It’s 2015 and Chicago copywriter Brendan Kelly is sitting in a stuffy conference room. A thought hits him. He asks: “What if corporate Twitter accounts weren’t so transparently promotional and superficial? What if every brand account wasn’t interchangeable and had some character instead?” A few days later, Nihilist Arby’s was born.
Three years later, some brands have warmed up to Kelly’s little thought experiment. These brands tweet the same kind of content as regular Twitter users themselves. Their meme game is on point and they’re not afraid to throw shade. In a nutshell: they’re internet humour through and through.
It’s a bold move and one that’s not without consequence. But when the risk is great, so is the reward. Wondering whether you should make the jump? That’s good, but hold onto that enthusiasm for now. Let’s go over some examples first, so you know exactly what we’re talking about.
Example 1: MoonPie
The king of silly Twitter brands, MoonPie is a brand of chocolate-coated cookies. The snack itself may have originated in 1917, but the brand has mastered Twitter like no other. Their profile is one big compilation of absurdity and self-deprecating humor. Add an unhealthy MoonPie obsession to the mix and you’ve got yourself a recipe for internet fame.
If you take all of the consonants out of MoonPie you are left with the word “ooie” which is the exact noise my dad makes when he sits down on the couch
— MoonPie (@MoonPie) June 9, 2018
It's one thing to eat a MoonPie but it's another thing entirely to gently caress a MoonPie both have their time and place
— MoonPie (@MoonPie) February 21, 2018
Example 2: Steak-umm
Second in the list is frozen meat brand Steak-umm. This Twitter account is mostly known for its (not quite) inspirational musings. Still, it also features plenty of hijinks.
all the money and power in the world cannot fill that gaping hole left in our stomach, only beef can
— Steak-umm (@steak_umm) June 5, 2018
you are beautiful
you are worthy of love
you are a bundle of potential
you are enough
you are following a frozen beef sheet brand on twitter
— Steak-umm (@steak_umm) April 5, 2018
if you ever come across a fabled seabeef in the wild you need to know 3 things:
1.) they hate fruit roll ups
2.) singing africa by toto increases your likelihood of befriending them
3.) don’t pick your nose (they take this as a threat)
— Steak-umm (@steak_umm) May 7, 2018
to all the slanderous accusations in the media over me starting a “beef cult” I’d just like to come clean and say that it’s 100% true and all are welcome to join we mostly do memes and bless each other
— Steak-umm (@steak_umm) April 7, 2018
Example 3: Casper
Lots of brands make it a point to routinely post inspiring and motivating content. Casper, a manufacturer of pillows and matresses, does exactly the opposite. It achieves a nice balance between pointless absurdity and relatable humor. Because, let’s face it, we can all be lazy sometimes.
Going to work is fun, but have you ever tried sleeping through your alarm?
— Casper (@Casper) May 31, 2018
Why does it work?
The answer is suprisingly simple. When most brand accounts are bland and boring, the ones with character stand out. It makes your brand more memorable. It also happens that posting cat pics from time to time, makes you seem more human. Additionally, it attracts interaction and engagement. People love to share content that is relatable and genuinely funny. And an offbeat brand invites other users to join in the fun. Both of these will increase the brand’s exposure and (according to a recent Hootsuite experiment) even impact your SEO.
Should I consider this approach?
The short answer: maybe.
The long answer: it depends. Your success relies on three major factors that form the basis of your communication strategy. Which factors, you ask?
1. Product: Make sure your product allows you to goof off. Almost every one of these brands is in one of two industries. First, there’s the snack camp with MoonPie, Steak-umm, Totino’s, Pop-Tarts and Hot Pockets. A little more promotional and aggressive, there’s also the fast-food chains like Wendy’s, Burger King and Wingstop. This is no coincidence: could you imagine a brand like BMW tweeting like this? This kind of voice works best with cheap consumables. And please, please, please don’t try this in B2B.
2. Audience: This approach works well because people can relate to it. Is your target audience the (Post-)Millenial who enjoys mindless scrolling through Twitter for the occasional low quality chuckle? Then this voice is a great fit. Targeting senior management, on the other hand? Maybe not.
3. Values: Make no mistake, this will impact the perception of your brand. It is crucial that your voice aligns with the values you want to broadcast to the world. If your mission statement mentions words like “premium” or “professional”, then this probably isn’t the way to go. However, if it’s important for your brand to be relatable, honest and self-aware, go ahead.
Decided that this is the way to go?
That’s great! Here are some tips to get you started:
Be prepared to spend a lot of time on this. To succeed, you need vast amounts of interaction with users and competitors. Hell, tweet a celebrity from time to time.
Make sure your product is good in the first place. High engagement means more positive and negative reactions. So unless you want to end up like YouTube’s Twitter, make sure your audience is happy with your product first. While you’re at it, follow up on the remaining negative tweets through private messaging to improve your product even more.
Use your sense of humor to tackle bigger (more stuffy) competitors. Wendy’s’ Twitter style is all about pointing out their beef isn’t frozen at any point in its journey. This means it can easily roast McDonald’s without coming across as being off-brand.
Be careful with promotional content. It’s difficult to be commercial and self-deprecating at the same time, but it is possible. Use similar punctuation, vocabulary and images to make sure the style of the tweet is in line to what you normally post. Then, add a strong dose of humor for good measure.
Ease into it. If you have an account with existing content, don’t go all-in straight away. Your followers will likely think the account got hacked or that your social media manager meant to use his private account. Gradually transition to the new style in your user replies first. Then, slowly start implementing similar content on your profile. This will get you immediate feedback while simultaneously keeping your profile clean.
Learn Twitter culture. The internet is very good at sniffing out posers and turning them into ridicule. So remember there’s no such thing as “twittering” and watch out with that aubergine emoji. And be sure to thoroughly check a trending hashtag before jumping on the bandwagon. You really don’t want to end up like DiGiorno.
If you’ve decided that this kind of voice is perfect for your brand, good for you! It won’t be easy, but the rewards are worth it. There’s only one thing left to do now: go forth and conquer!
Unsure about your own brand voice?
Do you want to implement a absurd voice but not sure how to do it? Or did this article make you realize your social strategy isn’t the best it could be? Let’s meet up and figure it out together.