The Top 10 Sass Masters of Social Media

The top 10 sass masters of social media

Social media marketing strategy is certainly not “one size fits all.” A textbook approach may recommend content marketing that includes high quality product images and promotional videos that are appealing to a target audience and include a call to action. It may also recommend social media monitoring to assess customer feeling and insights, and interaction that is helpful and professional. These approaches may sound appealing, but they certainly won’t make a post or thread go viral. More companies are beginning to encourage customer engagement by breaking all of the traditional marketing rules – ridiculing other brands and customers, posting highly controversial content, and rarely mentioning their own brand. How do these companies strike a balance between funny and offensive? And how have these companies achieved such an engaged following? Here are some examples of companies that are breaking all of the rules, going viral, and leaving other brands jealous and confused.

1. Wendy’s – serving up sassy roasts

Wendy’s is doing something on social media that few companies dare to attempt – acting in a way that is wildly inconsistent with the brand’s image. Imagining the innocent pig-tailed Wendy behind sassy and inappropriate tweets is laugh-out-loud funny alone. It seems like Wendy’s is trying to serve up a different kind of beef (fresh never frozen) – and people are loving it! Wendy’s engages with customers through “trolling,” by responding to every insult or joke thrown its way with an even icier one. These conversations have quickly gone viral, spurring user-generated content and reaction videos. Wendy’s proves that a company in a highly competitive environment can stand out through social media, and carve out a unique space that others can’t easily copy

2. Groupon – wildly appropriate interns?

The post above about a banana protection container called the “Banana Bunker” could have posed a huge threat to Groupon. The post quickly racked up suggestive comments, most of which were jokes about the product’s sex-toy-like appearance. However, Groupon saw this an an opportunity, and a team of three Groupon employees replied to the 200+ comments. The comment replies manage to play off of customer jokes without pushing any professional boundaries, by using a tongue-in-cheek tone. The banana bunker post is Groupon’s most popular Facebook content ever, with more than 12,000 comments, 18,000 Likes and 43,000 shares. Groupon strikes a perfect balance between calculated and spur-of-the-moment responses to customer comments.

3. Denny’s – Embracing the weird

Denny’s has certainly taken a unique approach to the social media world in making their content stand out. The two pieces of content above demonstrate Denny’s willingness to go outside typical media strategies in order to appeal more to the humorous side of their consumers. They regularly use pop culture references to make spoofs of their own brand. This is clever because it not only demonstrates the ability to poke fun at their brand, but it also utilizes relevant culture in order to reach a certain scope of consumers. Let’s be honest, today’s consumers are much more likely to partake in Denny’s if the brand uses pop icons like Queen Bey and Drake as hooks. Take it from the millennials, they love Denny’s weirdness like XO.

4. Oreo – Dunking on social media  

Oreo has some of the most well rounded social media marketing strategies among top brands. They have developed company specific hashtags and exercise compelling engagement both with consumers and other brands. The first piece of content demonstrates one of their #Dunk campaign engagements. They launched a particularly successful piece of content using the #Dunk campaign during the Super Bowl when the power went out. Oreo was ready with a witty response with the tagline “you can still dunk in the dark.” This successful campaign adaption to an unexpected situation underscores Oreo’s agility in the social media realm. Additionally, they are able to interact with competitors in a way that attracts more consumers without necessarily tarnishing the other brand.

 5. Charmin – butt of the joke    

#ThatAwkwardMoment when you have to post about toilet paper on social media…Somehow, Charmin has been able to overcome taboo surrounding bathroom talk and succeed in normalizing the discussion of their product on social media. With content as smooth as their product, Charmin has really been wiping up the competition. Rather than trying to beat around the bush, the toilet paper brand is focusing on a category that they know best: the bathroom. Aside from your everyday poop joke, Charmin has been able to normalize tweeting while taking a number two, while also bringing up the relatable issue of running out of toilet paper, just remember to wash your hands after those tweets!

6. Smart Car – totals it

Let’s face it, we’ve all ripped on Smart Car at one point or another. But when it comes to social media marketing, Smart Car compensates, BIG TIME. Smart Car distinguishes itself among other auto manufacturers by emphasizing functional, yet appealing style, while also taking the product’s small size in stride. A key component of Smart’s social media strategy is to include its customer’s personality. In addition, Smart Car aligns with pop culture, producing relatable brand value that is recognizable among its customer base. And while Smart Car has a reputable persona, it isn’t scared to occasionally throw people off with a sprinkling of playful wit. Needless to say, on social media, it’s not always about size.

