Top brands can afford to be good at social media. They employ stand-up comedians and people who have podcasts to write sassy quips and good natured bite sized bits of banter. Companies like Innocent, purveyors of fairly unremarkable smoothies, trade in the sort of palatable quirkiness that goes down well with slightly twee middle-class English people on twitter. Their tweets are self-aware.
They wink at their audience as if to say “you know you’re being marketed to but you love it you little tart”. And by and large their target audience (people who listen to Ed Sheeran, who think the Queen is good value for money) do, in the ephemeral way that anyone enjoys anything nowadays.
Big brands can afford to hire people with half decent ideas – people who realise the way to make Wendy’s, Hamburger Helper, or Dennys get hip is to get weird.
Money brands can get creative. They can afford to hire talented people who’ve come to terms with the fact they can’t live on artistic integrity, who spend hours thinking of ways they can make Oreos (one of the driest biscuits imaginable) look…beautiful?
These brands and their forays into social media are of no interest to me. A hamburger store that’s schooled in dril, and only occasionally makes a misstep by tweeting white supremacist memes?
Where’s the humanity? Where’s the realness? Where’s the social media manager with only the most rudimentary of design skills who struggles to fill their content calendar with 4 different ‘I hate Monday memes’ every month, whose Facebook ads can’t get anyone to click like on their page, even people so stupid they can’t get install ad blocker.
For these tales of tears, give me the bottom tier brands, the ones with less cash and no sass. We don’t need smart alec smoothies or woke colas. Give us Pek. Give us Bovril. Give us unadultered social realness.
Buy Our Pork You Pecker
PEK is a canned pork product that slides out of the tin looking like this:
When you first break into a can you get a little raised ring of fat that pops up like a jelly crown. It’s a strangely satisfying and visceral experience. Similar to watching cyst removal and spot popping videos on YouTube – a social media phenomenon PEK would do well to cash in on.
It can be found in most large British supermarkets, near the tinned pies and Spam, across from the pilchards in tomato sauce. It can also be found, like everything else whether it’s a good idea or not, on Twitter and Facebook.
Tone of voice is something food brands struggle with on social. Points are automatically deducted for use of the words ‘bae’ or ‘lit’ while the steady trickle of twitter comedians with terrible observations is enough for any social media manager to consider suicide after having tweeted the cry/laugh emoji back at some spod in their late twenties trying to have a ‘moment’ with a carton of rice milk.
PEK’s approach to this is quite admirable – they effectively use social media to baffle and insult their fan-base of almost 80,000. This is achieved by calling the (predominantly old and confused) fans who post on their page PEK-ers. Yes, phonetically this is clearly pecker – a penis, a prick. Imagine your gran going on Facebook and a tinned meat product smugly calling her a dick for all the world to see. Tragic.
To compound the general queasy vibe that’s going on over on PEK’s channels there’s the issue of their mascot PEK Man. PEK Man is an obviously bullied junior member of PEK’s marketing team forced to gyrate and cavort dressed as a giant can of PEK.
Putting the horrifying prospect of an anthropomorphic tin of processed pork to one side (Are its insides all pork too? Is it a mixture of felt and guts? Can it feel pain?) there is an inherent sadness in the idea of a grown man sweating out their hangover in a test kitchen as they spend all day making content for a YouTube channel that will generate around 97 views from genuine human beings.
That said, 80,000 fans on Facebook. They must be doing something right. At least they’re trying, doing their best to build a community around their vile pork, and people seem to be responding.
Am I Bovriled?
Who are these people? People with access to all the music and information and pornography in the world at their fingertips- yet who choose to spend their time engaging with brands on social media. What is motivating them to type ‘PEK’ into Facebook’s search function and click through to a page where one of the top visitor posts is an EDL member called Ian singing PEK’s praises thus: ‘pork – no halal so will always eat it’.
Their enthusiams even extends brands who’ve clearly given up. Brands like Bovril. Bovril’s approach to social is similar to an old school friend who joined up to to Facebook sometime in 2008 due to societal pressures, added a few mates, liked a couple of pages, and then logged in once a year thereafter to read their birthday messages.
Bovril is a spread meat extract/hot meat drink which tastes as similar to a cat’s anus as Marmite - but which failed to achieve Legendary ™ status through canny marketing and . Every now and then Bovril pop their head up to change their cover photo and pass on their apologies to customers complaining that the product has become increasingly gritty.
They’ll make a cursory attempt to push their Dad’s Army tie-in jars with a single image, despite the exciting possibilities of such an inherently 52%,middle-England friendly crossover in rampantly xenophobic post-Brexit Britain. Bovril fans are gagging for more hot beef extract content and reminders of WW2, but the marketing team still seem too depressed by the ubiquity of Marmite to bother further cultivating an audience of nostalgia addled beef swilling racists.
A seldom updated Facebook page, a twitter account of questionable provenance not updated since 2014 and perhaps simply the work of a devoted, the social footprint of British Bovril is barely visible yet in February 2017 a man named Rob Lowe (clearly not THAT Rob Lowe) eagerly anticipates the return of Bovril flavoured crisps.
Shit brands are becoming more self-aware. Pathetically Rustlers used to promote themselves as a real food product, but now they’ve clearly hired an agency with copywriters ready and eager to demonstrate their comedic chops in the hope of being hired by Jimmy Carr or The Friday Night Project. Their latest campaign #whatatimetobealive posits that the past was shit in comparison to today since we can now microwave a burger in 90 seconds. While this actually sort of true in the broad sense that we also have more women’s rights and less polio in the present – it’s also hilarious because Rustlers burgers taste like vacuum packed farts.
It’s a step up from using live monkeys in their advertising – so really I suppose Rustlers should be applauded for their restraint.
Frosty Jack’s cider, beloved by teens and problem drinkers on a budget, recognised that social media is pretty much worthless for selling product unless you’re prepared to meme yourself into relevance. Their approach is simple – everyone knows white cider is only slightly more drinkable than turps but if you make it funny and low rent enough you might be able get in on that ironic irritating twentysomething segment of the audience. The sort who might buy a Frosty Jack’s bucket hat to wear to the The Great Escape Festival or purchase a Frosty Jack’s beanie as a secret santa for their alcoholic boss.
Frosty Jack’s know that most of their audience are only occasionally online – usually in public libraries searching for surviving family members. They’ve decided to play off their decidedly ropey image with the aid of a Canva template and a few photoshopped stock images of normal looking people drinking what is effectively the crack cocaine of cornershop booze.
Chicken Cottage could learn a lesson from this. Despite being an already iconic meme chicken shop their social accounts are charmingly shoddy. They’re still tweeting out links to their four year old wordpress and sharing which videos they’ve liked on YouTube (hint: they have nothing to do with chicken).
Even though chicken shops are en vogue yet again with the Chicken Connoisseur and Chicken Cottage have been singled out time and time again by the likes of Buzzfeed as an icon of modern Britain they’ve refused to cash in.
There’s something endearing about this obliviousness and indifference.
Almost as if they know that sassy gifs and hundreds of retweets won’t make any difference to a pissed up club goer looking for cheap, greasy, chicken at three in the morning.
Almost as if social media is just sort of…pointless.