Why hello, fellow kids. It is I, brand, here to have a good laugh with you while we chat about the latest trends. Want some memes? I’ve got a meme or two! I’m like your best friend, but a corporation! And I’m on social media, just like all you zoomers. I’m relatable. I’m hip. And I’m here to party — while I barrage you with my brand name and message.
This recent development in advertising is nothing new — companies have always sought ways to further their connection with the customer. If a customer feels an attachment to the brand, they will always subconsciously choose it over any other option. Back in the days of mail, companies would send Christmas cards to appeal to the pathos of a customer, to appear more human. When social media started taking off, corporations realized they could make an account to directly communicate with the masses. And so it began: starting with surveys and formal announcements, slowly morphing into the meme toting, diss slinging aberrations we see in our feeds today. While this was sometimes hilarious — for example, the Subway poll asking the user’s ‘bread bae’ which got zero votes on every option — it became annoying when the #relatable brands started to get condescending and downright cringey.
Wendy’s, the infamous brand twitter with a cult following, released a diss track album on McDonald’s called “Webeefin.” While I generally withhold my opinions on things like these, I think it’s safe to say air traffic control has cleared these tracks for a flight over Cringetopia. This was a polarizing moment in the history of the aptly named “fellow kids” movement: it separated those who drank the corporate Kool-Aid from those who would begin to despise this type of advertising. While brand twitter orchestrated feuds to amass followers, clueless businesses started buying ad space on websites and in real life. The ads were genius in the eyes of the creators: kids love the latest slang and acronyms? Slap a YOLO LOL on that poster! They’re always snapchatting with their avocados, right? Well, it goes on. Soon, social media became so saturated with this low-effort tactic the community fought back the only way they knew how: semi-surreal memes. You may be confused at this point, and that’s ok. In a nutshell, this discussion reached a boiling point at which the only way to beat the fellow kids was to fight them on their own territory. Brand Twitter comment sections overflowed with a simple image: a crab, shooting lasers out of its eyes, with the message “silence, brand.” This, and other tactics, slowly pushed the fellow kids back into the box where they belonged.
To the dismay of millions, this was not the end. Brands became unironically “self aware,” posting memes with captions like “fellow kids moment!” or “just trying to appeal to the youth!” This was troubling, but the truth is no one can contain the ways of the advertising industry. It will grow and evolve, in often unflattering ways, as the older generations grasp for ways to communicate by any means necessary. Snap to the present day: the fellow kids are aging out, and we are beginning to see a decline in the popularity of this chapter. Advertisers are in a steady game of whack-a-mole, and it is our job as the consumer to decide what’s BS and what we can live with. Stay informed.