BURN!: Are brands trying too hard (And is everyone over It)?

June 8, 2022
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In today’s world, most of us will take a bit of humor anywhere or any time we can get it.

For a lot of online users, that humor comes in the form of spicy takes and roasts—the bigger the burn the more engagement, likes, and comments a brand will get.

No one needs to look further than the grandmaster of social roasting: Wendy’s.

Even going so far as to create an unofficial social media holiday known as National Roast Day over on Twitter, brands,  and users jump for the chance at getting roasted by the fast-food chain.

Though tweets definitely enter spicy territory every once in a while, the roasting is gleefully appreciated by fans of the brand and, in the process, ends up creating trending content and hashtags.

Competitive fast-food brands (and brands in general) also line up for the chance to get ribbed by Wendy’s and take a piece of the engagement pie. In some instances, brands have even attempted to replicate the snarkiness of Wendy’s, but it didn’t go as planned.

One example of this is Burger King, in an effort to create a beef (no pun intended) on Twitter, actually ended up getting piled on by Wendy’s and social media users when they created a campaign against square patties (which, in case you didn’t know, is kinda Wendy’s thing).

That begs the question: what happens when brands take things a little too over-the-top, or they create content that backfires?

Let’s get roasted.

Roasting for relevance?

It’s not all playful insults over on Twitter.

Brands share plenty of good-natured tweets and social media content. But you know what gets the most traction? Posts with funny or snarky humor – especially when they’re directed at other brands or users.

While Wendy’s is no doubt at the forefront of this unique expertise, plenty of other brands are looking to the fast-food chain’s social media strategy playbook in an effort to gain attention and engagement for their own respective brand.

So where did the idea for this strategy come from? With nearly 4 million Twitter followers, Wendy’s is clearly attracting an audience and keeping them coming back for more.

Like many social media teams will attest, trying to get timely and relevant content through the review process is one of the most challenging aspects of the job. This struggle leaves brands missing countless opportunities to leverage current trends and organic content for followers.

For Wendy’s, the move away from doing things by the rules was the first start.

By eliminating the bureaucracy and putting more power in the hands of social media professionals, Wendy’s has surged ahead of most competitors and now stands as an example of what to do as a brand account.

There’s a key point here as to why Wendy’s does this so well: they stay authentic in tone and use Twitter as a conversational platform with other users. Brands that don’t take either of these factors into consideration find their content falling flat.

Not all brands can replicate this tone, though.

Wendy’s massively creative team doesn’t just sit around and roast. Whether it’s creating original playlists on Spotify, amping up to promote collaborations with food delivery services, or finding themselves a creative target by a competition (even without getting tagged!) the tone and communication style are always consistent.

Brands gone wild

With Gen Z wanting more authenticity and communication from brands, and brands taking cues from successful social media accounts (see above), there’s a greater chance of seeing this type of content going forward.

But, sometimes it backfires big time.

Depending on the brand and the commitment to tone and messaging, spouting off hot takes or roasting other brands sometimes comes off as cringy. A great example of this is Prime Video’s tweet about Minions in May 2021.

As harmless as the tweet might have sounded at first glance, it didn’t take long for Twitter users to start responding with even hotter takes.

Then there’s the case of Pabst, which shared a tweet in January 2022 that was so scandalous it broke Twitter.

Okay, maybe not exactly. But it got people talking for *days* about the tweet, which is making me cringe just contemplating typing it out. Since the Internet is forever, this is the post that went up and got deleted hours later – just not before millions of screenshots and hundreds of replies to the post.

The whole Pabst controversy divided Twitter users into two camps: those who found it hilarious and those who found it completely inappropriate. The fact that the post was up for hours got people talking, too.

People started to wonder: was it intentionally posted?  

Pabst later issued an apology and the individual who posted the original tweet was fired. Still, it got a lot of people talking and the fact that people weren’t sure if it was real or an accidental post goes to show how much has changed with consumer-facing brand messaging.

