Mimetic Marketing Pt. 2: Happy Little Accidents

This is a continuation of my previous article about the pitfalls of memes in marketing. If you haven’t read that yet please do as this article will only further build on the ideas of that article.

Now that that’s out of the way lets dive into it.

Last time I told you not to use memes in your marketing campaigns, this time I’m going to tell you something slightly different. Let other people use memes. Now I know this is sounds really weird but I’m going to present you with some examples of what I mean.

So I’m going to focus in on Wendy’s for most of this article. Because Wendy’s has done this wrong and has done it right. We’ll of course start with the time they did it wrong. It all started back in the mid-2000s when internet memes were still a relatively new phenomenon in the sphere of mainstream culture. So of course companies decided to capitalize on this, and Wendy’s did it in perhaps the most memorable way. They dedicated an entire commercial where the entire they were  recreating popular memes in real life. The commercial was unfunny and was clearly a cash grab that made the entire thing seem awkward and clumsy. There wasn’t any real understanding behind it, as marketers and actors were using memes as a joke without understanding the cultural influences that go into them.

Now let’s fast forward to 2017, where Twitter has arguably become the prime social media mover for businesses and people. Social media presence is becoming more important for businesses every year and frequently the Social Media Managers of major businesses end up becoming celebrities in there own right. This has happened with companies such as Target and Denny’s, but recently Wendy’s has bounced back from their advertising lull and ran what is likely the most successful social media campaign of the year.

It starts with the Wendy’s letting out a flurry of tweets that weren’t advertisements saying “Buy our product. Our product is the greatest.” Instead it was a series of responses to other tweets that were the typical sarcastic, inane replies you would expect from feuding Twitter icons rather than a professional business. Crazy thing is that it worked. Amazingly enough people enjoyed seeing a business act in the same way as every day, individual people. Soon enough Twitter users shared Wendy’s tweets all over the place. The first time I saw one of these Wendy’s tweets wasn’t even on Twitter. I saw them on a site called College Humor where one of the writers had compiled a bunch of Wendy’s tweets into a listicle (an article that’s mainly a list).

And for about two months the big thing was the Wendy’s Twitter account. People even started doing fan art of Wendy’s beating (sometimes literally) their competitors, which is something I’ve never seen done for any businesses Twitter account. The key here though isn’t that Wendy’s became popular by hiring some hip trendy youth to post on Twitter all day. Likely this guy had already been running the account for months if not years beforehand. What changed was the fact that someone noticed. What made Wendy’s a meme was the fact that someone noticed and said, “Man that’s a cool” and shared their tweets. Wendy’s didn’t become a meme because it wanted to, it became one because other people wanted it to.

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