Has ‘Humanizing the Brand’ Gone Too Far?

Brand Twitter these days is an absurd place these days, in the truest sense of the word.

If you removed the handles from several brand’s Tweets, you would struggle in deciding if it came from a brand account or the personal account of the person running the brand account.

As a professional marketer, I have been a big supporter of humanizing the brand in the past. I think it’s important for brands to have a clear and distinct voice amongst all written communication with their audience.

With that being said, I do think it has been taken too far when it comes to how brands approach Twitter.

Let’s look at 2 recent brand Tweets to discuss my argument. The first is from Chipotle and the second is from Hulu.

Now this one I don’t necessarily mind as much because it’s not really cringey per se, but rather it completely breaks the suspended reality we assume when we interact with brands.

This is not “Chipotle” Tweeting, but rather the person behind the account. I know that sounds obvious, but those are actually two distinct perceptions when it comes to how our modern brains anthropomorphize brands.

This Tweet did insane numbers, getting close to a half-million likes, so it’s hard to argue against it when most decision-makers at large organizations still judge social success by vanity metrics.

That being said, I don’t think this viral Tweet makes any difference at all in terms of advancing any of the brand’s marketing objectives.

The replies to this tweet include several from other brands whose community managers also break character and Tweet as themselves under the brand accounts.

My only real concern with this Tweet and others like it is that Tweets like this can trick us into feeling like a brand is our friend. That’s a slippery slope, especially when it comes billion-dollar conglomerates that don’t treat all their employees throughout their supply chain as well as they should.

The Hulu one, though? Yikes.

This Tweet made me cringe incredibly hard.

To be fair, it would also make me cringe incredibly hard if it came from a personal account. But this one also made me cringe in a professional context.

Hulu isn’t Pornhub…in fact, they don’t even allow softcore porn, and their controlling parent company is effing Disney. To say such a Tweet goes against the supposed brand ethos is an understatement.

Also, it takes us into the “valley of the uncanny” when we think about a brand being horny. We are mentally okay with a brand having a quirky “personality”, but it crosses into superbly icky territory when we are forced to think about a brand having sex.

And yet…such a Tweet still does numbers, so who am I to say it is a “bad” strategy when, like I said earlier, so many decision-makers only understand social in the context of vanity metrics?

Brand Twitter, from a professional marketer’s perspective, feels like being an art critic walking through a gallery of Absurdist art.

There’s no rules or guidelines for judging what is good or bad…we all just kind of have no f*cking clue why these Tweets from brand accounts work, and look to each other for cues on what we consider to be well-done.

#Ghostwriter for CEOs, startup founders, & service-based business owners.