Can brands be funny just for fun?

We’ve all seen the stand out examples. The brands that tweet out something funny on social media in order attract attention to their account or build up their reputation on twitter.

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But what about the brands that are just funny for the fun of it?

When I think of brands responding to customers on twitter, for example, I think of them doing it for the sake of good customer service.

They throw out the classic, “Thank you for comment- we appreciate your feedback.”

Or the generic, “We are sorry to hear that. Can you DM us your information and we will try to find a solution.”

But let’s face it… that’s boring! It’s so commonplace that has little to no effect. In fact, many customers will not follow up or feel better from the response. Unfortunately, however, due to the proliferation of social media and the expectation that brands are ready for immediate response, this is what we often get.

 

Then comes the example of brands that interact with people on twitter just for fun. In these scenarios their point is not to make a sale or help rectify a bad situation. They are simply looking to have fun! This, of course, is part of them building their brand but I would argue that the effect that these responses have on customers and the community that witnesses this interaction, is lasting and very beneficial to the company.

I was inspired to write this post from @talkingtroy ‘s recent tweet about Southwest Airline’s response to a trolling college student (read full article here)

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Other brands have similarly engaged when there was no need or obvious benefit to them. In many of these scenarios, the brands could have decided to not respond or claim the communication with the brand was not appropriate

Here are some examples:

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In these scenarios the brands go above the expectation and that is what makes their interaction with customers so special. Customer are much more likely to recommend a brand or stay loyal to a brand if they have positive, especially unexpected, interaction on social media.

Seamless, a food delivery account, takes a risk taking approach to their twitter account. “Before publishing a tweet or responding to one of our fans, we think, “Would I laugh at that? Would I be compelled to share this image? Would I RT this tweet?” Ryan Scott, Vice President of Marketing, explains in this FastCompany Article. Thanks to Seamless’s leadership allowing them to take “deliberate risks,” Scott asserts, “We can try new things and have fun with the latest trends.” Think: photos of a staffer’s hot dog socks or clinking margarita glasses on National Tequila Day.

A Forbes article states:

“We live in an experience-driven world. Consumers gravitate toward those experiences that provide them with the stimulation they are looking for. People have become sensitive about how they spend their time and what inspires them to do so. If a brand focuses more on trying to sell consumers their products/services rather than finding ways to creatively engage with them and solve a need, their brand will be short-lived.”

 

Let’s experiment! I challenge each of you who have read far enough down into this blog post to see this to tweet at your favorite brands (bonus points to more than one) a question. It can be related to the brand or not but it can not be related to customer service. The goal is to see if you can get a response! Below are some examples-make sure to #IS6621

@Disney Do you have a favorite character? It’s like having a favorite child right? All parents have one but won’t say it. Just curious! #IS6621

@CocaCola Retweet if you think asking “We don’t have Coke, is Pepsi ok?” Similar to a customer asking if they can pay with monopoly money #IS6621

@Skittles what happens after I taste the rainbow? #IS6621

Comment your experience (form the past too) below!

 

10 comments

  1. drewsimenson · ·

    I can definitely see the value of a brand engaging in this kind of “personality-demonstrating” post activity. After all, what is “brand” but a conversation with the consumer? And what better way to express that brand than with an actual conversation where the consumer feels like there’s a pulse and character on the other end of the conversation? I think you pointed out a few of the potential risks in terms of approaching this tactfully and genuinely; if it seems tacky it could erode the brand, right? Nice challenge! I may take you up on it. ;)

  2. Great post! Social media has allowed brands to grow their personality and fully engage in relationship building with consumers. Personally, I love the Twitter interactions between brands and customers and I think it helps customers feel like the brand has taken on human feelings and traits. In turn, this helps brands build a deeper connection with consumers and vice versa. I agree with Drew’s comment above, there is a fine line between being funny and being tacky, or even worse, offensive. Brand’s posting on twitter has become an art form. Do it right and the brand looks great, do it poorly and the brand image can suffer.

  3. Great post! I liked what you said about how it might be necessary for brands to take deliberate risks in how they engage with their customers on social media. We have mentioned before in class about how companies need to be careful with social media, but like you said in your blog post, this carefulness can tend to be kind of boring.

  4. ItsUlker · ·

    Excellent post! I also think there’s a fine line between being funny and offensive, especially in cases where customers are complaining and are not happy about the product or service – trying to use humor in such situations can backfire, and a “generic” answer can be a safer bet. I doubt that a company like JetBlue or Southwest would try to be funny if you tweet at them about delayed connection or a lost bag, all they will do is to politely try and solve your problem, as you are already frustrated and aggravated at the time of your tweet. However, as your other examples show, being able to interact with users in rest of the cases greatly contributes to the positive experiences with the brand. I can personally agree with that too – I tweeted at Sweetgreen a couple weeks ago to open a location in Cleveland Circle bcause I was tired of pizza and burritos, and them telling me they will look into it because they want me to have healthy options kind of made my day :)

  5. laurenmsantilli · ·

    I really liked reading your post Molly! Very entertaining – loved the interaction with JetBlue. I think when brands go above and beyond to connect with the consumer this way, they’re trying to establish a connection and brand loyalty. I read an article earlier about how digitalization has made it harder for some companies to establish brand loyalty (if I find it in my history I’ll post it). By using something as simple (and free) as Twitter to interact with their day-to-day customer, they better personify the brand. Good post!

  6. As usual, awesome post Molly! I loved all of the examples you chose, they’re all super funny but still lighthearted & not at all offensive, which is a hard line to walk. I definitely agree with Ulker that brands have to be careful about still remaining helpful on a customer service end while retaining a brand culture/humor where appropriate. And if they can do both simultaneously, even better! I think that’s something Jet Blue and Verizon have done pretty well–they both have tons of funny tweets but also reply directly to customers having specific problems. I’m curious, though, how much being funny or creating a culture online actually helps the brand. Personally, I really appreciate brands like Jet Blue, Taco Bell, Skittles, and Wendy’s that have had some consistently great tweets but I’m definitely not any more likely to buy their product because of it. I feel like I separate the company from their online presence in my mind when making purchasing decisions, especially for these older companies who already have established brands in my mind. Something like Uber, which is new and inherently digital, I’m more inclined to tie directly to its social media presence in a way that may affect how I use it. I wonder if this disconnect is something other consumers experience as well–is an online presence really helping to drive purchases?

  7. Nice post. My sense is that the people running these accounts typically know each other (though conferences, etc) and they all sort of help each other to create a running banter. The social people try to raise all boats rather than compete.

  8. isabel_calo1 · ·

    Great post Molly! Great interaction and a lot of clear research was done looking at these examples! It does make me think about brands not as a huge company but rather the company culture and the wit of someone behind the computer. I think humor is a risky idea but a great way to get attention and free brand strength. There is always a fine line to be crossed but if it executed well it can be a huge way to bring customers closer to your brand. It seems more uncommon to have a generic response now a days anyways from corporations.

  9. fayehubregsen · ·

    You highlight the importance of engagement amidst an experience-driven world of consumption. From the get-go, Apple proved to be very personal with their engagement through the iTunes dancing commercials, and have since pivoted to bringing users into the fold through the iPhone 7 photo ad campaign. It gives their branding strategy a two-way street approach that turns the relationship from service-oriented to more intimately connected.

  10. talkingtroy · ·

    Wendy’s has probably my favorite social media people. They are usually hilarious and as you pointed out they don’t need to be but I think it helps because people don’t like stuffy brands. If a fast food company social media account only advertised products or handled customer service concerns, I wouldn’t follow them but because Wendy’s is hilarious, I’m consistently engaging with their brand now. Great post!

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