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Bud Light is hiring a Chief Meme Officer: Genius or not?

[BUSINESS MARKETING] Bud Light Seltzer is hiring a memer-in-chief, because apparently nothing is allowed to be normal in 2020.

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Bud Light job description

Meme-based marketing is becoming so commonplace that posts like this are almost mundane:

Apply to be @BudLight Seltzer’s Chief Meme Officer. Get paid to make memes. Apply at the link in bio. #ad

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Recently, Bud Light bought a swath of ads in the form of memes just like this about a job listing for a “chief meme officer.” The above example actually appeared in my own feed a few days ago. They are offering candidates $5000 a month to make ten memes a week about their hard seltzer brand.

Whether you consider it tacky or hilarious, what you may not realize is that the history of meme-based advertising goes back nearly a decade.

The Denny’s Tumblr page is considered the first to have found success with marketing-by-memeing in early 2013, utilizing surreal, bizarre humor that made direct references to the culture and in-jokes of the rest of the platform at the time. Other fast food brands soon took this approach to Twitter with wild success through the late 2010’s.

The most widely followed accounts that comprised Food Twitter weren’t necessarily the biggest companies, but rather the strongest brand images on the platform. The A-list included names like Wendy’s, known for its sassy clapbacks; Arby’s, which often alluded to nerdy and fandom-related subcultures; and Corn Nuts, for whom a funny online presence majorly boosted retail sales as well as sales among Millennials.

The numbers don’t lie: Sh*t posts sell. These accounts still have dedicated followings of hundreds of thousands of users, mostly teens and young adults.

In high school, I unironically followed many of these hip brand accounts. Back then, I thought their content was subversive, like straight-up satire. It made me wonder, who were the masterminds that were out there convincing junk food companies to pay them to goof around online? And how do I land that job?

Through adapting the offhand, unfiltered style of the “fellow kids” on social media, these brands made themselves seem self-aware, approachable, and (dare I say) #relatable to me in a way they never would have otherwise. For example, I had no reason to be following Steak-Umm. I didn’t even eat meat. But they were funny, so who cared?

It’s kind of genius, considering the sheer number of eyeballs that spend hours a day scrolling. By turning their social media accounts into a source of entertainment, these companies are able to reach a wider base of loyal fans.

But it’s a tricky balance. Poorly thought out attempts at brand meme-ry have produced plenty of cringey results, too. Does anyone else remember when Sunny D made their “depression tweet”?

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I can’t do this anymore

Imitating a person in actual psychological distress to sell orange flavored beverages was widely received as… not a great look. Other famously uncomfortable attempts at brand memeing include:

  • An attempted viral campaign around the brutal death of the Planters Mr. Peanut character, his funeral, and his bizarre resurrection as “Baby Nut”
  • Michael Bloomberg’s ill-conceived meme-based presidential bid, #meme2020
  • Frosted Flakes’ Twitter account for Tony the Tiger, which faced an overwhelm of outright sexual harassment from furries and ultimately was forced to deactivate entirely

But hey, no attention is bad attention, right?

So what the heck does this say about Bud Light Seltzer’s meme team?

Well, in her video “The Late Capitalism of Fast Food Twitter,” popular Youtube essayist Sarah Z summarizes the issue with the fusion of advertisement and entertainment. She says that “this new level of social media usage, where ads are often functionally indistinguishable from fun content you would still share with your friends otherwise [is] kind of terrifying… more and more this is starting to mean that ads are everywhere in your life, and you barely even register them as ads.”

And that’s true: It is hard to know when something in my feed is sponsored or not. When an account that I follow gets paid to review a product, or post annoying memes about a job opening at Bud Light Seltzer, that transaction is not always clear.

Sarah Z goes on to highlight that “if this is the direction that ads are going to take from here on out, imagine how that is going to affect people who never grew up knowing anything else.”

All that being said, I won’t lie here: Getting paid to make internet memes still sounds like my dream job… even if it would mean slightly selling my soul to get it.

Desmond Meagley is an award-winning writer, graphic artist and cultural commentator in D.C. A proud YR Media alumn, Desmond's writing and illustrations have been featured in the SF Chronicle, HuffPost, Teen Vogue, The Daily Cal, and NPR among others. In their spare time, Desmond enjoys vegetarian cooking and vigorous bike rides.

