If all online brands are fun, is there anything fun? | ET REALITY


In the comments of a recent RyanAir TikTok post, one exuberant traveler posted about fly the airline for the first time. In the past, the typical corporate response to this might have been something like, “We’re glad to have you!” or “Thank you for joining us!”

Ryan Air responded: “Do you want a medal?”

It was peculiar, except not. Being weird on social media has become standard practice for corporate brands.

This has long caused some older people to regress. And there are signs that it no longer works with millennials or Gen Z customers, people like Priya Saxena, 25, who works in digital marketing in Atlanta.

“I roll my eyes,” Saxena said. “A lot of them are trying too hard. I think sometimes they try to fit in and get closer to my generation. So it’s not very natural.”

Ron Cacace, 33, former social media manager for Archie Comics, said brands are now in a “race to the bottom.”

“When you see everyone making funny, snarky lowercase posts or wacky slang-based ads, what happens is you have to keep getting over it,” Cacace said. “Quality is declining across the board.”

This is especially true of the old Twitter, now known simply as X in its own effort to rebrand.

Here’s Dominos, the pizza chain, posting on X last month: “red flag: do not dip your portion in ranch.” and here it is bees: “‘Don’t eat after 8pm’, so tell me why apps are half off after 9pm?'”

On TikTok, sponge company Scrub Daddy recently posted a short video featuring a sponge and some butter.

Title “Butter daddy. Daddy with butter.”

You’re not alone if you’re bothered by the memes, slang, misspelled words, and abbreviations now regularly published around the world by once-strict corporate giants.

And it’s not just about corporations: It wasn’t unusual, for example, when the official social networks of the state of New Jersey told a user “stop fooling us, Nancy.” Nancy had questioned the existence of central Jersey.

“They’re trying to integrate,” said Jennifer Grygiel, an associate professor of communications at Syracuse University. “They have classified their audience as younger..”

It wasn’t long ago that online brands were simpler: sales here, happy holidays there.

But the reach of social media influencers and the growing spending power of people in their twenties has pushed companies to change their voice. Online influencers on TikTok have more influence on Generation Z than traditional advertising, said Donna Hoffman, a marketing professor at George Washington University.

To reach this group, Hoffman said companies are copying influencers and their pithy posts. But sometimes they seem like harsh or false attempts.

Those working in this field say the shift in social media began in the mid-2010s or so, particularly with fast food brands. The original goal was to target millennials who were frequent Twitter users, but it has since changed.

Wendy’s was one of the first and most prolific adopters of Weird Brand Posting. The restaurant chain began routinely mock competitors and use a sardonic voice to mock users who interacted with your account.

Amy Brown, who was Wendy’s social media manager from 2012 to 2017, said she began to move Wendy’s approach under the radar.

“It’s not like our marketing director is looking at our Twitter account, right?” Ms. Brown, 34, said. “So a lot of this was taking calculated risks and really experimenting in a channel that high-profile decision makers weren’t paying attention to yet.”

Wendy’s refused to mock us for this story.

Almost overnight, brands realized the power of shock, said Cacace, who took over the Archie Comics account in 2014. “This is what a lot of these crazy, unconventional tactics are starting to look like: ‘Did you want to publish this? ‘Someone has done something wrong!’”

A high-profile example came in 2017, when Hostess was declared the official snack of the total eclipse, a phenomenon that had not been visible in the United States since 1979.

MoonPie, a competitor, tweeted the original post and said “haha okay,” which generated tens of thousands of likes, shares and replies.

MoonPie had already established itself as having a fun digital voice, but this amplified it: A company executive told FastCompany months later that MoonPie sales had skyrocketed.

Since then, the rarity of the markings has become more uniform.

In 2021, the Wingstop restaurant chain got into a flirty exchange with one user, which included lines from the account like “all you have to do is open your mouth.” The thread exploded.

Sometimes brands run into these moments. This summer, McDonalds began selling a milkshake inspired by Grimace, its purple blob-shaped mascot. This fueled a trend on TikTok in which young people filmed themselves pretending to die from drinking the milkshake.

McDonald’s acknowledged what was happening with a Grimace post (“I pretend I don’t see the tendency to shake the grimace.”). And, in a sign that quirky still works sometimes, Sales of the limited edition smoothie increased.

“When a brand can allow you, the audience, to play it, make it yours, that’s when you see things really transcend,” said Ariel Rubin, the 38-year-old former communications director of Iowa-based Kum & Go, a convenience store known for its cheeky social media posts.

Trying too hard to be cute can backfire. In 2021, Burger King in Great Britain posted on Twitter, “Women belong in the kitchen.” The backlash was loud and swift, despite efforts at damage control in the following tweets: “If they want, of course. However, only 20% of chefs are women.”

Quirky Posts Aren’t Enough: Gen Z Audiences Are More Likely to Consider Them Corporate ethics and morals than previous generations.according market research.

“I don’t want to endorse a brand that doesn’t endorse the values ​​that I also have,” said Eva Hallman, a 19-year-old journalism student at Butler University.

Wendy’s, for example, has been the subject of boycotts and protests for refusing to join the Fair Food Program, an initiative that has pushed fast food chains to buy materials from producers with high standards. Separately, after 17 Wendy’s workers announced on TikTok in 2021 that they were leave themr jobs due to low wages, the company was hit by tweets urging it to pay workers better.

“A meme can create a strong personality online,” Hoffman said. “But if a company behaves cynically and uses that fun to divert attention from its bad behavior, that’s a risk.”

The changes to the old Twitter are the latest development, after Elon Musk took over the platform and changed many of its features and moderation policies. Some corporations have completely withdrawn from interacting on X, including Best Buy and Aim.

More brands are turning to TikTok. And it remains to be seen how they will adapt to booming Twitter alternatives, such as Instagram threads and Bluesky Socialor the Openly anti-commercial mastodon.

“There are authentic ways to stay weird on the internet,” Brown said of brands’ efforts to be quirky as these platforms continue to change.

As for the strategy she pioneered, she said, “It’s time to put the Wendy’s thing to bed.”

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