Do you like your chocolate dipped snacks with a side of snark? Do burgers taste better after they’ve dragged another burger through the ringer? It sure seems like it, doesn’t it? More and more brands are upping their sass online and people are noticing.
Note to self: don’t mess with @MoonPie pic.twitter.com/LM6cxyHNAs
— Kaela Thompson (@KaelaDianne97) December 17, 2017
.@McDonalds So you’ll still use frozen beef in MOST of your burgers in ALL of your restaurants? Asking for a friend.
— Wendy's (@Wendys) March 30, 2017
Companies are even swapping out usual holiday greetings and instead shaming users for their media intake habits.
To the 53 people who've watched A Christmas Prince every day for the past 18 days: Who hurt you?
— Netflix "Mariah Carey's Merriest Christmas" US (@netflix) December 11, 2017
In the spirit of the New Year and reflection, I’m inclined to wonder: why we want our brands to be so rude online? And does it even matter that they are? According to a study done earlier this year by Sprout Social, it doesn’t really. While being snarky and quick-witted on Twitter might lead to higher engagement, that doesn’t correlate to higher sales. And higher sales is why brands market themselves in the first place. Duh.
Users still value honesty and 90% of millennials think that the coolest thing a brands’ social platform can do is answer questions in a timely manner. Hear that? Your mom was right. Being courteous is cool. In fact, less than 40% of consumers would patronize a company just because they are funny. But even if we aren’t buying from these brands, why do we revere their snark?
First, I think it’s just human to react to boldness. That’s all social media is these days. Who can say the craziest thing, the truest thing, the most out of character thing. It’s fun to see Wendy’s make fun of McDonald’s for their perpetually broken ice cream machines. “Wendy’s is but a simple square burger manufacturer, how do they know of such dairy corruption?” you think.
When the tweets are as broken as the ice cream machine. https://t.co/esdndK1iFm
— Wendy's (@Wendys) November 24, 2017
Also, we’ve seen a real deviation from how people are “supposed to act” in public this year. Our president makes, at best a political gaffe, and at worst, a casual declaration of war every, like, 15 seconds. So seeing Taco Bell in a fight with Old Spice doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. But if you take that out of the context of 2017, it sucks. Outsmarting a deodorant brand doesn’t magically put “meat” in their beef tacos. Taco Bell’s food is still rank as hell. And while Netflix piling on the poor soul who watched A Christmas Prince 53 days in a row is good for quick laugh, you have to wonder what habits of yours the streaming site is judging (and monitoring.)
It's understandable why companies are doing this. They want to seem hip. Hip sells things. They want to add a fun, personal vibe to otherwise very boring reality of selling things. That is what branding is. But I'd argue that you can be hip and personable without being mean. Is that too wild of a stance to take these days?
Wendy’s social team recently did a Reddit AMA on their tweets and users asked about their favorite burns, the process behind the writing, and if they’ve ever gotten in trouble for what they’ve put out. It’s entertaining to read, but you can easily forget that at the end of the day these guys are just trying to sell more burgers. The idea of them as a bunch of young twitter geeks is a branding technique—a clever branding technique, but a branding technique all the same. They’ve crafted “keeping it real” to infuse a modicum of humanity behind Wendy's cartoon eyes. But I don’t need my burgers to be humanized, or even "cool." I just want them to taste better.