This afternoon, after the writer Tony Posnanski tweeted at the official Vita Coco Twitter account that he’d rather “drink your social media persons [sic] piss than coconut water,” the company officially Went Too Far: It replied with a photo of a young woman holding a Vita Coco-branded jar filled with a yellow liquid that’s apparently actual piss. No brand has ever ventured this deep into the previously uncharted waters of social media absurdity — yet it’s only a matter of time before the next brand goes even deeper.
Over the last year, the social media ouroboros that is Twitter has become even more annoying as big food brands stopped acting like boring, normal publicists, and started tweeting like a desperate publicist who thinks @fuckjerry is the pinnacle of internet content. Many of these brand accounts tweet in the first person about the pop culture trend du jour, whether that’s the latest episode of Game of Thrones, the newest Marvel movie, or the Jonas Brothers reunion. And sometimes these accounts go as far as to troll people in an embarrassing attempt to win them over. Food brands have become so desperate in 2019 that logging onto Twitter feels like walking into a party full of simpering idiots covered in brand gear incessantly trying to one-up each other with asinine jokes and flexes.
On Mother’s Day, people who followed the official IHOP Twitter account were subjected to an ultrasound image depicting a tall stack of pancakes inside of a womb, with the message, “If you have pancakes in your tum tum, does that make you a pancake mum mum?”
If you have pancakes in your tum tum, does that make you a pancake mum mum? Happy Mother’s Day to ALL the moms out there! pic.twitter.com/wauH9sYvDb— IHOP (@IHOP) May 12, 2019
The reactions to the picture and the baby talk accompanying it were overwhelmingly negative. “There are twice as many IHOP’s than abortion providers in the United States,” tweeted Daily Show co-creator Lizz Winstead. “This tweet needs to be aborted,” remarked comedian Sarah Beattie.
Nobody liked the “tum tum” tweet, whether because it read as an especially tone-deaf move, considering the recent national conversation about abortion rights, or because it was idiotic (or both!). But IHOP made no apologies for its Mother’s Day message, and it probably won’t be the last burst of try-hard viral nonsense to spew from the pancake house’s Twitter feed. The ultrasound tweet got one hundred times as much engagement as a Cinco De Mayo-themed tweet depicting a giant piñata pancake, and a thousand more RTs than a tweet showing a dragon flying across a castle-like IHOP with the message, “We stand with House of Pancakes.” Compared to these other turkeys on its timeline, the unsettling pancake ultrasound was a hit.
If Wendy's Spicy Chicken Nuggets can make a comeback, so can the Jona- oh, wait.— Wendy's (@Wendys) May 7, 2019
The previous frontrunner in this race to the bottom of tired millennial pandering is Wendy’s, an account that pivoted from sick burns to corny Westeros commentary. In an exceptional display of brand horniness, Wendy’s took a seemingly off-the-cuff Chance the Rapper tweet about the chain’s spicy nuggets and turned it into a full blown campaign promising the return of the menu item if fans hit the “like” button two million times.
you: something, something— Denny's (@DennysDiner) May 1, 2019
Meanwhile, Denny’s, a brand that caused a stir with a tweet about giving good tips to servers two years ago, is a close second, with equally dopey missives like “celery is hard vegetable water,” and “finally watched Avengers Endgame, when will @Marvel make a food superhero? no rush, just a thought.” Arby’s shamelessly courts teenage gamers and wrestling fans with bespoke Mortal Kombat-themed Gifs and junk food portraits of WWE stars Becky Lynch and John Cena. And Burger King also deserves a special place in brand hell for not only tweeting prattle like, “dating is just a sneaky interview to see if you can tolerate the way someone chews for the rest of your life,” but also dabbling in food companies’ other favorite trope this year: depression Twitter, perhaps first used as a style of social media marketing by sad lunchmeat brand @steak-umms.
_______________________— Burger King (@BurgerKing) April 2, 2019
\ pour one out /___
\ for / |
\ google plus /____|
Until today, no food brand had veered quite so far off the rails recently as Edible Arrangements. Last week, the company decided it might be a cool thing to jump into a conversation that writer Darcie Wilder was having with her friend Molly Lambert where Wilder invoked the name of the fruit basket purveyor as a joke. The conversation quickly shifted to talk of Mother’s Day and her tweeting, “wow i did not expect edible arrangements to try to replace my dead mom.” Edible Arrangements replied, “Is adoption on the table?” It’s a shockingly weird move for an account that spends most of its days helping customers locate their missing chocolate-covered cantaloupe orders.
Is adoption on the table?— Edible Arrangements (@edible) May 3, 2019
The dead mom/adoption banter is an extreme example of a brand misstep, but even the more harmless attention-courting messages are obnoxious in their own right. Even if there are young, in-the-know social media strategists operating these accounts, the eagerness to please combined with the billion-dollar food company branding feels something like Steve Buscemi walking up to a bunch of teens with a skateboard and saying, “How do you do, fellow kids.”
This post has been updated to reflect the depraved actions of the Vita Coco account on May 15, 2019.