Campaign Teardown

Campaign Teardown: How Duolingo Memes Became Part of The Brand

By Editorial Staff

Viral marketing campaigns have created a new and exciting culture on TikTok, which seems to resonate with many of its users. TikTok is currently the fastest-growing app in the world, and that’s why so many brands have decided to implement the platform as part of their marketing strategy. One way to do this is by incorporating humor and memes that align with your brand’s positioning. It can also humanize your company and make you come off more authentic and relatable to consumers. A great example of this is how Duolingo memes have become a part of the company’s brand. 

What is Duolingo?

Duolingo is a personalized language-learning platform that makes education free and accessible to all. Their mission is to make learning fun, and they do this by designing their lessons to seem like a game, rather than a textbook. Their lessons aim to inspire real-life communication and encourage a balanced approach to learning. The app offers 95 unique courses that are available in 38 different languages. 

Duolingo was founded in 2011 by Luis von Ahn and Severin Hacker. The app launched in 2012 and is now one of the most downloaded educational apps in the world with over 500 million active users. 

20135 million
201410 million
201630 million
201825 million
201930 million
202042 million

Via BusinessofApps

How Duolingo is Activating TikTok

Zaria Parvez is the mastermind behind the iconic Duolingo TikTok account and the one who is responsible for the booming success it has had since she started it last year. Zaria is Duolingo’s social media coordinator, which is her first full-time job since graduating college from the University of Oregon in 2020. With 1.5M+ followers and a total of 23.3M+ likes, the company’s account is the definition of viral marketing. 

Two things make Duolingo’s TikTok page superior: The inclusion of the company’s mascot, Duo, and the team’s willingness to participate in viral audio trends. Although the content is pretty informal, the company has a specific purpose for this strategy. In an interview with Pittsburgh Inno, Zaria shares her reasoning: “A big part of Duolingo is that we make language learning fun, and I think that quality specifically was such an awesome opportunity to link to TikTok because TikTok is meant for entertainment, it’s meant for people to have fun”. 

It’s also worth mentioning that Duolingo’s TikTok did not initially start out this way. When the company first started posting content, they posted videos of people from all over the world, teaching users different phrases in foreign languages. The content seemed to be more scripted and professional in nature. This strategy did not seem to work out, as followers were not engaging with the content. Once they switched to the content style we now know and love, their TikTok took off!

One of Duolingo’s most-viewed videos has 10M+ views and is hilarious if you’re a Taylor Swift fan. It uses one of the top audio trends of the week, which is Taylor Swift’s song, “Enchanted”. The trend is simple: You dramatically sing along to the song about not wanting your ex to fall in love with someone else. 

Duolingo’s take on the trend features their mascot, Duo, dropping to his knees to the lyrics, “Please don’t be in love with someone else, please don’t have someone waiting on you”. Instead of referring to an ex, the on-screen text says, “When you use Google Translate instead of actually learning a language”. To go along with the video, the caption states, “every time you open Google Translate, I lose a feather”. 

This is just one example where Duolingo uses its witty sense of humor to manipulate viral trends to match its company content. I highly recommend scrolling through their page, it’s a guaranteed laugh in my book. 

Want to learn more about TikTok and its marketing potential for your business? Check out this blog to learn more about strategies to succeed with sponsored content.

History of Duolingo Memes

Believe it or not, Duo has been an internet meme since 2017. It all started when the mascot earned the title, “Evil Duolingo Owl”, on Tumblr. After the Duolingo meme posted by the user, knightcore, went viral, various spin-off memes were created on both Tumblr and Twitter as a result. They all were based on the narrative that Duo would threaten users who did not use Duolingo often enough. 

Instead of ignoring the viral Duolingo memes, the company chose to play into the humor by incorporating it into their marketing strategy. 4 years later on TikTok, the company continues to reference the Evil Duo Owl memes by jokingly threatening users to engage with the app on a daily basis. The joke lands every time, and it’s actually a great way to remind people who use the app to do their lessons, which ultimately benefits the company. 


Reply to @ur..fav..pers0n still in a silly goofy mood? 🤪 #Duolingo #chaos #problems #DuaLipa #attentionplz #owl #trend #comedy

♬ original sound – hot Robbie

Want to learn more about how to use memes as advertisements for your business? Check out this blog for a full guide to ad memes and their uses. 

How do Duolingo Memes Fit into their Overall Strategy?

A major aspect of Duolingo’s brand is to have fun, which definitely translates to their TikTok account. Their TikTok strategy has been to post engaging content that spreads their company’s mission: learning a language can be fun for all. 

Their social media content is not meant for user acquisition, but to add to their brand positioning and awareness. Michaela Kron, the marketing lead at Duolingo says, “TikTok is one of those places, it’s like a playground for us at this point where we can have fun, test and learn, see what works and kind of build on that.”

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What Can be Learned from Duolingo on TikTok?

One major takeaway that brands can learn from Duolingo’s marketing strategy is to have fun and don’t be afraid to add your voice. The solution is not for every brand to copy Duolingo, but to do what’s best for your own company’s image. You need to think about how you want your target audience to perceive your brand, as well as what you want people to remember about you. 

That being said, what makes Duolingo so successful on TikTok is its ability to recognize its brand’s personality and then use it to its advantage. At its core, Duolingo is a fun, inclusive, and educational platform that aims to give people free language lessons. Their TikTok continues to build up their brand, never straying away from their core values. 

This article was written by Rachel Braddy

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