With another year under our belts, it’s nice to take a step back and reflect. As we look back on our accomplishments, our downfalls, and everything in between, it’s easy to see that a lot happens in the span of a year. This doesn’t only apply to people, but businesses and brands as well.
Traditionally, brands go through a rigorous process to find the right voice and tone for their social media presence, and oftentimes they stick to what’s safe: professional, pointed, and polite. Recently, however, brands have been expanding their voice across social and engaging more with humor: trends, memes, and so forth (think Wendy’s on Twitter, or everything Tushy does).
While we love to see brands take a more casual and creative approach on social media, sometimes it works, but sometimes… things fall short. In the spirit of reflection, let’s take a look back at some of the best brand involvement in meme culture and social media trends of 2022, and which brands should’ve just stayed out of it.
Sometimes, Brands Just Get It!
Brands have started to lighten up a bit on social media and consumers are noticing. While some were just plain funny, others truly aligned with the already-established voice and tone of the brand while giving a bit of edge that competitors may not have.
Let’s start back in the beginning of 2022, where we saw a surge of users sharing the “Spiderman pointing” meme.
Luckily for Sony, they were ready to announce the release of No Way Home, the latest Spiderman film, for preorder at the same time. This is a perfect example of brands capitalizing on a moment that can prove beneficial for them business-wise, but also show a different side of the brand that may have never been voiced before. A side that says, “Look at us—we’re in tune with the zeitgeist. We’re relatable. We’re real people too!”
McDonalds & Hanes
Moving into the latter half of 2022, we had a resurgence in brands’ meme usage after a lull of nothing memorable. The trend I’m about to cover may shock you, but if you used Twitter at all back in September, I’ll bet your entire feed was filled with brand accounts Tweeting single words. While this may seem unfunny, or even useless, this opened up the doors for brands to engage with users in influx, and it generated A LOT of conversation.
I use McDonald’s for reference, as they took it literally and honored their mascot, Ronald McDonald, by simply tweeting “clown.” It’s more creative than something as blasé as “fries” or “hamburger,” and taps into the already existing love the web has for clown memes. Engagement was practically guaranteed.
Then there’s Hanes. This example shows what NOT to do. Hanes commented “underwear” under McDonalds while their own single word Tweet didn’t do great in terms of numbers. (“Socks”… really guys? Not funny. Not creative. Not even “whitey tighties”? You can do better.)
It’s corn! While I would rather never hear that phrase again in my life, one little boy’s cute statement expressing his love for corn had the internet in a state of hysteria.
Besides this being absolutely adorable, it was also a clear marketing moment for some brands. Enter, Chipotle:
Who doesn’t love Chipotle corn in their burritos and burrito bowls? As simple as it may seem, Chipotle was fast-moving (a major key to brands using memes successfully) and recognized the chance to showcase their relevant brand with a trend that already had everyone’s attention. After seeing that, I’m really craving a nice Thursday afternoon pick-me-up, but we must persevere.
Scrub Daddy (NSFW language ahead!)
My personal favorite. Again in late 2022, TikTok users were recreating classic brand jingles with some NSFW filler lines. From the likes of Kohl’s to Lexus, we’ve seen complete jingle reconfigurations that had people shocked to say the least.
Funny, right? Unfortunately Kohl’s didn’t think so, and refused to capitalize on the moment.
BUT, have y’all met Scrub Daddy? Not only is this sponge extremely effective at getting tough food items off of your dishes with ease, they’ve also got a funny side that they’re not afraid to show.
Now, I may have a bias towards this brand after spending weeks crafting the perfect marketing plan for a class during my college days at Temple University, but I truly think this is genius in terms of knowing your audience and jumping on trends efficiently. Scrub Daddy was able to hop on a trend and introduce a product line within a week of the meme going viral. If that’s not an organized creative team, I don’t know what is. Except CBM’s, of course. Speaking of…
We’ve had our fair share of fun over here at ChatterBlast, jumping on some of the key memes and trends that took social media by storm last year, so let’s take a quick trip down the CBM MEMEory lane (you like what I did there?).
Introducing… Little Miss ChatterBlast! We think she sums up the CBM personality quite well. The “Little Miss” meme was everywhere, taking over Instagram feeds and stories for what felt like weeks. But, that’s the great thing about this meme—its simplicity can apply to anyone or anything, even brands (if done efficiently, and of course, in a funny manner!).
Sometimes, Brands Should Just Stay Out Of It.
So while many brands have let their guards down and loosened up a bit on social media in a positive manner, some just didn’t live up to expectations.
I’ve already mentioned brands like Hanes who royally failed, but there are more brands that tried really hard (almost too hard) to ultimately make us cringe, and hurt the company’s image overall. One could argue a bad meme will stick in someone’s memory way longer than a good meme does.
Pabst Blue Ribbon
PBR is a perfect example of just that. Kicking off Dry January 2022, PBR decided to spice things up on Twitter with this tweet.
I’m sure you can imagine that not going over well. Unfortunately for PBR, Dry January and the premise of the Tweet DID make sense, the execution just… wasn’t there.
Now, you might be asking “why is it okay for Scrub Daddy to include vulgar humor in their marketing, but it’s not cool when PBR does it?” Not only has this brand never displayed this level of “openness” on Twitter, showcasing an abrupt shift in tone, but the Tweet itself came out of left field. When mentioning Wendy’s earlier on, they’re a great example of a brand who has been establishing an edgy, humorous tone on social media over time. Same goes for Scrub Daddy, who not only established this tone prior, but also hopped on an existing trend that users were already engaged in. All in all, great effort from PBR, but a bit premature in our book.
DuoLingo could’ve been a success story. Their online presence stood out in a positive, unique way when TikTok users started noticing the comment section of virtually every viral video had one commenter in common: a sassy little green owl. DuoLingo was doing an excellent job at being present in comment sections, showing not only do they keep up with trends, but they actually engage with them! “Look, I’m a brand but with a real human behind the scenes, same as you!” It caused a stir, in a great way.
Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. While the brand is still very popular, it’s definitely lost its steam after one particularly off-key comment.
Edgy is good when the stakes are low, but giving their say in a domestic abuse case? No further explanation needed for this one.
Pride Marketing (in general)
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I felt it was right to highlight this historically “challenging” holiday for brand marketing: Pride Month. As if brands changing their logos to feature cute little rainbows for the month of June before promptly going back to “normal” in July wasn’t enough, some brands took it a step further with Pride marketing that was better left in the closet. (I know I said we were reviewing memes and trends but stick with me here… the LGBTQ+ community is considered a trend to the majority of brands!)
Exhibit A: AT&T
Exhibit B: Burger King Austria
And just so I’m not coming off as a bitter, angry gay boy, I’ll highlight one (1) good example of brands doing Pride marketing well. Take a look at Fossil, who released a Pride edition collection of watch faces, straps, etc. with all proceeds going to the Trevor Project for a minimum donation of $100,000. You go, Fossil! (No actually, this is great!)
So, what was the point of this? Why did Andrew just point out his favorite brands’ use of memes and social media trends? BECAUSE IT WORKS, and more brands need to realize that.
Looking back to 2015, you can find tons of discourse on why brands’ use of memes and social media trends was a terrible idea strategically. Fast forward to 2022, and we see brands using it across the board in many different industries with great success. If done effectively, and efficiently (that’s a WHOLE different topic) brands could reap the benefits: follows, shares, engagement, the whole shabang. It’s something familiar and relatable that helps you connect with your intended audience—just don’t be like some of the brands I mentioned above *cough* Burger King *cough*.