How fearless brands succeed on social

November 1, 2017

Written by NewsWhip

How can brands stand out on social? We take a look at how a savage approach is paying off for Wendy’s, Netflix, and others. 

A brand can define its success on social media in many different ways, from customer expression of sentiment and appreciation to a growing follower count.

Despite this, there are some brands that use social to stray from the status quo and savagely or wittily respond to customer inquiries. Even though these brands are being potentially alienating towards one particular customer, this sassy behavior can actually attract a ton of people that find humor in savagery.

Using NewsWhip’s Analytics, we looked at several brands across multiple categories to discover how their social behavior affected not only their following, but the company success as well.

Back in January of this year Wendy’s became a social media icon for roasting an ignorant Twitter user on frozen beef and refrigerators. 

This is how it all started, an innocent but witty reply to McDonald’s, one of Wendy’s primary competitors. Wendy’s own Vice President and Head of Advertising Braden Rhoten stated that the tweet itself was in line with the voice of the brand they had been trying to push on social for a while.


Then it all snowballed from there.

It was the first time the brand’s sassiness to a customer on social media caught flame and exploded across Twitter. It had the potential to damage the brand’s reputation and it could have ended alienating other customers. However, the risk panned out in their favor, and Wendy’s sassy responses spread virally across social media.

Over the course of the month of January, Twitter users flocked to Wendy’s account begging to be “roasted,” or insulted by the brand, and Wendy’s willingly obliged.

Looking at NewsWhip’s Analytics for insights, we saw that prior to Wendy’s sarcastic quips, “Wendy’s” as a keyword turned up an average of 183 engagements for December 2016, with 415 articles posted and 75,755 total engagements the month before the infamous roasting.

When January rolled around, these numbers increased exponentially. Article count had a 141 percent increase, with over 1,000 articles posted that month mentioning “Wendy’s.” Additionally, engagements across every social channel had an enormous percent increase, with Pinterest capping at the highest: nearly 147 times the amount of engagements as December. Additionally, since the battle took place on Twitter, it’s important to note that the platform garnered nine times the amount of engagements for Wendy’s following the sassy exchange for the month of January 2017.

According to Twitter Counter, Wendy’s amassed 350,000 new followers after its initial tweet went viral, a 35% increase from the month before. Even though the fast-food restaurant may have lost one Twitter user, the exorbitant amount of attention and engagements it drew from other users made the sassiness worth it. This is one great example of savagery working out in a brand’s favor. 
Let’s take a look at at a few other brands doing humor well on social.




For a brand that utilizes humor, savagery, and wit well, we turn to Netflix.

Netflix has a history of building its brand voice on social with hilarious quips and digs towards users and other branded accounts. This month alone it had a fun yet sassy exchange with the Canadian Netflix account.

For Halloween-related posts this month, Netflix’s couples costume joke was brutal for fans of The Walking Dead’s beloved yet deceased characters. The post garnered nearly 28,000 engagements, and when compared to its other posts of the week, performed better than other similar content.



Looking at Twitter Counter, as Netflix promoted the release of the next season of Stranger Things, which included the above popular tweet, it had a 3 percent increase with 137,000 new followers this month, further proof that savage tweets and a tone of hilarity on social can definitely help out a brand with that established voice.


Squatty Potty


Another interesting example of brand originality is Squatty Potty, whose iconic brand voice and style is driven primarily by its intriguingly curated marketing videos.

Knowing the potential for the peculiarly styled videos to flop and ruin their products’ chance at success, including the financial wellbeing of the company, in 2015 CEO Bobby Edwards ran with the original video anyway because he hoped it had the potential for virality, despite warnings not to given its potential for controversy. However, his intuition was correct, as the video gained traction on Facebook and YouTube; it has gone on to prompt sequel videos equally as popular and just as beneficial to the brand.

For the first month of its release, “Squatty Potty” garnered 50,000 engagements as the video spread, and to this day, the video has amassed 140 million views and 2.67 million engagements on Facebook alone for the brand, whereas, in the month of October 2017, all of Squatty Potty’s videos garnered on average 14,500 views. Both of its unicorn-related product promotion videos amassed views and engagements in the millions. The CEO says that the original viral video for enormous increases in sales figures and continued growth: 600 percent in online and 400 percent in brick & mortar stores, another example of how potentially risky product promotion on social media turned out in a brand’s favor.

The Real World Effect

Additionally, despite social media success, it is questionable whether this behavior results in bad earned media for the brand’s financial well being. When looking specifically at Wendy’s stocks to see if the viral roasting had had any effect on their business, we could see that this wasn’t true.

In fact, it appears that Wendy’s reputation only managed to grow, and that Wendy’s stock has increased since January 2017; as it turns out, the Twitter war resulted in positive growth both on social and in the financial world for Wendy’s. Today, Wendy’s continues with the voice it established back in January, using memes, slang, and brutal takedowns of users to garner and maintain audience interest and the growth it saw earlier this year.

When looking at Netflix, we saw that the company has also had positive growth, especially during the promotion period for Stranger Things 2 and the tweets we examined earlier. Clearly its brand voice on social media has no effect on its financial success.

Squatty Potty, in addition to their viral unicorn videos, also appeared on the television show Shark Tank, and reflected positive growth from that exposure as well as sales growth. Looking at all of the brands we examined, it appears that the tone and approach they take to their social has benefitted them both in terms of company financial health and audience development. 



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