement, sales, and trust towards the brand. Producing appealing brand messages with content that consumers will share is thus a great challenge for companies.

Brand messages on social media should create a context that facilitates interaction and debate. A good social network strategy that pursues these goals will enhance e-WOM, which in turn may be beneficial for the perceived quality of the brand. e-WOM is effective if consumers, when they have to make decisions, surf on the Internet to see how others reviewed something.

On Instagram, there exist several pages having millions of followers that are not commercial brands, but just entertainment pages. The main kind of content that these pages share are funny videos and memes, and their topics span from news to viral content. 

If brands succeed in producing viral content that these entertainment pages share and make fun of, awareness and sales are expected to grow.

In November 2020, LIDL, a European supermarket chain, released in Italy a very cheap and low-quality pair of sneakers. These shoes went sold-out in just a few hours, with people that were seen rushing to buy a pair. In the days right before and after the release of the product, Italian social media meme pages were full of images, collages and illustrations that made fun of this product.

Internet memes are increasingly becoming an interesting ground for marketing communications activities, and companies are showing interest in exploiting the potential economic value of this channel. Memes seem to be an ideal tool for marketers to monitor users’ perception of brands and social issues.

Internet users spend a lot of time crafting or simply consulting them, thus creating a very large number of memes and metadata, which may be handled as a big data resource.

One possible reason for the lack of research on memes about firms may be the subversive nature of some memes, and, consequently, the risk associated with their spreading for the brand’s reputation.

meme queen

The use of Meme in Tech Industry

We decided to focus on the tech industry, one of the most appealing for Millennials, and, in particular, on the GAFAMs (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft).

From these considerations, we have formulated a research question, which is then tested on a dataset kindly provided by KPI6 together with graphs and visual insights.

Memes are likely to be an ideal tool to monitor users’ perception of brands. How should firms 

cope with meme sharing? Is their active intervention in this process a successful strategy?

Meme Data Analysis

kpi6 query

We have built a query run by KPI6 to find useful Twitter data on GAFAM memes. Since Tweets constitute recent metadata on memes, we decided to narrow our research on the tech industry, focusing on the release of Xbox, which was almost simultaneous to the release of the main competitor’s console, PlayStation 5. These Tweets provide precious insights on how memes are perceived by consumers.

meme xbox

The following step is investigating how this phenomenon evolved over the last month. Thanks to the data provided by KPI6, we came up with some useful insights.
In the graph below it is shown the number of tweets and memes about Xbox and PS5 in the first 20 days of November.

We can clearly notice a peak between November 9 and 13, which is the week in which the two consoles have been officially launched in the market.

meme twitter trend - Kpi6 - How memes influence brand reputation

The first thing we asked ourselves was: “how did the audience react?”. Luckily, KPI6 provides us tools to perform sentiment analysis on our Tweets, and the results are shown in the table below.

emotion analysis meme

Half of the tweets were classified with a “Joy” sentiment, which may be a great indicator that the two consoles are performing well in terms of consumer perception.
However, it cannot be ignored the fact that the second most common sentiment is “Disapproval”. In other words, a great number of memes and tweets were criticizing the two consoles.

This gave rise to the following questions: how should firms cope with meme sharing? Should firms worry about memes that mock their products? How should they intervene?

To answer these questions, we decided to go directly on “the field”, and analyze the strategy of Sony and Microsoft.

Sony, Microsoft & memes

In PS5’s case, social media pages were full of viral memes that made fun of its design.

xbox and playstation meme - Kpi6 - How memes influence brand reputation

Despite these memes, the YouTube video that showed for the first time PS5 has, at the time of writing, 35 million views, and surveys seems to show a positive consideration of the console’s design.

In other words, ironic memes have not harmed the brand reputation. However, Sony’s response to this wave of memes was passive. Microsoft, as we are going to see now, has taken a totally opposite strategy that resulted in astonishing results.

The Xbox too has been a “victim” of memes, and one of the most famous compared the console’s design to a fridge’s.

xbox meme 2

In response to these memes, Microsoft uploaded a YouTube video in which they showed a real and working fridge with the same design as the Xbox Series X.

xbox fridge campaign

The result of this auto-ironic video was great. Let’s look at numbers: the premiere trailer of the actual console was uploaded in December 2019, and right now has 15 mln views. On the contrary, the Xbox Series X Fridge video was uploaded in October 2020 and has 7,7 mln views.
This means that in just two months the ironic video has reached half of the views that the actual premier trailer achieved in 1 year. That’s a great result, that shows the power of the meme industry.

Our findings suggest that companies should be proactive when communicating informally with their customers, and should turn critiques into viral content exploiting irony. We can conclude that firms should start to share posts that “speak the language of memes”. A lot of brands are already doing so, like Microsoft, Ruffles, and Wendy’s, and the results are astonishing.

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