TikTok Sound Memes: How Brands Can Tap The New Social Currency

TikTok Sound Memes are the new social currency. By the end of this article you’ll know how to cash in on them.
Fanbytes | TikTok sound memes

In 30 seconds:

  • TikTok Sound memes present a huge opportunity for brands. We’re explaining what they are and why they’re so popular.
  • What makes a sound a meme? We have the breakdown of what’s involved, so you can create one.
  • How can brands cash in on sound memes? In this article, we’ve highlighted the top ways brands can use audio to nail their marketing.

TikTok Sound memes: if you’ve ever used TikTok, you’ll know exactly what they are. Audio on the video-first, trend-setting app has brought forward a new kind of entertainment, and it’s incredibly popular. 

Brands who aren’t using sound memes in their TikTok videos are missing an extraordinary opportunity – as big as the movement from black-and-white TV to technicolour. Brands on TikTok can use TikTok sound trends – and sound memes principally amongst them – to supercharge their presence and make campaigns that users love.

The New York Times even referred to the pleasing effect of TikTok sound memes as “brainfeel” (more on this later): it’s accessing your customers in an entirely new way.

Sound memes are the audio of tomorrow, and brands need to know how to leverage them. Users experience sound on TikTok as “fun” at a 66% higher rate than they do on other channels, and the rise of audio on the platform is a testament to this. 

So with all this in mind, let’s delve into TikTok sound memes: what they are and how you can utilise them to turn up the ROI of your social media marketing strategy. 

Why are TikTok sound memes so popular?

TikTok champions audio, making it the perfect place for sound memes to be born. In fact, 88% of TikTok users said that sound is essential to the TikTok experience

Where do TikTok sounds come from, and what makes them so liked? The popularity of TikTok sounds does not come from celebrity endorsement (although Kourtney Kardashian’s famous lines have made the rounds): instead, it comes from TikTok’s intuitive UX and algorithm

Before TikTok, older social media platforms would promote material based on the popularity of its creator. The TikTok algorithm uses a more complicated and rewarding approach, boosting videos with a high rewatch rate, shares and engagement. It also recommends videos to users depending on their own interests. This means a video goes viral agnostically of the popularity of its creator. (If you want to know more, check out our article: Understanding The TikTok Algorithm (2022): How it Works & How to Use it.) The TikTok algorithm has created a culture where anyone has the potential to go viral. 83% of TikTok users have posted a video, making it a breeding ground for organic, creative content. 

This is the ideal environment for generating visibility for great audios.

Take Chris Gleason, for example. The audio he created for one of his videos, known as “Nobody’s gonna know…” became a sound meme with over 334.1K videos made from the original audio.

How does an audio with great visibility become a sound meme? This is down to TikTok’s UX. The app is designed in such a way that it’s easy for users to tap on the original audio and use it for their own content. Re-using content leads to memes. Re-using audio – an entirely new concept from TikTok – has led to sound memes.

It’s no coincidence. In fact, The New York Times links this capability back to TikTok’s roots:

“This functionality traces back to TikTok’s 2018 merger with Musical.ly, another Chinese-owned video app, one focused on lip-syncing. According to internet lore, what became TikTok’s sound feature was known on Musical.ly as “remuse” (instead of “reuse”). One way or another, the function created an unprecedented mode of cross-user riffing and engagement, like quote-tweeting for audio.”

Looking at the history of TikTok, you can see how sounds have become the go-to shareable element of videos, and one could argue they are more powerful than visuals. But what makes a sound turn into a sound meme

The anatomy of a sound meme

What is a TikTok sound meme? Simply put, it’s a TikTok sound with elements of humour that people can often use in multiple contexts in relatable ways. They frequently tickle our funny bones and tend to sway towards Gen Z humour (that’s no surprise seeing as TikTok is Gen Z’s favourite app).

TikTok sound memes are different from viral TikTok songs. If you want to read more about using music in your content, check out our article, TikTok Commercial Sounds: What Brands Need to Know

So what are the different elements within a TikTok sound meme that make it so addictive? 

1. It generates “brainfeel”

Think about the most delicious meal you’ve ever had. Recall the experience of eating it. The distinct tastes, aromas and complexities of it. The feeling you get from that is called “mouthfeel”.

