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Punching Back at Punchy Brands

Radio Shack ruined the fun
July 8, 2022
Maybe we weren’t meant to have humorous interactions with every brand that exists on the supermarket shelf. Maybe that kind of public discourse quickly devolves into cheap shot insult comedy. Maybe the gladiator arena of the current environment causes us to cheer on the bloodsport, and forget the humanity of the people at the center. Maybe brands shouldn’t punch down.
— FC Insiders #114: Brand-Up Comedy

When we were predicting the “Roaring Twenties” revival, we assumed that it would be a wild carefree, hedonistic re-emergence into a newly-reopened world.

But instead we got Radio Shack’s Twitter (NSFW).

If you aren’t up to speed, be glad because there are some things you can’t unsee. Radio Shack’s brand account was purchased out of its insolvency some years ago by Tai Lopez’s Retail Ecommerce Ventures, the same group that bought Pier 1 and Dressbarn out of bankruptcy. Tai Lopez, best known as the guru who bought loads of pre-roll Youtube ads flexing his bookcase and Lambo in his garage, got into crypto during the ICO buildup in 2018. 

But the new Radio Shack social strategy is different. The shock-and-awe campaign has crossed a line where prior brand accounts feared to tread. Nothing is over the line for the account these days: crypto scams, 69 jokes, sex-crazed one-liners, and taking an “upper-decker” at Applebees (Urban Dictionary’s your friend on this one).

Radio Shack’s shenanigans is the latest of many interactions that have been pushing the envelope: 

  • On New Year’s Day 2022, Pabst Blue Ribbon’s social media manager told those participating in Dry January (a sobriety movement) to “eat ass” instead.
  • On January 20th, Hellman’s Mayonnaise contributed to a conversation around “West Elm Caleb”, a man who was later doxxed online due to his own dating app behavior, saying that the man must think that “mayo is spicy.” 
  • In 2019, Shopify’s Twitter account ruthlessly poked at one-click payments startup Fast, leading up to their eventual closure.

This development of brand voice is a one-way street. While novel and interesting, and inherently a digitally-native means of expression, it also complicates the relationship that people have with brands on the whole. Personification of brand (or any corporation) has been evermore challenging since the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United case in 2010, whose verdict asserted that corporations have rights, such as freedom of speech; something that had previously only been asserted towards people. 

Now that the initial novelty has worn off, we see a slow uprising of those pushing back. In our Visions Report we noted that this kind of brand voice was a losing battle, something we titled The Celebration of Insincerity. This kind of degenerate behavior casts a pall over the rest of social media, and in particular, social media managers, whose jobs are already difficult and under-appreciated, but whose efforts to drive non-transactional engagements are ultimately undermined by this type of bottom-of-the-barrel behavior.

If you want to read more about our thoughts on the personification of brand, we dissect it in exacting detail in three sections of our Visions Report: The Celebration of Insincerity, The Plurality of Identity, and Romanticism. 

Speaking of Visions, our very first episode of our newly-launched Visions podcast is now available everywhere where podcasts can be found.

— Phillip

[Insert Optimus Prime Joke Here]. For the better part of four years retailers have been competing with Amazon’s own Prime Day, a manufactured sales holiday that Amazon created in 2015 to offset seasonality in its marketplace business. Now, Walmart announced that it is no longer counter-programming the event, citing challenges with supply chain, labor costs, and inflation. Or, they’re optimizing Prime. Optimus Prime? Nevermind. Prime Day is scheduled to take place June 12-13, 2022.

A Pinterest-Rate Hike. Mere days after the newly-minted CEO, Bill Ready, took the helm at Pinterest HQ, the company has announced new shopping and data tagging features on its platform. Mr. Ready, formerly the President of Commerce at Google, joins the firm after its acquisition of The Yes, a DNVB marketplace, and their 87% eCom catalog growth in Q1 2022.

More Sights & Sounds. Grove Collaborative’s products are soon going to be available at Kohl’s. And some movie theaters have banned customers from wearing suits while attending the new Minions film.

Something Rented. A bridal flower rental business grew 90% in 2021 and is on track to grow 120% this year. Something Borrowed Blooms is an ecommerce business selling rentable silk floral arrangements, and brides facing greater budget constraints due to inflation are jumping onboard.

McIncreases. In the latest sign of inflation, some McDonald’s franchises have started removing the $1 drink promotion from their menus.

A New Level of Gross. Oscar Mayer meat seltzers… Do we really need to say anything more about this?

Sweet Sales Turn Sour. Following up on the story from our June 29th Senses email, Ben & Jerry’s has now sued its parent company, Unilever, over the sale of ice cream in the occupied West Bank. Unilever said “it had ​​the right to sell the disputed business and the transaction had already closed.”

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