Image Meme Generators | How a Good Viral Campaign can Backfire.

So about a week ago, Ghost in the Shell was released to theatrical screens, and I can go on about how Scarlet Johansson is a terrible choice as the lead but I digress. This week’s topic is about how a viral campaign can turn against you when you don’t understand the context and press surrounding your product or service. The producers for Ghost in the Shell decided to promote their movie they would make use of image meme generators to garner large crowds and expand word of mouth of their product.

First, what is a meme generator?

Simply put it’s an automated image generator where people can overlay their own original text on top of a pre-existing image that they can share on the internet on various social media outlets. It was initially used by people to share their own memes, however, recently companies and marketers have tried to tap into it to appeal to millennials and increase word of mouth of their product, brands and services. One of my favourite was a promotion done for the movie Pacific Rim.


Their image meme generator allowed users to decorate their own Yaeger, add fun text and add their home country name unto the image. It was a highly successful campaign going viral on tumblr and it brought in a large amount of positive word-of-mouth, allowed users to engage with the movie and become more aware of it and additionally set the tone of the movie to be a fun action packed movie. They were great punny humour that played on a lot of harmless countries stereotypes, and didn’t hurt anyone. My personal favourite for Australia was one Yaeger called the Vege-Mite that was all black with yellow highlights. Another the all-white Robo-pope more can be found by clicking here.


Due to the success and ease of interactivity and engagement with consumers, the promoters for Ghost in the Shell must’ve also thought, hey this can apply to us! And theoretically it should’ve… but what went wrong?

Well there’s currently a lot of politics and bad press surrounding the movie in regards to white-washing. So naturally once you give the internet free reign of something surrounded in controversy and criticism you’ll end up with mass amount of backlash. And that’s exactly what happened to Ghost in the Shell.

[Link to Mashable article regarding the backlash]

[Link to more examples of the campaign backfiring by Evening Standard]

I believe their original intention was for users to upload a photo of themselves, and fill in their own names to show everyone could be the main character of the film, to show inclusivity and bring awareness to the movie. Which in theory would’ve been a great way to promote their movie and generate free word of mouth shareable content.

What the producers and marketers failed to understand was the context in which their movie was placed in and ran a campaign that allowed for a campaign that backfired on them. It shows the importance of needing to understand the environment surrounding your product. To produce a campaign that will increase good word of mouth for the product, and a highly tailored campaign suited for your product that’s not a copy and paste of other campaigns, and most importantly prevent backlash on your campaigns.


A recent example of such was the Pepsi ad, the backlash occurred due to their mis-understanding of the politics surrounding riots and presenting them in a condescending manner. So now a digital marketing technique which was supposed to bring good word of mouth to the movie, ended up with a lot of bad press, backlash and boycotts.

Therefore, marketers need to understand the surrounding environment of their product/service so they can:

  1. Create in-offensive ads
  2. Generate good word of mouth
  3. Tailor ads around the surrounding environment
  4. Prevent back lash on their ads
  5. Mostly importantly run the ads/ campaigns they wish to run.

Thus, this example of a bad viral marketing campaign shows other marketers, that you need to understand the surrounding environment regarding your product/ service. And smartly market around it or fix/apologise for your mistake so that future and current campaigns will run smoothly.

So what are your thoughts? Is it necessary to understand the context surrounding your product/ service before beginning a new marketing campaign? Comment below and I’ll see you all next week.


2 thoughts on “Image Meme Generators | How a Good Viral Campaign can Backfire.

  1. I think it is always important to understand the context surrounding your product and service however, in this day & age it is so difficult to do anything without offending someone I think it is going to get harder and harder for brands/companies to market without offending someone, as harsh as that might be. Interesting POV though!


    • It’s definitely hard to make wholesome ads now without someone being offended and that’s okay. But I think when a large majority is offended, it’s up to the marketing team to flip it around and not accidentally create something that could put their product or service in a negative light.


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