Marketing Briefing: ‘Bad behavior is positively rewarded’: Why brands continue to push the line on social posts

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Nearly a decade ago, Oreo made headlines for its now infamous “Dunk in the Dark” tweet. The tweet, which was sent out during the 2013 Super Bowl, became the perfect example of responsive marketing on social media — something marketers were still figuring out back then — that the industry would point to for years. 

It’s harder for brands to stand out on social media now. In the years since “Dunk in the Dark,” it’s become much more common for brands to comment on whatever’s happening at the moment. Brands sound alike on social media now, too. Most social media managers tend to use a colloquial voice to make brand accounts sound, well, less like brands and more like people.

Brand accounts have to go beyond just sounding like people and find ways to stand out — i.e. why Duolingo leans into “unhinged” content on TikTok — so that people will pay attention. It’s easy to see then, why marketers and brand managers are pushing the envelope on social posts as people likely wouldn’t pay attention otherwise. 

But recent posts, like Pabst Blue Ribbon’s sexually explicit tweet that got its social media manager fired as well as brands like Ruggables, Hellman’s mayonnaise and Peacock, among others, jumping into TikTok’s West Elm Caleb trend on TikTok (a man who allegedly works for West Elm who was dating, ghosting and sending explicit photos to several women in New York City went viral for those behaviors with women making posts to warn each other about him) have some in the industry questioning were the line is when it comes to standing out or going too far on social media. 

“West Elm Caleb content is a perfect example of brands doing something just because other users on the app are doing it,” said Lauren Murphy, social strategist for Deutsch LA. “If your brand has a clear strategy and social voice, then you don’t need to make content for the sake of shock value or to be trendy.” 

Murphy continued: “Any piece of content your brand puts out there should feel like it’s coming from your brand. If you removed the logo — would it still relate to your audience and does it still make sense that you’re posting it compared to any other brand? Also, brands, do you want to be a brand making fun of a 25-year-old guy who has been ghosting women on dating apps? It feels wrong just to hop on trends without considering the power and responsibility brands have online.” 

While some in the industry believe that “standards of some sort must apply,” as Cristina Lawrence, evp and head of social at Razorfish put it, others say that brands will likely continue to push the envelope because that’s what gets noticed online.

“For brands trying to make a cultural/social splash, the trend is for social brand voice to be out of character but not far off from the internet language of their target,” said Nick Meyer, director of social strategy at Campbell Ewald, adding that Wendy’s started the shift in brand voice and that many marketers wanted their brand to “be Wendy’s” online.

Meyer continued: “The issue in fulfilling that brief is that the line moves every time someone finds it for the first time. Brands must keep toeing the line and every time another has to take one step further over it to be noticed. In the social landscape, ‘bad behavior’ is positively rewarded.”

One social media manager who has run social for a brand that’s gone viral for its brand voice echoed that sentiment. “PR agencies have figured out that online mobs usually lose their steam after a day or so,” said Nathan Allebach, the man behind Steak-umms Twitter account. “Brands have figured out that risky content is often worth putting out there because even if they get blowback people eventually move on.”

3 Questions With Kiavi CMO Cherie Yu

How has the current housing market impacted Kiavi’s marketing strategy?

We’ve taken a technology and data-enabled approach to serving real estate investors by building a lending platform that’s designed for the digital age. Our marketing strategy is designed to help real estate investors across the country understand the benefits that Kiavi’s platform can unlock. With over 35,000 projects under our belt, we also seek to share insights and trends with our customers to help them navigate the ever-changing housing market — whether that’s through connecting with our expert team, or joining one of our educational webinars, or reading about lessons from fellow real estate investors on our blog.

Why rebrand now?

It is not just a name change [the company was formerly known as LendingHome] but a strategic direction for the business. As we look ahead, we are excited to expand the ways we serve real estate investors. With more than $7.8 B in loans funded, we see a lot of opportunity to support our customers throughout the entire real estate investing lifecycle–from finding and acquiring the property, through the renovation, to the ultimate sale or rental of the home.

What was the process of rebranding like coming off a turbulent 20 plus months?

The transformation required touching all aspects of our business, which meant a lot of hard work and collaboration across the organization, including marketing, design and product, customer facing teams and more. That meant overhauling the website and app, every email, every touchpoint — even the way we answer the phone and the business cards we hand out. — Kimeko McCoy

By the numbers

Society’s push for brand purpose has continued to broil as shoppers pressure brands to take a stance on everything from women’s reproductive rights to the Covid-19 pandemic. The next 12 months will be more of the same as more than half of consumers across the globe plan to boycott brands that fail to take action on climate change, according to new research from Dentsu International and Microsoft Advertising. For more, find key details from the report below:

  • 45% of people surveyed say they would consider alternative brands, companies or services which are greener or more environmentally friendly than their current choices.
  • 30% of those who took the survey say they are willing to pay more for brands which offer those greener alternatives.
  • 42% of people surveyed now think companies should provide clear, comparable information on the footprint of their products and advertising in order to make them greener. — Kimeko McCoy

Quote of the week

“What’s good for people is good for business and the more companies recognize this, the more they will do to keep their employees, particularly women, in the workforce.”

— Alison Morra, chief operations officer at Inkhouse, on the need for companies to provide time off for employees who experience pregnancy loss.

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