If you hear something that just clicks, the sounds are perfect, the rhythm is right, and the conversation gets you giggling… that is “brainfeel”. Sound memes are what give you this pleasurable phenomenon, and that’s why they become so viral. 

We know that music releases endorphins in the brain. Neuroscientist Nina Kraus’ explains, “The sound mind engages how we think, feel, move and interpret our other senses. Not only does it shape our health, but it is deeply involved in forming memories and contributes in no small way to making us who we are,”

This could explain why TikTok sound memes are so impactful: they help form meaningful memories, making us want to hear them again and again. You could say that TikTok sounds go beyond “sound effects” to have real-life effects. This desire to repeat them influences how they trend, as higher watch-through rates help push the videos to more FYPs (For You Pages).

2. They nail the entertainment factor

Sound memes are easy to engage with. They hit the right notes through relatability, entertainment and good timing. All of these elements add up to make undeniably shareable content, and that formula is vital in today’s noisy world of social media

Entertainment is influential. A global study found that 76% say that entertainment has influenced the person they are today, while 62% say entertainment has influenced their choice of partner. It’s a hugely important element for human culture, and with the rise of social media, we only want to absorb it more. 

While novels, plays and TV dramas can help us learn about deeper topics, there’s a place for TikTok’s sound memes, too. Funny memes are perfect for lighthearted conversations. They provide quick, useful reference points that can help us interpret a situation or entertain others.

The top reasons why people watch social media content were laughter (number one at 71%), followed by a good story (at 59%) and inspiration at (51%). Sound memes can tick all of these boxes and provide an easily shareable form of entertainment that people can relate to in their own lives. 

3. They’re original

Sound memes are not predictable. That’s often what makes them so addictive. Because they are typically created initially by users, they aren’t formulaic. They are off the cusp and surprising

As they’re original, they become emblematic. “Memes are often symbols,” Don Caldwell, editor-in-chief of the website Know Your Meme explained to the New York Times. 

He describes some of the best memes as “very novel or very catchy or just very, very striking emotionally.” “Novel” is the term to focus on here. A pop song may have similar chords to another, but an original, user-created sound is entirely individual and can clarify a new area of conversation in a memorable way. 

Any viral meme becomes popular because it encapsulates a feeling. Sound is so central to our emotional experiences, that it’s logical that sound memes would have even more propensity to grow.

The different kinds of TikTok sound memes

There are all kinds of sound memes, from TV shows to original user-based sounds. The more your brand can understand what they are, the more you can cash in and use them. 

1. Original TikTok user sounds

Original sounds are the go-to for sound memes. They are the authentic audio from users, either scripted or off the cuff. They have a truly unique quality and often blow up because of their individual nuances or humour

@clarks Boots Upgraded is here, and they really do look like a work of art. #Clarks #ThenNowAlways #WomensBoots ♬ original sound - Betch

The original sound from “Betch”, also known as “I like it, Picasso” was uploaded to TikTok and has now been used in 79.2K videos (not to mention plenty more on Instagram).  

The audio has since appeared in creator videos as well as brands’ content. Clarks used it to show off their new range of boots, for example.

Using the TikTok sound meme in this way illustrates a common thread between the video creator and casual TikTok users. We find the same sounds enjoyable for the same reason, and are able to play with it.

2. TV show sounds

Some viral TikTok sound memes have used audio from TV shows. The trick here is that it’s often taken out of context and put with something relatable and humorous. Take the viral trend – “Why aren’t you in Uniform ?” from Spongebob Squarepants.

Users created new and funny videos using this sound in different ways. The viral trend of “When you remember you go to Euphoria High” was born from this audio.

TV shows and movie audios work brilliantly with user-made videos to show a different angle or point of view. Think about how viral TV show sounds could work with your brand’s content and make it relatable to the average viewer. 

3. Songs created with other sounds

Some very creative users on TikTok make sound memes from sound memes. Musicians and artists have taken to the app to arrange original sounds as remix songs. Using these funny original audios brings a unique twist to the music and makes them iconic. 

@schmoyoho intro song for any meal/snack with corn 🌽 - from iconic interview on @doingthings ♬ It's Corn - Tariq & The Gregory Brothers & Recess Therapy

“It’s Corn” by Tariq & The Gregory Brothers & Recess Therapy was an instant hit. They took a sweet and humorous interview from @recesstherapy and turned it into something legendary.