While these are just a small sampling of brand twitter fails (a quick Google search brings up dozens of examples) there’s a good chance a brand will find itself in the hot seat sooner rather than later.

The question remains: what does this strategy look like going forward and do consumers still find this time of banter authentic or entertaining?

Using humor to connect

To say Wendy’s social strategy is high-risk is an understatement—perhaps one that so few brands could actually pull off.

But what do users think of this type of content? Judging from likes, retweets, and comments (plus the dozens of brands wanting to get in on the action) it looks like consumers find it entertaining and funny.

Here’s why it works: Wendy’s understands their audience and what they like. By using that information, the social media team and marketing department is able to double down and create content that’s witty, humorous, and a bit spicy.

Social Sprout highlights the role humor plays in branded content, too: “Humor is often the catalyst to help explode your post into something viral.”

Brands posting authentic and funny content will see a return of investment as it pertains to likes, retweets, and followers – but it has to be done with relevance and not just to hop on a trend. And what good is getting a bunch of likes on a post if it doesn’t translate into something actionable?

Just as with any form of marketing, social media content should be pushing followers through a sales funnel.

Getting clear on what that sales funnel looks like helps teams create content that stays timely and relevant to the audience; plus, followers will find the content more favorable and authentic, which is key to staying connected.  

At the surface level, it might look like Wendy’s is just out there to roast – but dig deeper and you’ll find that social posts complement promotional campaigns and help them stand out from major competitors such as Burger King and McDonald’s.

The tone and style of Wendy’s also hit right at their target market: Gen Z.

By tapping into the audience they also gain valuable insight as to what these consumers want and when they want them, which helps with strategic planning in other areas of the brand.

So, are brands trying too hard to be funny or relevant? Sure.

Without planning and purpose, brands who try to get caught up in viral trends or want to trade barbs with other brands will flail and ultimately get dunked on by Twitter users.

It all boils down to creating a tone and sticking to it in a way that makes sense for a brand. 

Share

BURN!: Are brands trying too hard (And is everyone over It)?

In today’s world, most of us will take a bit of humor anywhere or any time we can get it.

For a lot of online users, that humor comes in the form of spicy takes and roasts—the bigger the burn the more engagement, likes, and comments a brand will get.

No one needs to look further than the grandmaster of social roasting: Wendy’s.

Even going so far as to create an unofficial social media holiday known as National Roast Day over on Twitter, brands,  and users jump for the chance at getting roasted by the fast-food chain.

Though tweets definitely enter spicy territory every once in a while, the roasting is gleefully appreciated by fans of the brand and, in the process, ends up creating trending content and hashtags.

Competitive fast-food brands (and brands in general) also line up for the chance to get ribbed by Wendy’s and take a piece of the engagement pie. In some instances, brands have even attempted to replicate the snarkiness of Wendy’s, but it didn’t go as planned.

One example of this is Burger King, in an effort to create a beef (no pun intended) on Twitter, actually ended up getting piled on by Wendy’s and social media users when they created a campaign against square patties (which, in case you didn’t know, is kinda Wendy’s thing).

That begs the question: what happens when brands take things a little too over-the-top, or they create content that backfires?

Let’s get roasted.

Roasting for relevance?

It’s not all playful insults over on Twitter.

Brands share plenty of good-natured tweets and social media content. But you know what gets the most traction? Posts with funny or snarky humor – especially when they’re directed at other brands or users.

While Wendy’s is no doubt at the forefront of this unique expertise, plenty of other brands are looking to the fast-food chain’s social media strategy playbook in an effort to gain attention and engagement for their own respective brand.

So where did the idea for this strategy come from? With nearly 4 million Twitter followers, Wendy’s is clearly attracting an audience and keeping them coming back for more.

Like many social media teams will attest, trying to get timely and relevant content through the review process is one of the most challenging aspects of the job. This struggle leaves brands missing countless opportunities to leverage current trends and organic content for followers.

