How Apple “Meme-ified” PR to Push Airpods

Updated: Jan 23, 2019

Turns out becoming a memelord is a viable promotional strategy, even for Fortune 10 companies. If you were around the Internet during Christmas season 2018, it’s likely somewhere along the way you ran into an Apple media placement promoting Airpods, even if you didn’t realize where it was coming from.

The placements stretched across multiple media channels, including social media, traditional media, Youtube, Instagram, Twitter — the works! In fact, #airpodsforChristmas was a trending Twitter topic on December 25th; (was it a behind-the-scenes paid placement on behalf of Apple by Twitter? We may never know.)

And what can only be assumed to be originally a paid campaign turned into a viral sensation, blurring the lines between paid and earned media.A viable PR strategy for decades has been the concept of “piggybacking” off of relevant news stories as they pertain to your business. Re-invented for 2019, businesses can take viral memes and flip them to work in their favor. Starting with paid placements with relevant micro-influencers (ex: Instagrammers with 100k or less followers,) a business can spark the virility needed for the right meme to take hold and spread.

In fact, when Airpods were first released in late 2016, they were the butt of a lot of Internet meme jokes. Stemming from frustration over the Apple product team’s decision to remove the headphone jack, many responded to the “upgrade” negatively, and also humorously, via memes.

What can be learned from all this? Youth media saavy businesses can employ the following takeaways to their marketing and PR efforts:

Apparently, you can use memes for crisis management efforts.

There’s really two methods to this approach. You can take an existing meme and use it to your benefit. For example, an image blows up and goes viral online, and you photoshop your brand into it to be relevant somehow.

Whether or not it takes off fairs on the impact of your placements — are you just sharing it on your own social media channels, or are you paying influential channels to share it as well? It also depends on how attached the general public is to the O.G. meme — that is, will your edit come off as a cheap advertisement ploy and uncreative?

The second approach is Apple’s take where a series of memes is created around a publicity stunt or event of your own. When pushing the Airpods for holiday, Apple successfully crafted a strategy that pushed the message, “Anyone who isn’t using Airpods is second tier,” within memes, tweets, and traditional media placements.

Memes are a great response to the rapid pace of news today.

We’re all familiar with a 24 hour news cycle, but nowadays, it’s a minute-by-minute news cycle. At Werner and Media, we like to say that media is now a multi-way conversation between brands, consumers, and each other. For teams trying to build an in-house PR team, it is critical to have a rapid response team managing communities, responding to off-the-cuff comments, and jumping on relevant news cycles as they arise.

Memes are a perfect response since they are often visual, light-hearted and funny, and come off as a respite from what can otherwise be a daunting media cycle. For lasting impact, brands should consider traditional placements to compliment a ‘meme-ified’ campaign, as seen above with Apple’s placements in the 9to5Mac blog and New York magazine. These articles can add validity to a meme campaign, and also drive website traffic through links better than a meme can, which typically just serves to generate impressions.

People are more willing to hear marketing messages from friends, family and trusted sources rather than the brands themselves.

While native advertising, (that is, advertising that appears as regular content and doesn’t look like advertising,) is controversial, it’s no doubt effective with less than 10% of consumers quickly being able to discern it from regular content.

Using this strategy, organizations can use meme-ified media to place messaging in a natural and unobtrusive way. While it may not be a good option for brands looking to drive direct conversions, such as the way a promoted landing page would, it is the digital version of a billboard — making impressions on a fleeting consumer base, and strengthening their existing perceptions of your brand.

Therefore, this kind of light hearted strategy is best meant for established brands who can afford to create impressions that don’t necessarily convert right away. A brand looking to reach young consumers in a way that fosters conversions is through events, influencer marketing, or live streaming activities.

We’re not a regular PR firm, we’re a cool PR firm. Werner and Media is a marketing and PR agency focused on reaching youthful consumers. We help brands tell their stories to new audiences, educate influencers and content creators, and create campaigns with impact. For more information, check out our solutions for brands here, or follow us on Twitter.