There is a fairly clear delineation between what is acceptable for online and offline communication, and the tiny overlap between the two is littered with attempts featured on #fail articles and r/fellowkids (a place that exists solely to preserve each misstep in all its tone-deaf glory). While it is tough to bridge the gap, when done well it can be extremely successful. The few that have succeeded reap the rewards of being first to the party and pulling it off.

However, if you’re considering attempting to use any online media, like gifs, memes, or emojis, to breathe life into your offline marketing campaign, you’ll first need to determine if it’s a good fit for you. The same marketing techniques can work very differently for different businesses; the mobile marketing techniques that have seen success may not translate offline. There are some essential things you need to understand before attempting to bridge that gap.

This article will discuss how to bring online marketing to offline, specifically GIFs, memes, and other traditionally digital media. We’ll talk about:

  • When using online content in your offline marketing campaign could be a good fit
  • Common mistakes to avoid
  • Is it worth it?
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Is Digital Media a Good Fit for My Offline Marketing Campaign?

The answer may be no, and that is okay. The important thing is that you did your research and decided it wasn’t a good fit, instead of jumping in blind and making a huge blunder. Let’s go through a few things you need to consider to figure out if it is a good fit for you:

Who is your audience?

If you are specifically trying to appeal to Gen Z and Millennials, you’re in the right place. It will be tough, but cleverly using digital media in an offline campaign can really win the younger crowd over. However, as much as older generations are on Facebook these days, an online media-focused campaign is unlikely to resonate.

What is the perception of your brand?

Brand perception is not how you want your brand to be perceived, it’s how others perceive it. Being aware of how positively or negatively your brand is thought of is crucial, because if your niche is unpopular, no subway meme is going to fix that.

It’s not always about being well-liked, either. Is your brand seen as fun, whimsical, sassy, or trendy? These are all great indicators of digital media being a good fit.

Deadpool’s emoji billboard is a great example of harnessing brand perception. Deadpool’s entire brand is being self-aware, ironic, obnoxious, and crude. Spelling out “deadpool” in emojis – including the infamous poop emoji – is perfect.

Another example: this Netflix campaign. This campaign was released back in 2014 in France, where Netflix knew they were unpopular and that the French were generally suspicious of streaming services. They decided to make a splash and use animated GIF advertisements in various outdoor settings, even reacting to real-time news within hours (like France being eliminated from the World Cup). Each advertisement featured a short GIF of a scene from a Netflix original, and a caption that explained the scene – above, Walter White removes his sunglasses in shock, and the caption reads (roughly), “that moment when you see a spoiler.”

They understood that their brand perception was poor, and used their own digital media to uniquely advertise and entertain their audience in an attempt to win them over. Did it work? Well, today Netflix is the dominant platform by far, with 60% of streaming users reporting to have used it.

What are you trying to accomplish?

Increasing leads, sales, conversions, and awareness, obviously, as all good marketing tries to do. But what exactly are you trying to accomplish with this campaign? The best fit for making an online format work offline is an increase in awareness because it avoids one of the traps we’ll touch on next: being overtly sales-y. As a general rule of thumb, the less you try to sell something specific, the better.

This quarter-page ad in the Guardian is the purest example of not trying to sell anything. This ad ran exactly as is, without the name of the company behind it at all. It was absurd, whimsical, and for absolutely no reason other than fun – and a little mystery. People got curious and figured it out, and flocked to the company all on their own.

This is another excellent example of brand awareness, along with the proper use of a trending meme. Spotify is extremely popular among the younger crowd, and when this ad was put up, they were heavily investing in creating fun, unique, interesting playlists within their platform. However, it’s barely sales-y at all – the playlist (Sad Indie) is the punchline of the joke, but nowhere do they even mention that. Their target audience most likely already knows that anyway. What it does is makes them laugh, and maybe nudges them to look for some new playlists if they want to.

Still here? Great! That means that you think you might have a shot at pulling off a successful online to offline campaign. Next, let’s go over some pitfalls you can avoid:

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Even with the best intentions, your efforts can still fall flat. Looking at where previous campaigns went wrong can help keep you from making the same mistakes:

Lack of Proofreading

This is one of the most common pitfalls that brands fall into. Having a writing room filled with people that aren’t in your target demographic and don’t fully understand or use the references you’re trying to pull from is almost guaranteed to fail. Make sure that a couple of people you’re trying to appeal to read your rough draft and give you an honest opinion on it.

This is a great example of speaking your audience’s language. Its design is simple, clean, and modern. The emojis are used correctly, the tone of voice and slang is there, but subtle and easily understandable. This ad works extremely well because it resonates with younger audiences without talking down to them or making fun of them.

Jake Rheude is the VP of Marketing at Red Stag Fulfillment, a company that specializes in working with ecommerce businesses. When he’s not busy with marketing, you can find him hanging out with his dog or skiing (but not both at the same time).

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