For Wendy’s, the move away from doing things by the rules was the first start.

By eliminating the bureaucracy and putting more power in the hands of social media professionals, Wendy’s has surged ahead of most competitors and now stands as an example of what to do as a brand account.

There’s a key point here as to why Wendy’s does this so well: they stay authentic in tone and use Twitter as a conversational platform with other users. Brands that don’t take either of these factors into consideration find their content falling flat.

Not all brands can replicate this tone, though.

Wendy’s massively creative team doesn’t just sit around and roast. Whether it’s creating original playlists on Spotify, amping up to promote collaborations with food delivery services, or finding themselves a creative target by a competition (even without getting tagged!) the tone and communication style are always consistent.

Brands gone wild

With Gen Z wanting more authenticity and communication from brands, and brands taking cues from successful social media accounts (see above), there’s a greater chance of seeing this type of content going forward.

But, sometimes it backfires big time.

Depending on the brand and the commitment to tone and messaging, spouting off hot takes or roasting other brands sometimes comes off as cringy. A great example of this is Prime Video’s tweet about Minions in May 2021.

As harmless as the tweet might have sounded at first glance, it didn’t take long for Twitter users to start responding with even hotter takes.

Then there’s the case of Pabst, which shared a tweet in January 2022 that was so scandalous it broke Twitter.

Okay, maybe not exactly. But it got people talking for *days* about the tweet, which is making me cringe just contemplating typing it out. Since the Internet is forever, this is the post that went up and got deleted hours later – just not before millions of screenshots and hundreds of replies to the post.

The whole Pabst controversy divided Twitter users into two camps: those who found it hilarious and those who found it completely inappropriate. The fact that the post was up for hours got people talking, too.

People started to wonder: was it intentionally posted?  

Pabst later issued an apology and the individual who posted the original tweet was fired. Still, it got a lot of people talking and the fact that people weren’t sure if it was real or an accidental post goes to show how much has changed with consumer-facing brand messaging.

While these are just a small sampling of brand twitter fails (a quick Google search brings up dozens of examples) there’s a good chance a brand will find itself in the hot seat sooner rather than later.

The question remains: what does this strategy look like going forward and do consumers still find this time of banter authentic or entertaining?

Using humor to connect

To say Wendy’s social strategy is high-risk is an understatement—perhaps one that so few brands could actually pull off.

But what do users think of this type of content? Judging from likes, retweets, and comments (plus the dozens of brands wanting to get in on the action) it looks like consumers find it entertaining and funny.

Here’s why it works: Wendy’s understands their audience and what they like. By using that information, the social media team and marketing department is able to double down and create content that’s witty, humorous, and a bit spicy.

Social Sprout highlights the role humor plays in branded content, too: “Humor is often the catalyst to help explode your post into something viral.”

Brands posting authentic and funny content will see a return of investment as it pertains to likes, retweets, and followers – but it has to be done with relevance and not just to hop on a trend. And what good is getting a bunch of likes on a post if it doesn’t translate into something actionable?

Just as with any form of marketing, social media content should be pushing followers through a sales funnel.

Getting clear on what that sales funnel looks like helps teams create content that stays timely and relevant to the audience; plus, followers will find the content more favorable and authentic, which is key to staying connected.  

At the surface level, it might look like Wendy’s is just out there to roast – but dig deeper and you’ll find that social posts complement promotional campaigns and help them stand out from major competitors such as Burger King and McDonald’s.

The tone and style of Wendy’s also hit right at their target market: Gen Z.

By tapping into the audience they also gain valuable insight as to what these consumers want and when they want them, which helps with strategic planning in other areas of the brand.

So, are brands trying too hard to be funny or relevant? Sure.

Without planning and purpose, brands who try to get caught up in viral trends or want to trade barbs with other brands will flail and ultimately get dunked on by Twitter users.

It all boils down to creating a tone and sticking to it in a way that makes sense for a brand.