Kaitlyn Smith - 09/18/2023
As "unhinged" social media marketing continues to grow in popularity among users and brands, we examine the pros, cons and risks of incorporating this messaging into your brand strategy.
If you’re on social media, you’ve likely seen some brands take on the “unhinged” approach to their social media content over the past couple of years. This approach comes with a high risk for a high reward. Find out if this strategy is right for your brand in our blog below.
Instead of the traditionally polished social media marketing campaigns that users are accustomed to seeing, brands are embracing the “unhinged” approach to their social media content to stand out in feeds.
Duolingo, a language-learning app, is one of the most well-known brands to have taken on this approach and succeed at it. Over the past few years, their TikTok content featuring humorous videos of their sassy owl Duo, has helped to lead them to 162 viral TikTok videos, a total of 702M impressions from all their social accounts, full-fledged profiles from big name media outlets, like NPR, Rolling Stone and Teen Vogue and a media value of $6.5M from social media.
Why have they been so successful? They took a different approach to their social media strategy by positioning Duo as an “unhinged” creator that participates in trends, entertains instead of sells and creates storylines that their audience could become invested in, for example Duo’s crush on singer, Dua Lipa.
We didn’t forget about Wendy’s, the brand that spearheaded the “unhinged” strategy by “roasting” social media users and shading their competition publicly on Twitter. From Wendy’s to Taco Bell to McDonald’s and DiGiorno, fast-food brands are not shy on their social media when it comes to razzing each other and their customers.
Why is “Unhinged” Social Media Marketing Popular?
As users have become more desensitized to repetitive sales-like messaging and curated content from brands, “unhinged” social media marketing is surging as audiences, especially Gen Z, continue to appreciate more authentic and relatable content. This “unhinged” type of content is usually chaotic, entertaining and shocking which has given brands the chance to appear more human and more fun in an unexpected and unconventional way to their audiences.
However, along with the growth in popularity for this strategy, it has also become more controversial as brands are falling short of successfully pulling it off. When brands abandon the traditional, more polished methods of social media marketing, they are left walking a thin line between appropriate, relatable/offensive and controversial, and can find themselves in the midst of a crisis. And if a brand doesn’t have a social media crisis plan in place, it can spiral result in significant damage, especially in today’s “cancel culture.”
If your brand or company does not have a crisis communications plan in place, head over to read our expert guide to social media crisis communication here.
Is “Unhinged” Content Marketing Worth it?
Typically people want to be entertained rather than sold to, more so on social media than other marketing channels. Brands recognizing that this attention-grabbing type of content can make them more relatable and help to build stronger relationships with their audience can make them question whether it should be considered for their own social media strategy.
So, can this approach work for every brand? The simple answer is no. But, it also depends on your goals and your target audience.
In an effort to stay relevant and regain the attention of their audience, brands may think that the only way to succeed on social media is for them to jump on the bandwagon and go “unhinged” too. While there can be great benefits to posting this type of content, it comes with risks that not every brand has the luxury of taking. If not executed well and the “joke” doesn’t land right, brands risk coming across as unrelatable, “pick me”, and sometimes offensive. It’s high risk, high reward.
In March of 2021, we saw the “unhinged” approach backfire for Burger King UK after they published a Tweet on International Women’s Day trying to promote their scholarship for women employees that would allow them to move up the ranks to become chefs and head chefs in the industry in a clever way, and instead came off as misogynistic.
Finding the Balance with Taking Risks
Sometimes brands push their limits successfully and embrace it, however there are others who have take the leap and regret it, even with the first few negative comments. There is no one-size-fits all social media strategy, especially for the “unhinged” approach. It can work, or it can fail.
Each brand should invest the time to find their own unique brand voice that resonates with their target audience, values, and mission. Before making any critical decisions in brand persona and content on social media, make sure you know your brand and your audience on a truly honest level.
We’re Here to Help
3E PR creates, manages and implements social media campaigns and strategies that entertain, educate and engage with our clients’ target audiences, while also helping them achieve their marketing goals. If you or your company are interested in learning more about how we can help you best reach your audience on social media, contact our team here.