Business Marketing

Healthcare during pandemic goes virtual, looks to stay that way

(BUSINESS NEWS) Employment-based health insurance has already been through the ringer with COVID-19, but company healthcare options are adapting for long term.

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Stethoscope with laptop, showing healthcare going virtual.

Changes in employment-based health insurance may end up costing employers more, but will provide crucial benefits to workers responding to the healthcare challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a recent survey by the Business Group on Health, a member-driven advocacy organization that helps large employers navigate providing health insurance to their employees, businesses will increase access to telehealth, mental health resources, and on-site clinics in the upcoming year.

Besides the obvious impacts of the coronavirus itself, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have also rippled out to affect other aspects of public health and how we engage with medical care. With so many people staying home to reduce their in-person contacts, there has been a significant increase in the use of telehealth services such as virtual doctor’s visits. According to the survey from Business Group on Health, whose members include 74 Fortune 100 companies, more than half of large employers will offer more options for virtual healthcare in the upcoming year than in the past.

The pandemic, resulting economic fallout, and dramatic changes to our lives have inevitably exacerbated peoples’ anxieties and feelings of hopelessness. As we move into cold weather, with no end in sight to the need to socially distance, this promises to be a particularly dreary, lonely winter. Mental health support will be more necessary than ever. In 2019, 73% of large employers provided virtual mental health services. That number will increase to 91% next year, with 45% of large employers also expanding their mental health care provider networks, making it easier for employees to find the right the therapist or other mental health service provider, and making it easier to access those services from home, virtually.

In addition, there will be a 20% increase in employers offering virtual emotional well-being services. Altogether, 9 out of 10 of the employers surveyed will provide online mental health resources, which, besides virtual appointments, could also include apps, webinars, and educational videos.

There has also been a slight increase the availability of on-site clinics that provide coronavirus testing and other basic health services. This also included an expansion of resources for prenatal care, weight management, and chronic health problems such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

These improvement won’t come free of charge. While deductibles will remain about the same, premiums and out-of-pocket costs will increase about 5%. In most cases, employers will handle these costs, rather than passing them on to employees.

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Business Marketing

How Instagram’s latest redesign is more sinister than it seems

(MARKETING) Instagram’s latest updates have all but repurposed the app into an online mall – one that tracks everything you see, say, and buy on it.

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Woman in hijab taking photo on her smartphone for Instagram, affected by the redesign.

Instagram started the new year off with a makeover in their latest redesign. The notifications button teleported to the top of the screen in the app’s new design, and now the “Shopping” button is in its place.

It’s a subtle yet insidious switch. You’re much more likely to select the marketplace out of habit, by accident, when searching your next dose of online validation.

The app has always been a vital tool for artists, craftspeople, and small businesses to promote their work — including myself. And the new redesign is intended to boost the visibility of those groups. At least, that’s Instagram’s argument.

In an article for The Conversation, Nazanin Andalibi of the University of Michigan School of Information provides a glimpse of what’s going on behind the scenes.

“By choosing to make the Shop tab central to its platform,” she writes, “Instagram is sending its users a message: This platform is a business, and interactions on this platform are going to be commodified.”

As an advertiser, Instagram’s popularity has exploded in the last decade. Even big pharma is in on the surge, with seventy pharmaceutical companies purchasing ads on the app in 2020. (That made it the fastest growing pharma advertiser of the year.)

As we know, Instagram not only runs ads, but also uses user information to filter who sees what advertisements. Now, shopping is explicitly a central function of the app. It sometimes feels like a digital mall… And that’s not really what people signed up for.

I’ve had my account for since I was a teenager, and the experience I have using the app today is totally different from what it once was. For one, it’s increasingly difficult to differentiate paid ads from regular user content on Instagram.

And second, I use Instagram to promote my work, but I don’t feel comfortable sharing personal details about myself anymore.

Because, to use Anadalibi’s words: “Sharing or seeking information about a difficult, personal experience on a social media platform and then having the platform capitalize on an algorithmic understanding of the experience–which might or might not be accurate–is problematic.”

That goes doubly so for youth, who may not be fully aware of that engineering.

For instance, a teenager searching for body positive posts might receive personalized ad results for weight loss programs. A human would probably realize that’s an inappropriate, even triggering suggestion. But algorithms don’t think that way.

