Your Brand Is Probably Not Bae

Thinkstock If you’re a social media-obsessed public relations professional like me, you may have noticed a certain “ep-bae-demic” spreading across brands’ social media conversations over the past several months.

In the midst of developing an identity on social media, several brands – many in the food and restaurant industry – have chosen to adopt a voice that resonates, or should I say “seeks to resonate,” with a much younger audience.

Introducing “bae”: A common term among millennials that often refers to one’s boyfriend or girlfriend. For example, “Can’t wait to come home and curl up with #bae (insert long list of lovey-dovey emojiis).” Interestingly, The Wall Street Journal also adds the following definition: “Bae can be aspirational – someone of romantic interest. The term has also inevitably evolved to apply to inanimate objects. On Instagram, a particularly mouthwatering plate of BBQ could be #bae, for example.” Among brands tweeting the #bae hashtag are Taco Bell, Burger King, Chili’s, Applebee’s, IHOP, Jimmy John’s, Mountain Dew, Walmart and Gain. (To see more brands that have been caught in the act, check out the “Brands Saying Bae” Twitter account.)

In an effort to sound “less corporate” and more like the 14-year-old kid next door, brands are aging down their social conversation to better connect with their younger audiences. The real question though, as discussed in a recent article in Digiday, is “whether it makes sense for brands to go down that road – and at what point they begin to risk looking ridiculous.”

The article suggests that brands that age down their language by adding in terms like “bae” and “on fleek” are struggling to connect with their audience in a meaningful way. This is because brands that don’t understand their audience enough to develop a natural connection find it easier to mask their message in more youthful terms. (“On fleek,” for the record, is defined as being “on point.”)

The key to creating an engaging and meaningful relationship is understanding the audience, and using the right language is one way for a brand to show it understands its audience. Brands such as Taco Bell and Mountain Dew might find it more beneficial to use this type of language because of their youthful following. However, brands such as Walmart and Gain, with an audience of predominately women and mothers, might want to think twice before tweeting their “bae.”