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Snarky or Hearty: What’s the Best Tone for Brands?

More and more brands are employing a deliberately snide tone these days, not only to dis their competitors, but even ribbing their customers. While Wendy’s, Netflix, and Spotify seem to be successfully engaging customers with troll marketing, it’s not necessarily a good strategy for everyone.

It’s the world we live in, for sure. Law enforcement struggles to keep up with distressing online trolling, and it seems most Western nations are more, goaded, politically divided, and belligerent than ever. So, are smart brands simply mirroring a social media landscape where we’re at one another’s throats?

Some brands might do better to stick with a positive approach, like the classic examples of Coke inviting its customers to sing in perfect harmony, or Virginia Slims celebrating how far female smokers had come. Brands as venerable as Chevy and Microsoft have fumbled their attempts to speak the language of younger customers.

Do some brands simply risk digging themselves into a hole of negativity hard to escape when the inevitable pushback comes against all this shade being thrown around? Millennials are famous for valuing authenticity, not just humor. Which brands will join fashion company Dove, JC Penney and Lean Cuisine in focusing on making their customers feel confident? Or Mailchimp, which charmingly poked fun at itself?

After all, isn’t branding supposed to offer a positive message to consumers? No company would dare humiliate a customer at check-out, even in jest, so why is it okay on Twitter or Instagram? With all this snarkiness out there, is your brand rolling up its sleeves or rolling out the red carpet?


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