If your bank could talk, would it sound the same as your athletic shoes? Probably not. You wouldn't expect it to, said Rebecca Lieb, an industry analyst at Altimeter Group. For that reason, some companies are finding success through a type of brand embodiment that may seem to defy best practices for running a professional, business-like Twitter account.
Surely there's a book that said capslock, toilet paper, and puns are great ways to lose followers. In most cases, they probably are. But there are also instances where a nonconventional - or even bizarre - presentation of brand for products like pizza, candy, and cars can humanize a company and promote higher levels of engagement with followers.
Or, as Lieb said, "When done the right way, it can be a marvelous way to stand out from a slew of robotic corporate voices."
We rounded up brands that do wacky well.
1. DiGiorno Pizza
If Kayne were a pizza, his Twitter account might look like the Digiorno Pizza account, as both share a fondness for capslock and celebrity. DiGiorno doesn't miss a moment to mention pizza, whether it's by live tweeting NBC's December production of The Sound of Music or hassling the famous with Pizza-themed disses and jokes.
And again like Kanye, a little bit of belligerence usually makes for the strongest Tweets: "YO, YOUR TEAM'S SIDELINE IS LIKE YOUR ONLINE DATING PROFILE. SO MUCH SADNESS IN ONE PLACE#DiGiorNOYOUDIDNT#SuperBowl" Lieb explained that while any frozen pizza company could talk about melting cheese, only one company can sound like DiGiorno.
2. Arena Flowers
One of Arena Flowers' most interesting features is how little they push their own product. According to Arena's CEO and co-founder Will Wynne, it's because they're making a trade with their followers, who most likely don't have an everyday need for a florist. "We chose to give away something (comedy/entertainment) for free, in return for being in their feed, so that when we wanted to push some gentle marketing messages, we would be able to," he said. So instead of tweeting about flowers, Arena tweets: "Earl grey. It's like drinking a mug of hot old lady."
Wynne said being funny in 140 characters is an acquired skill. In general, Arena avoids being mean spirited and crude, as well as over-tweeting. "Over-tweeting can be really annoying and is a guaranteed unfollow for repeat offenders. And no one wants unfollows, else we'll have to shoot the writers," he said.
3. Newcastle Brown Ale
#NoBullocks. Newcastle Brown Ale is trying to sell beer. And somehow, their shamelessness is refreshing- "$3 is a small price to pay for a great beer. That's why we charge more." While that tone should be a turnoff, the brusqueness and seemingly straight-shooting approach is the draw: "By following us on Twitter, we guarantee daily reminders to drink our beer."
Much like your high school sex ed teacher, Charmin has a heightened comfort level with the things not discussed in polite company. Their brand of bathroom philosophy ranges from benign reminders to wash your hands, to the proclamation that there will never be enough seat liners to make a public toilet safe. Recently, Charmin corralled all this bathroom etiquette on #CharminCourtesy day. Otherwise, winking bathroom humor abounds: "PSA: Today is Tuesday. Or as we like to call it... another craptastic work day that is not Friday.#tweetfromtheseat"
The obvious angle for Netflix is tweeting about movies. What keeps their account from turning into a stream of "watch this" calls to action, is the humor behind the movie quotes they chose to tweet, and the unexpected ways in which they respond to customers. When someone tweeted: "I'd like to personally thank @netflix for putting titanic on stream," Netflix responded, "We'll never let go, Meghan." Lieb said this type of interaction acknowledges that social media is a two-way exchange and makes followers more likely to engage when they feel they're talking to a person.
6. Old Spice
Four years after the Old Spice Man became "the man your man could smell like," the brand is essentially an elder statesman of wacky Twitter accounts. Old Spice still keeps up efforts to promote all things manly, but its sweet spot is really the area where masculinity and cleanliness skitter toward absurdity, in the spirit of the original commercial: "Slapping a velociraptor in the face with a single white glove is a bold yet classy way to assert your dominance."
Skittlespromises to tweet nothing but "awesomeness." Most days that means spinning theories about pigeons actually being robots and waxing ridiculous about the little colored candy. Every Skittles-related tweet is written with a degree of obsession for the product: "I dreamt I was bathing in Skittles. Probably because I went to sleep in a bathtub full of Skittles." According to digital media specialist Kathleen Holmlund, there's danger in going off the rails. "The main risk I can envisage with brands getting all wacky on Twitter is that the individuals handling the account content could run the risk of getting carried away and this can turn into a PR nightmare," she said.
8. Kia UK
While some of the more absurd Twitter accounts express themselves as disembodied and brand-loyal, Kia UK is very clear about what the account is - a car with an endless supply of automotive puns: "My satnav is amazingly accurate. Drove past a zoo earlier, and it said 'bear left.'" This might be one of the more literal examples of what Lieb calls brand personification, after all, it's the car talking: "Since I started using all of my mirrors I haven't looked back."
Popchips has its own definition of product placement. The popped potato chip company's Twitter account regularly features pictures of bags posed in different activities like playing video games, or staring wistfully out of a window. The company's use of pictures also extends to off-the-wall uses for empty bags, ridiculous Photoshops, and recipes to turn your chips into something a little classier, like almond and Popchips chicken breasts. All this builds a voice that's health-conscious and flippant: "the best things in life are#glutenfreepic.twitter.com/DsjyFurI72"
The best example of IHOP's Twitter tone might just be "Pancakes bc life," as they tweeted recently. According to IHOP's director of media and digital Darrin Kellaris, keeping it light on Twitter serves a few purposes, including "finding a way to stay culturally relevant" as an iconic brand. "We realized the fun aspect is what keeps people engaged," he said. And as Twitter affords the space to use slang and be lax on punctuation, IHOP can tweet something like "We need pancakes, like yesterday," and be right on message.
Erin Carson has nothing to disclose. She doesn't hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Erin Carson is a Staff Reporter for CNET and a former Multimedia Editor for TechRepublic.