Slacktory

Applebee's Twin Towers memorial

Sick: Pranksters mock Applebee’s 9/11 tribute with vile fake retweets.” That’s a satisfying headline from right-wing Twitter-tracking blog Twitchy about a satisfying Twitter prank. Let’s step back and see how we got here.

If you follow any shitty brands on Twitter, on September 11 you saw tweets like this:

As Henry said in his piece on “Condescending Corporate Brand Page”, brands post a lot of inane shit to get people to like them. A big brand’s social media person is limited from any message that could possibly alienate customers; the guy running Red Lobster’s Facebook can’t joke about country music without some idiot writing “You just lost a Keith Urban fan!”, and he definitely can’t get interestingly political lest the brand gets boycotted like Oreo, so unless he’s way too clever to get stuck in this job, he’s left with only the most inane relatable sentiments.

But when these brands jump onto every bandwagon, the inanity becomes offensive to anyone with a brain and a sense of identity outside of brand consumption. Thus you get the above September 11 tweets, all of which (and more) were all sarcastically retweeted by comedian Joe Mande. His point was clear: It’s fucking ridiculous for Ace Hardware to honor the fallen of a national tragedy, because it had nothing to do with them, and no one at all wondered about their opinion.

Saying you think 9/11 was sad is like shouting “I don’t hit children!” You don’t get points for that! That’s just what’s already expected of you as a person. Anyone who makes a big deal about it is suspect. Why do they want to make it clear that they don’t hit children? Are they hiding something? Or are they just covering up that they have nothing meaningful to add?

OK, all that to get to the really funny bit. Because if you agree with me so far, then you’ll like when people actually start deconstructing the “remember 9/11, sincerely, Target” sentiment.

Applebee’s was a member of the wankfest:

So two Twitter dada-comedians wrote excellent parodies:

Both tweets point out what Applebee’s was doing: Wrapping themselves in the flag in what’s really just a cynical marketing ploy. Here are their first non-reply tweets before and after the 9/11 tweet:

And almost all other tweets are overt marketing: special offers, retweets of Applebee’s fans. The rest are about the VMAs or football. It’s very clearly an inane marketing channel, which is fine. But when they stop to “never forget”, it feels a tad manipulative. Like it’s just another news peg like an award show or a holiday. Like they only said it to make themselves palatable to their customers. It feels like they may as well be shoving a Twin Towers Fudge Explosion Sundae in my face.

Jake Fogelnest, who was once an MTV VJ and is now an innovative comedian, built on the joke:

Brendan O’Hare found a new level of absurdity:

All this was tracked on Twitchy, which did a better job than I am in focusing on great humor — so well that it’s as if they’re playing a long con, and trolled us all with their fake disgust.

Applebee’s had to cover up, because of another rule of brand social media: Address every customer concern, no matter how asinine.

The same rule forced Big Dogs to reply to Dogboner about his glorious shirt mockup:

There are a few joys all combined here. There’s the mockery of the brand, there’s the complicated exposure of the latent narrative in corporate branding (which boils down to intentionally presenting only certain facts, and at times outright lies, to the consumer), and there’s the arch satire on bigotry and stupidity expressed through building fictional examples to expose those latent feelings. These Twitter accounts are following All in the Family and Sasha Baron Coen by mocking the language of the bigoted, in such a way that most enrages the bigoted who can’t tell they’re being mocked.

Seeing Big Dog blame America for 9/11, siding with Noam Chomsky with his chunky sunglasses on, is hilarious because it subverts the company’s asinine but vaguely inoffensive, populist bipartisan boys’ club branding. It’s a dog whistle for the intelligent; the most disgusting members of a society could possibly enjoy the front-facing “joke”, but it takes some brains and grace to understand the actual joke. And it’s the same brains and grace that make us hungry for some answer to the stolen 9/11 seriousness inanity.

  • ethanmessier

    While I agree with your assessment (that most brands are tweeting these messages in a knee-jerk/bandwagon fashion), there is an argument to be made that they feel as though they are required to share these messages for fear of reactions from the ultra-sensitive. Not justifying, just supposing.

    That being said, this is hilarious. Only on Twitter can you so completely and easily hijack a brand and run for the hills (or Nazi Germany, in that one case).

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