Brands everywhere jumped on board with this song, creating their own content with the audio. Amazon Prime UK gained 2.7 million views with their video, and Nandos had 10.9 million views from their version.

@primevideouk It's the cow for us... 🐄 Homelander and milk, a match made in heaven 😍🍼 #TheBoys #PrimeVideo ♬ It's Corn - Tariq & The Gregory Brothers & Recess Therapy

In a similar move, Duke & Jones took a rap that Louis Theroux did in his interview with Amelia Dimoldenberg on Chicken Shop Date and turned it into a viral song. This sound not only went viral for its self-effacing humour; “Jiggle Jiggle” became a phenomenon because of Jess Qualter and Brooke Blewitt (@brookieandjessie), 21-year-old graduates of Laine Theatre Arts, a performing arts college in Surrey.

They created a dance trend based on the song, which even celebrities like Shakira and Megan Thee Stallion performed on the platform. Dance is the second most-watched category on TikTok still and continues to inspire people to get moving.

…Ah go on then, here are a couple of our favourite videos using the sound:

How brands tap this social currency

Brands are starting to use sound memes to gain traction and boost their TikTok marketing ROI. Building campaigns around these addictive audios can help fast-track your efforts and nail your social media strategy. What’s the best way to learn how to do that? Keep an eye on the brands already getting it right.

1. Ryan Air - It’s Corn

We’ve already delved into the “It’s Corn” trend and how it came about, but how have brands been able to harness its power? Ryan Air used this sound to create a video, adding in new lyrics using in-video text to make the sound applicable to them. 

This video is specific and highly visual. This sound is also not the most obvious choice, as Ryan Air doesn’t sell “corn”. It doesn’t feel like they’re trying too hard, and the visuals are fun

Where Ryan Air really excelled was in the comments section. They added their own comment, “Corn Chain”, to get people engaging with their video and replying with “corn” or words to that effect. It created a hilarious conversation that promoted user engagement and solidified brand loyalty and trust.

2. Elf Cosmetics - Capitalism really popped off today

Elf cosmetics used this sound meme to show off their powder puff. The sound in itself should be “anti-brand”, seeing as it mentions capitalism (a bone of contention for Gen Z and Millenials), but by using it, Elf has thrown itself into the world of authenticity head first.  

@elfyeah we don't know about you, but RUN don't walk!! 👀🏃‍♀️ #elfcosmetics #elfhaloglowliquidfilter #elfpowderpuff ♬ Capitalism popped off today - Poot

This dry and honest humour sits well with next-gen demographics. Perhaps that’s why it has 453.1K views and over 60.6K likes.

The other good thing about this kind of video? It’s remarkably easy to make. Elf Cosmetics leant into the “low-fi” feel of TikTok sound memes and served it alongside a video that feels like user-generated content (UGC). And given that Gen Z – TikTok’s majority audience – overwhelmingly trusts UGC, it’s a clever way to get them shopping.

3. Red Bull Germany - Don’t be suspicious

This audio originates from the TV Show Parks and Recreation. It blew up on TikTok with over 674.8K videos using the sound. Sometimes the most bizarre video-sound partnerships work on this channel. 

@redbullgermany Markiere einen Freund, der etwas Crazy ist 🤪 #redbull #verleihtflügel @pashatheboss ♬ Don't be suspicious - io non so

Red Bull Germany used this audio and partnered with influencer @pashatheboss to bring forward a strange yet funny video.

Its odd premise and humorous take on the audio racked up 450.4K likes and 12.6K comments. Collaborating with an influencer on a sound meme audio supercharged the creative’s impact, with over 11.8K shares. 

It’s clear that combining TikTok sound memes with well-known influencers is a great way to get young audiences talking. It’s a great way to experiment with fun creatives – and even get really wacky with it – whilst remaining brand safe

4. Tesco - Checkout audition

Brands such as Taco Bell are great at adopting sound memes – but they’re also creating their own. For example, the brand made its own meme sound that others could use within videos based on its logo. It originated this TikTok audio meme in a video stating, “please use this sound responsibly” – knowing that Gen Zers would love its chaotic nature.

