Is Meme An Effective technique of Undercover Marketing ?

“Indiranagar ka Gunda hun main!”

Well, we all know who happened to be the new Gunda in the town recently, Rahul Dravid, of course. Rahul Dravid a figure known for his calm and cool persona otherwise came out to be destructive, uncivilised and ill-mannered in the CRED’s all new IPL campaign. The clip was posted with an honest and humble description saying “Hi, this is Rahul Dravid writing the description for this video. Sorry, I lost my temper there. I am meditating these days.”


Redeeming CRED Coins wasn’t ridiculous at all


CRED, a credit card bill payment platform, Known for its unique ads released their much awaited IPL campaign on April 9, 2021. It didn’t seem like a marketing campaign at first and was trolled for fun and entertainment. The ad made a sarcastic comment on how redeeming CRED coins sounded as ridiculous as a man with calm persona to have anger issues. The 23 seconds YouTube clip wasn’t it, CRED actually used social media’s most engaging activity “memes” to engage with much larger audience which it would have otherwise missed.


Soon after the ad was released Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms were flooded with memes and comments on the same.



These memes were shared and reshared with new and funnier modifications on platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Whatsapp. CRED very smartly grabbed the attention of not only IPL players and followers but also memers and much active common public on social media.


A fun comment to your use


Other brands like Zomato and Amul too used this ad as a medium to engage with their viewers. Amul created a cool cartoon image on Rahul Dravid’s angry avatar stating “Jammy is Raging? Butter is calming.. Take a deep bread (breath)” referring to Rahul’s nickname the brand suggests the viewer to stay calm in a similar and take deep bread.



Zomato also came up with a humorous and sarcastic tweet “deliveries in Indiranagar miiight be late today due to an angry gunda on the road.” Zomato, as always, took notice of the opportunity and used it as a smart promotional technique. To this again there were memes and re-tweets.




Undercover Marketing


The commonly used term for this is Undercover Marketing, sometimes also known as stealth or buzz marketing. Undercover marketing, a subset of Guerrilla marketing, is a technique used to convey a hidden message among the viewers without actually directly marketing the brand or its products or services. The trick here is to generate a buzz among the people and get them talking excitedly about a brand or its services. Very common techniques of undercover marketing happened to be featuring brand names, products or services in a movie or TV shows; often also through endorsement of public figures or through other platforms outside the advertising context.


The Exit Sign Modification


In January, 2007 Axe came up with a very unique idea of advertising itself by using undercover marketing. They modified the generally used exit symbol by incorporating a personalised sticker of four women chasing the man made on the symbol. This was in line with the very famous Axe commercial implying Axe body spray attracts opposite sex.




Power of Social Media


With over 90 per cent of 4.20 billion mobile internet users worldwide being active on social media platforms, give brands an immense opportunity to use these platforms for engaging and growing awareness among much larger audience. However, the typical traditional ways of advertising on digital platforms have not only become ineffective for the brands but are also becoming frustrating for the viewers. Whenever an ad pops up the “skip ad” button is the first thing they look for. Hence, becoming creative and unique is what brands look for.


One of the most engaging and loved activities on all social media platforms among youths happens to be memes. Meme, an internet culture, is a type of idea or behaviour which is spread in a humorous way on social media platforms. People generally tend to relate to these memes and shares them for fun and often to convey messages. The best thing about meme is that it is created and re-created by what’s actually present. The twist here is that the entire media can be redirected by just adding a new comment or caption to it. Meme has become one of those most effective social media campaign techniques which brands target to grab attention and engage efficiently with people world-wide.


Aggressive marketing in a polite way


Duolingo, a language learning application, used this technique aggressively back in 2019. The idea was to keep people talking about Duolingo. It released its green owl symbol with a gun in hand implying that if you ignore Duolingo it might kill you. The Duolingo memes by Reddit became very popular and were shared and reshared again and again.



The brand came up with a better and funnier meme as soon as the previous one became old. Although as of now Duolingo memes are no more popular but once they were and lasted much longer than any other memes.


To Connect Better


A similar strategy was used by Spotify, an online music application. The brand was inspired by the online meme culture and used it wittily to promote its “Music for every mood” campaign by suggesting different playlist for every emotional state that people generally went through.



The idea here was to connect with people so that they connect with the brand even better. A platform was set for those people who already knew or are connected with spotify. They used the love and connection of their existing customers to keep them talking about the humour and reality these memes hold. The more people related to these the more they liked and shared, attracting new users thereby making the campaign a successful one.


Meme Marketing


Memes are becoming an effective technique of undercover marketing where not only the brands promote themselves but the users and viewers of memes who could relate and find it humorous subconsciously keep promoting it, thereby not only capturing a larger audience but also becoming viral overnight. This cost effective technique of marketing doesn’t just connect with people better but also have a long life span which leaves an impression in the minds of the viewers, thereby generating awareness that generally doesn’t fade away easily.


However, integrating meme in a marketing strategy is bit of a task as it challenges the marketer to be humorous, sarcastic and to capitalize with the current trend thereby to leave an impression. It should be relatable so that the majority of the target audience are interested in it and the desired result from the campaign is actually achieved.


Being millions of memes shared every day on social media platforms, it has become difficult to deny the fact that they are widely used and are known for their humour and uniqueness. With the ability that these memes have to grow popularity and go viral, it can be used as a core social media strategy to gain brand exposure and awareness. The above examples clearly indicate how brands are making efforts to be unique and humorous to explore this side of undercover marketing. Although not every campaign using these strategies turns out to be successful but the market offered by memes and social media platforms are one of the most effective techniques under buzz or undercover marketing which cannot be ignored.


Author: Gunjan Agarwal

Author is an MBA 2022- IFMR GSB || Sports Co-Ordinator at IFMR GSB || Core member of photography club (IFMR GSB)

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