Alongside the redesign update, Instagram has also faces recent criticism for their Community Guidelines, which prevent suggestive and explicit images and speech.

And whether you agree with the guidelines or not, don’t be fooled. Instagram isn’t concerned with uplifting its creators, or protecting its young users. Their only goal is protecting their new bottom line, and staying as ad-friendly as possible.

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Business Marketing

Ghost Reply has us asking: Should you shame a recruiter who ghosted you?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Ghost Reply will send an anonymous “kind reminder” to recruiters who ghost job candidates, but is the sweet taste of temporary catharsis worth it?

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Stressed woman at a laptop with hands on head, considering if she should send a Ghost Reply.

People hate to get “ghosted” in any situation, personal or professional. But for job seekers who may already be struggling with self-esteem, it can be particularly devastating. Ghost Reply is a new online service that will help you compose and send an email nudge to the ghoster, sending a “kind reminder” telling them how unprofessional it is to leave someone hanging like that.

Ghost Reply wants to help you reach catharsis in all of this stressful mess of finding a job. Almost all of the problems and feelings are compounded by this confounded pandemic that has decimated areas of the workforce and taken jobs and threatened people’s financial security. It is understandable to want to lash out at those in power, and sending a Ghost Reply email to the recruiter or HR person may make you feel better in the short term.

In the long run, though, will it solve anything? Ghost Reply suggests it may make the HR person or recruiter reevaluate their hiring processes, indicating this type of email may help them see the error of their ways and start replying to all potential candidates. If it helps them reassess and be more considerate in the future and helps you find closure in the application/interview process, that would be the ideal outcome on all fronts. It is not likely this will happen, though.

The Ghost Reply sample email has the subject line “You have a message from a candidate!” Then it begins, “Hi, (name), You’re receiving this email because a past candidate feels like you ghosted them unfairly.” It then has a space for said candidate to add on any personal notes regarding the recruiter or process while remaining anonymous.

I get it. It’s upsetting to have someone disappear after you’ve spent time and energy applying, possibly even interviewing, only to hear nothing but crickets back from the recruiter or HR person you interacted with. It’s happened to me more than once, and it’s no bueno. We all want to be seen. We all want to be valued. Ghosting is hurtful. The frustration and disappointment, even anger, that you feel is certainly relatable. According to several sources, being ghosted after applying for a job is one of the top complaints from job seekers on the market today.

Will an anonymous, passive-aggressive email achieve your end? Will the chastened company representative suddenly have a lightbulb go off over their heads, creating a wave of change in company policy? I don’t see it. The first sentence of the sample email, in fact, is not going to be well received by HR.

When you start talking about what’s “unfair,” most HR people will tune out immediately. That kind of language in itself is unprofessional and is a red flag to many people. Once you work at a company and know its culture and have built relationships, then, maybe, just maybe, can you start talking about your work-related feelings. I believe in talking about our feelings, but rarely is a work scenario the best place to do so (I speak from experience). Calling it unprofessional is better, less about you and more about the other person’s behavior.

However, it’s unclear how productive Ghost Reply actually is. Or how anonymous, frankly. By process of deduction, the recipient of the email may be able to figure out who sent it, if it even makes it through the company’s spam filters. Even if they cannot pinpoint the exact person, it may cast doubts on several applicants or leave a bad taste in the recruiter’s mouth. It sounds like sour grapes, which is never a good thing.

There may be any number of reasons you didn’t get the job offer or interview, and they may or may not have something to do with you. Recruiters answer your burning questions, including why you may have been ghosted in this recent article in The American Genius.

Ultimately, you will never know why they ghosted you. If it makes you feel better or at least see the issue from both sides, the amount of job candidates ghosting recruiters after applying and even interviewing is equally high. Some people simply either have awful time management skills or awful manners, and at the end of the day, there’s not much you can do about that.

Focus on your own survival while job hunting, instead of these disappointing moments or the person who ghosts you. It will serve you better in the long run than some anonymous revenge email. There are other ways to deal with your frustration and anger when you do get ghosted, though. Try the classic punching your pillow. Try taking a walk around the block. If it helps to put your frustration into words, and it very well may, then do so. Write it on a piece of paper, then burn it. Or type it all in an email and delete it. For your own sake, do NOT put their email address in the “To” line, lest you accidentally hit “Send.”

The sooner you can let it go, the sooner you can move on to finding a better job fit for you.

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