But Tesco have taken this to a new level. Tesco were new to TikTok, so they decided to enter the app with a splash via a meme sound effect. They used the power of TikTok sound trends – and TikTok’s duet feature (which you can read about in our TikTok duet article), to create a sound meme and generate swathes of UGC.

@tesco Audition to become the new voice of Tesco checkouts by duetting with me & including #TescoVoiceOfCheckout. ♬ original sound - Tesco

@aldiuk #duet with @Tesco Did we get lost 👀 our agent will be in touch… #tescovoiceofcheckout #aldi #alditiktok ♬ original sound - Tesco

Thousands of UGC videos later, and Tesco have earned themselves over 100,000 new followers within a month. Even competitor brands have used their TikTok sound meme to make their own content – showing the sheer power of getting involved in an audio trend.

How you should use sound memes

You know how other brands have used sound memes to their advantage. Now it’s your turn. But where to start? We have some insider tips to help you begin your sound meme journey and establish greater brand presence in the TikTok world.

1. Stay on trend

What’s the number one way to cash in on sound memes? Keep up with them. Knowing what’s popular and which sounds are going viral will mean you can utilise them for your own campaigns. If you’re asking “but where can I find TikTok meme sounds?” – we’ve got you covered. 

  1. The FYP page. First thing’s first, use TikTok like your customers do. Search for content that’s relevant to your brand and follow influencers in your niche, so that the algorithm adapts to show relevant content to you. Once you’ve done this, scroll through your FYP to see what sounds come up. Keep an ear out for ones that appear again and again: you’ve discovered a winning sound meme
  2. The Fanbytes Weekly TikTok Trends Newsletter. We have the latest and greatest when it comes to sound memes all in one place. Sign up for our free newsletter and stay up to date with what’s trending and how your brand can use it
  3. Work directly with us! The reason we’re able to create our newsletter is because of our award-winning in-house data and insights tool. Bytesights. It means we’re able to spot trends and sound memes just as they are beginning to grow, so we can help brands hop on them early and ride the wave as they reach wider audiences.

2. Create your own TikTok sound memes

79% of TikTok users find content on TikTok to be unique or different. So, be unique or different. Brands have the opportunity to make their own viral sounds on TikTok. Doing so will drive brand awareness, build trust and encourage organic growth through user-generated content. 

You can either use other original audios and create a brand new combination or simply record your own sound to use within your content. Make it relatable to other contexts to encourage users to share it with their own videos. The next step? Kick it off with a stellar TikTok video. You can use your own page to do so, or work with TikTok influencers to make memorable videos that will hit the right note, and will make creatives that everyone wants to copy.

If you’d like to discuss more about how to create your own original sound that turns into a TikTok sound meme, get in touch.

3. Be true to your brand’s tone

TikTok is all about trust. Your profile on TikTok is not just for sharing videos; it’s for creating a community. So think about what your followers might come to you for and use sounds based on this. 

Since TikTok’s demographic is young, it’s more crucial than ever to gain their loyalty. Gen Z struggles to trust brands, so you must show up for them authentically, openly and convincingly. They’ll see through it if you try to be something you’re not. 

So show off your brand values with relatable sounds that could apply to your product or service. If you work with influencers, ensure they fit in with your brand. Don’t produce content just because it’s trending; use it to power up your brand. That will create engaging communities that thrive and, ultimately, boost sales. 

What does the future sound like?

Cedric Engels, CEO of sound production agency Sonhouse and author of The Power of Sound, posed the question, “Dear brands: Are you aware that you’re communicating through sound?” 

The unique interface and clever UX of TikTok makes the spread of audio memes almost unstoppable. Add to that: these memes’ specific enjoyable qualities make us feel good

Neuroscientist Robert J. Zatorre explains to the New York Times that our brains are “constantly figuring out what might happen next.” If we hear what we expect, he adds, some dopamine is released. If we hear something unexpected, less dopamine is released. Something interesting happens, though, when the expectation is not only met but exceeded: That gives us a huge dopamine burst.

TikTok Sound Memes go above and beyond what’s expected every time. So what are you waiting for? It’s time for your brand to go above and beyond too

Looking to build a pitch-perfect strategy? Get in touch. We’ve got a whole team dedicated to sounds on TikTok and will help you develop the best way forward for your campaign. 

If you want to understand more about TikTok sounds and how your brand can tap in on them, take a look at our other articles below:

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