3 Reasons Why Meme Parodies Make For Bad Content

Posted by Steven Shattuck

February 18, 2013 at 12:00 AM

Unless you've been living under a rock this past week, you've no doubt been inundated with numerous variations of the Harlem Shake video. Though it seems like every business, organization and team in the world has posted their own take on "Sh*t (Somethings) Say," "Call Me Maybe," "Dollar Shave Club" and "Gangnam Style," it's important to pause for a moment and consider whether doing so is actually a good idea. Great content is original, helpful and built to last. Memes and parodies rarely fall under any of those categories. Here are three reasons why you should think twice before making a meme or viral video parody.

Business Cat1. They Do Not Solve Customer/Prospect Problems

I could stop here. The only reason - and I mean the only reason - to create content is to help someone solve their problem. That's it.

Now that content marketing has achieved wide adoption, the volume of bad content hitting the web on a daily basis is on the rise. Meanwhile, consumers are becoming more and more aware of when and how they're being marketed to. This is putting us on a crash course towards a content bubble.

The Dollar Shave Club video worked for Dollar Shave Club because it was original, funny and solved a problem (or at least introduced a service that solves a problem). Delivering your company's sales pitch in the Dollar Shave Club format is not original, not funny and does not solve any problems.

Only useful content generates views, shares and leads.

2. The Content Isn't Evergreen

The best piece of content is built to last. Ideally, something you produce should stay relevant and searchable for months and even years after you release it (almost 16 months later, our CTR study still gets mentioned during conference keynotes). A viral video parody, however, only stays relevant for as long as the original work stays in the public eye, which is rarely longer than a few weeks. Is it really worth putting all that work into learning the dance moves or writing new lyrics to "Call Me Maybe" for that video to be completely useless a month later?

To all the brands doing the "Harlem Shake" videos, you know that's not the Harlem Shake, right? Besides, it's funny the first time, not the 11th. Create great content, not "viral." - Scott Stratten

3. They Can Do More Harm Than Good

There are plenty of examples of backlash caused by businesses or organizations attempting to ride a meme. An otherwise flawless Super Bowl in Indianapolis was slightly marred by a "Super Bowl Shuffle" parody that drew national attention and ire. Eleven athletes from Susquehanna University were kicked off the football team following their rendition of the Harlem Shake. Several California lifeguards were also handed their walking papers (then rehired) after a failed "Gangnam Style" parody. Though these are extreme examples, it's enough just to avoid negative tweets and comments when your parody falls flat.

Beyond all that, put yourself in the shoes of a customer or a stakeholder. Let's say your satisfaction with a vendor is low. How would you feel about seeing shirtless employees gyrating to the Harlem Shake when they haven't met your deadline for a project?

Yes, it's a good idea to show off the lighter side of your business, but not in a manner that is bad for business. And if it doesn't help your customer, it's bad for business.

Ready to make some helpful content that will last? Download our Guide to Enterprise Blog Post Optimization.


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