One characteristic of Twitter that’s useful to marketers is its popularity with minority and urban demographics, which has been mentioned before on this site. However, Twitter apparently believes some brands are trying a little too hard to reach these demographics. The company recently created an account specifically to mock brands that include certain slang in their marketing posts.
For those who were blissfully unaware, “bae” is a slang term of endearment used often by teens or in certain kinds of music like Rap, Hip Hop or R&B, most likely, as a shorthand for “baby”. The Wall Street Journal adds that “the term has also inevitably evolved to apply to inanimate objects. On Instagram, a particularly mouthwatering plate of BBQ could be #bae, for example.”
Some brands, like Olive Garden, IHOP and Hamburger Helper have started saying “bae” in their posts in an attempt to relate to these younger demographics. Twitter doesn’t approve and has begun ridiculing these brands by displaying these posts under an account called “Brands Saying Bae”. Essentially, the account reposts tweets from brands and then includes snarky comments about the brand in question. For example, in response to a tweet from IHOP, the comment was “When a brand tweets “bae” it makes me want to purchase their product.”
Olive Garden, a subsidiary of Darden Restaurants, Inc., really gets me. pic.twitter.com/gVX0TKBvxT
— Brands Saying Bae (@BrandsSayingBae) December 28, 2014
Besides being hilarious, there are a few big takeaways for marketers. First, while it’s important to remain up-to-date, businesses almost always look stupid when they try to capitalize on what’s cool with young people. For those of us who grew up in the 80s and 90s, we can remember the cringe-worthy commercials where businesses tried to use rap and hip hop in jingles because that was the cool thing to do. If you can’t remember, watch this video of the infamous “Don’t Copy That Floppy” PSA. It’s admirable that businesses and brands want to reach out to minorities, but that can’t be accomplished by simply sticking a few “Yos”, “Homeboys”, or “Baes” into the ad copy. Everyone who sees this will recognize if for the shallow attempt at relating to young people that it is.
“The thing about brands on Twitter is that they want you to forget that they’re brands,” wrote Samantha Grossman of TIME. They want you to think of them as your quippy, sassy ol’ pals who occasionally sell you products you probably don’t need. Most of us Internet dwellers, however, see right through these brands’ tactics.”
The second takeaway comes from Twitter’s odd choice of using a public shaming campaign to convince companies they shouldn’t do this. On the internet, a company’s shame is rarely private. Before Twitter created this account specifically to find and mock companies that use “bae”, these posts wouldn’t have spread very far and most people would just laugh at the stupidity and move on. Now, Twitter has put companies on notice that they will seek out marketing mistakes and shame the companies involved. It reminds companies to think about what they post, because it could go viral and leave the brand with a black eye.
The final takeaway is something this situation should teach us about Twitter. There are marketing faux pas every day, but Twitter went out of there way to draw attention to these mistakes. Why? It’s hard to say for sure, but I suspect it has something to do with Twitter wanting to remain authentic with the consumers who use the platform. Twitter wants brands to use their network to market to young people and minorities, but not if companies intend to do it by shallowing inserting slang into their tweets. If every time a young person gets on Twitter, they’re swamped with tweets from brands trying too hard to seem young and urban, it may turn them off to the platform. The Brands Saying Bae page is a “somewhat” subtle way for Twitter to tell companies they don’t want them to do this.
Also, though the page is called “Brands that say Bae” they will poke fun at other attempts at relating to minorities that fall woefully short. For example:
God… this is just so engaging and relatable. pic.twitter.com/s9MdkPIfGc
— Brands Saying Bae (@BrandsSayingBae) December 29, 2014
As with all relationships, the best way for Twitter marketers to build a rapport with consumers is to be honest and be themselves. Trying too hard to be cool is always obvious to consumers and almost always comically ineffective. So now that you know what not to do on Twitter, read this article on new features that will let marketers do more with the Twitter platform.