7. Taco Bell – social media sniper

When it comes to social media, Taco Bell’s content is as fiery as its sauces. Our favorite late night fast food joint manages to score free celebrity endorsements, even from Ed Sheeran. It jumps into conversations started by individuals, celebrities, companies, and pretty much any twitter account that poses a unique opportunity for interaction. These types of tweets and responses result in an increase in customer engagement on social media by playing off what’s trending. Taco Bell continues to dish out spicy tweets that are almost as popular as its tacos. You do you Taco Bell, keep thinking outside the bun.

8. Whole Foods – the relevant hipster

Whole Foods is a social pump in the grocery industry. The company leverages its outspoken customer base to create conversations around products, social activism, and the natural foods movement. Whole Foods uses a variety of recognizable hashtags, such as #MeatlessMonday and #PhatTuesday (referring to its large sandwiches) to establish talking points, then keep them relevant through quick responses and mentions. They are also an example of a brand that is willing to embrace the perceptions of its consumers. With the hipster movement in full blast, Wholefoods has been able to use this trend to its advantage, so that potential consumers see them as an approachable company that doesn’t always take itself too seriously.

9. Chubbies – The modern gentleman

Ah Chubbies, the wardrobe staple of frat-stars. Using their vibrant prints and trademark mid-thigh shorts, Chubbies takes a sarcastic stance on rigid dress codes by leading a short shorts revolution. Their media inspires a call to action among millennials that produces a humorous conversation around formal life events, like weddings and job interviews. The majority of their content focuses on creating engagement around their “old glory” shorts, which are often displayed outdoors. This strategy is successful in appealing to those who wear the shorts or want to wear them, and also those who probably shouldn’t wear them…   

10. Newcastle Brown Ale – no bollocks

Their most “social” move was last August’s #NewcastleAdAid where they got Twitter and Facebook followers to send them personal photos which they then turned into absolutely awful, yet hilarious, Photoshopped ads for Newcastle—an effort that slyly derided all the “post your photos using our product!” social media marketing trend while fully committing to it at the same time. That’s engagement baby, with none of the condescending disingenuous. They got to have their beer and drink it too, but not in a chalice.


After researching and analyzing the different social media strategies that successful brands use, there are several trends and key takeaways that can be observed.

First and foremost, many brands, particularly food vendors, use specific tactics on social media to lower their barrier to activation. Many of the brands above, such as Wendy’s, Denny’s, and Taco Bell, use humor to appeal to their consumer base. These fast food products aren’t particularly glamorous to discuss, and so these brands have found rather sarcastic approaches to differentiate themselves and make their products relevant and easier to talk about.

Another tactic that appears to be highly utilized is interacting with other brands, competitive or otherwise, on social media. This gives brands a chance to showcase what differentiates themselves from the competition, as can be seen in some of Wendy’s and Newcastle Brown Ale’s social media posts. However, some brands, such as Oreo, have taken this approach in a different direction. Rather than trashing another brand, Oreo has actually posted some pieces of content in which they praise a competitor, as can be seen in the Oreo/KitKat twitter post above. While this may seem counterintuitive to traditional marketing strategies, Oreo has yielded significant positive results and made their brand appear humble and down-to-earth with a little humorous flair.

Most brands have also realized that monitoring and interacting with their consumers is a great way to amplify themselves in the social media market. Many brands are recognizing the value in responding to their users. Groupon, for example, takes a “wildly appropriate” approach in engaging with their consumers in which they respond in a blunt, yet humorous, manner while never crossing the line. This allows them to encourage more users to interact with their brand while still maintaining a certain reputation. By responding directly to consumer comments, whether they be positive or negative, brands can create a very personalized experience for those that engage with them, this both creates a lasting impression on the consumer and makes them feel relevant in the face of an enterprise giant.

Overall, what makes brands special on social media are the various approaches they take in differentiating themselves. Wendy’s is that classmate who always has a sarcastic remark locked and loaded, Denny’s is your weird cousin who you’ve never really been able to understand but somehow, they make it work, Chubbies is the all-American frat house next door, and Charmin is that friend who always just tries to make the best of a crappy situation. Every brand is unique and offers a little something different, and as such, their respective social media marketing strategies follow suit.

Authors: Karin Hokanson, Lee McMillan, Julia Childress, Isobel Rubin

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