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Student Corner

Corporate Besties?

By Ally Medeiros on October 30, 2023

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A close-up of a man laughing while he looks at this smartphone.

We all love memes. We all love connecting with people over a little joke or an amusing situation. But do brands need to be doing it? Do companies need to be responding to critics and ambassadors alike in a sassy or sarcastic way? It is funny when a company’s customer service or communications team tweets a clapback to someone unkindly reviewing their product. 

Over the last five years or so, we have seen companies get a sense of “humour” on their socials. And while it has been successful in keeping them in the public conversation, it is cringe-y. It seems that it has been working, so there’s only so much I can complain about it. I understand its value. However, it just feels like your parents trying hard to talk to you the way your friends do. You can tell a company’s post has been written by someone who gets internet lingo and culture, and that does help since it doesn’t seem so foreign. But it still comes across as trying so hard.

I appreciate the effort these companies are going through. I appreciate the effort. It is simply the fact that they’re blurring the line of capitalistic entity to become your “friend.” I personally don’t want an airline as my bestie. I don’t need to have a famous burger shop respond to me via meme because that’s how the two of us always chat. That’s just not something I need in my life. I think I am jaded about this topic because I have spent so many years doing customer service. The constant quips about the same things have dulled my senses. I just don’t find it endearing when a company tries to make you forget that it exists to make money. 

Why does their communications department talk to customers online as if they have inside jokes and hang out on Friday nights? I am suspicious of it. This is probably why I am critical of this kind of social engagement: it’s because I’m uncomfortable with an entity that sells things I buy being so casual and friendly with me. No, Entity. I just need you to continue providing me with goods and services. 

Now, this precedent has been set by certain very popular companies to create their own memes about themselves to cheekily post. Now it seems like the bar has been moved elsewhere – I wouldn’t exactly say it’s been raised – but it’s definitely created a new social expectation. So, now companies think they have to address their emails, their tweets, their responses, and their ads even with this blurred barrier in mind. And I don’t like it. Maybe I’m just a hater, but they have me rolling my eyes and changing the way I feel towards that brand. 

And the kicker is, it sticks with you! Though I won’t name the companies I have written in my hitlist, I am aware of them as I’m shopping. And yes, I will begrudgingly snort when I think about some unhinged response they gave to someone who didn’t like their product, but it doesn’t make me want to buy their product over another. So, that is why (although I can admit that this does keep their brand in mind and dub them as “modern” or “hip” or whatever they’re trying to be), ultimately, it doesn’t make me want to give them my money. If anything, it puts me off from them. 

So, if it’s not doing the job of growing their customers into ambassadors, maybe they should shift that effort into something that will. If it’s just to be regarded amongst the internet as a “cool” company who have a “wild” social media presence, that I understand, but that doesn’t necessarily get people buying your product. 

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