Do you know who aren’t your friends? Brands.
Repeat it slowly: “Brands are not my friends.” Brands are psychopathic constructs, infesting your social media timelines with carefully-constructed babble, a hollow echo of a real human voice.
Brands want to make you think they know what “on fleek” means. Brands want you to think they’re just another lonely joke writer who happens to be really obsessed with chicken, excessively long pizzas or how Coca Cola is the magic elixir that will wash away all of life’s problems. It’s the real thing!
Of course brands screw up a lot on social media. It’s because, despite their rictus grins, the plastic masks of friendship they wear are just hiding the fleshy, flawed faces of underpaid social media people, who are often trying to be the fun voice of several soulless logos at once. They’re expected to join in, empathize, seem endlessly perky/edgy and stick to the rules of an ever-expanding brand bible.
So when the UK branch of Benefit cosmetics caused a storm on Twitter today with some crass puns (e.g ‘Massive Mike’) bandwagoning on an equally crass hashtag (#MakeAMovieAFatty), that was the least offensive thing.
Of course, a brand making jokes about overweight people is idiotic and hurtful, but it’s the voice Benefit uses all the time that’s the real problem.
It calls its followers “benebabes.” It scatters xoxox through its messages like some poorly coded Gossip Girl bot. It jumps on any passing trend with a cobbled together image macro in the hope of a few desperate retweets.
It uses contrived hashtags like #POREfressional [Note: I know this is one of its actual products]. It is an idiot, the kind of obnoxious character who didn’t see the irony spiked through ‘Clueless’ and ‘Mean Girls.’
Benefit isn’t alone. There are countless brand accounts desperately trying to generate their own slang, to pretend that consumers are just pals who like to open their pocket books.
Brands have been trying to mimic Weird Twitter from day one. Skittles wants you to think it’s just another stoner trying to fix your munchies. KFC is some cool guy who also hangs out with the Colonel.
Why does that even matter? We can just ignore them, right? Well, not really.
They occupy public spaces in the flesh and blood world – billboards, posters, video screens and TV sets – blaring out their messages to us constantly. And online, they’re the leeches of social networking, desperately trying to drain some blood from every bit of creativity they encounter.
We don’t need brands to be our friends. We don’t need them to pretend to get the latest slang or empathise with our bad days. They should answer our questions when we ask them and solve our problems when they occur.
Brand Twitter accounts should be functional. Brands are not your friends. Brands are just 140 character frauds powered by creative people who deserve a better job.
Oh and Twitter wanting to know your birthday now? That’s just another way for brands to sidle up to you, nudge you in the ribs and say “Doesn’t life seem empty without our particular brand of shit?”