How Companies Are Using Memes and Sarcasm to Market to Millennials
By: Schuyler Swanson
In today’s world, technology is king, and the rapid ways in which it has transformed society and life as we know it can be seen everywhere. From self-driving cars to online shopping to electronic toothbrushes, just about every aspect of our lives seems to have been made easier thanks to technology. However, it’s not all sunshine and roses. Changes brought on by this new technological age have in some ways made things easier for marketers and in other ways made things much more difficult. While reaching consumers has perhaps never been easier in the history of mankind, getting people’s attention on the other hand, is proving to be much harder. The ease of getting information to the consumer has led to consumer’s getting bombarded with so much information they don’t know what to do with it, let alone are able to hardly process it all. According to a 2017 article on Forbes by Jon Simpson, Americans see an average of anywhere between 4,000 to 10,000 ads a day. After reading that number, think to yourself, what was the last 10 ads you saw? Most people probably won’t be able to remember, and that is why attention is so valuable for marketers today. Another problem marketers have been experiencing in this new age is marketing to millennials. A generation who grew up with technology and online advertisements, marketers have had to evolve to adapt to this new generation. There is a great infographic on the USC Dornsife website that breaks down a lot of the ways in which millennials differ from previous generations. A couple of stats that stand out are that when compared to Generation X and the Baby Boomers, millennials make up the smallest percentage of radio listeners, spend the least amount of time watching television, and make up the smallest percentage of magazine and newspaper readers. On the flip side, almost 90 percent of millennials spend time on social media and 82 percent of them interact with brands or retailers on social media. Additionally, nearly 50 percent of millennials follow their favorite brands or retailers on social media and another 38 percent discover brands or retailers on social media. If these numbers are any indicator, the key to reaching millennials may very well be through social media, but it can be a tricky path to take. Appealing to and garnering the attention of millennials on social media platforms while not coming off as robotic, out of touch, or ‘trying too hard’ takes careful balance and a solid understanding of millennial culture, millennial humor, and how millennials think. There have been a few big brands recently, most notably fast food restaurants such as Wendy’s and Burger King, who have been able to pull this off on Twitter using memes, trending jokes, and lots of sarcasm with tremendous amounts of success. Below I have a few of my recent favorite tweets from brands that were able to put up some pretty big numbers.
One of the advantages of brands using social media is the ability and ease it gives them to interact with consumers, customers, or fans almost instantly. This allows them to hear more customer complaints, answer more questions, and as we see here, have fun joking with fans. What’s amazing here is a two word response from SunnyD racked up over 78,000 retweets and 346,000 likes, bringing a lot of traffic and looks to the brand for little to no cost while making people laugh at the same time.
Social media can be a crazy place, and sometimes some of the things we see on there literally make absolutely no sense at all. That’s the humor in it though, it doesn’t have to make sense. Sometimes the more random the better, and Burger King fully embraced that with this tweet.
Another example of this is yet another SunnyD tweet seen above. Something else that is becoming more and more common in this sphere is big brands having regular conversations with other big brands. Not only is it comical to see Pop-Tarts and MoonPie having a random conversation with SunnyD, but it makes the brands appear more friendly, down to Earth, and human to the public.
Perhaps no one has perfected using social media as a way to better reach millennials as Wendy’s has. They have steadily build up a reputation for roasting people, whether it be an ordinary customer or Mr. Peanut. Some of their tweets may appear to be pushing the boundaries of what we would normally consider is acceptable for a big brand to say in public but we are in a new age. Pushing the boundaries and breaking out of that stereotypical corporate mold helps brands stand out and appear rebellious, something that is very attractive to the younger aged millennials.
In conclusion, social media is likely to continue to play an important part in how brands market towards millennials. It is cheap, efficient, and a lot of the times you don’t even have to actually be promoting or advertising a specific product of yours to grab the attention of consumers. It is not always easy though, as one mishap can lead to a PR nightmare, so while it can be lighthearted and fun, marketing on social media still always needs to be taken as seriously as marketing on any other medium would. Additionally, social media, like technology in general, is always rapidly changing and evolving, so in order to keep the consumers attention on this platform, brands have to be in a constant state of change and development to keep up with the platform and target audiences.