Brands are clapping back for good causes

Using snark to double down on brand values
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· 5 min read

We’ve all seen brands tweet in support of a cause–that carefully-selected sans serif font on a black background (and approved by three brand managers and a dozen lawyers), denouncing whatever evil’s affected the world that week.

Today’s consumers—62% of them—say a brand’s values are important or very important to them when making a purchase decision. And while hashtag activism from brands can often ring hollow, companies are now leaning into a curious way of showing customers their values are front and center: clapping back at the naysayers.

Brands have used clapbacks (basically just another word for a snarky comeback) as an entertainment/engagement play for years. Run around Google, and you’ll find listicle upon listicle of brands ripping their own customers—or each other—for the sake of internet points. It’s part of the whole snarky brand Twitter movement popularized by Wendy’s.

If a brand’s loud and proud about your beliefs, it can double-dip by showing both its values AND supporting its customers’ values by also denouncing opposing views in the replies. If the idea that “Doing good is good business” is a value-oriented ideal, then perhaps smacking down the haters is right behind?

A few recent examples:

While brands like LiveNation and Conde Nast spoke out against how Roe v. Wade was overturned in June, video-game developer Bungie dropped a public statement all the way back in May when the Supreme Court’s draft opinion leaked.

There’s no mistaking its stance: “At Bungie we believe that everyone has a right to choose their own path and that freedom is expressed across all facets of life. The leaked draft decision by the US Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade represents a blow to freedom in America and is a direct attack on human rights.”

When Bungie tweeted their statement, it went viral: 79,000 Twitter likes makes it its most-engaged tweet of all-time. Naturally, anything viral attracts some opposition. The usual toxic tweets found their way to the replies, arguing the clichéd, “You’re a video game company, why are you talking about politics?” talking point.

Bungie decided to fire back with a mixture of serious and comedic replies.

This requires bravery, company alignment, and a willingness to take a stand—and it meant a lot to people, too; just read the replies to their clapbacks. So many people felt seen and represented because Bungie took their values into the community, not just through content. And the results are there—some of these replies are in their top 20 highest-performing tweets of all-time.

Toasting this toaster? 14.9k likes. Their most-liked reply ever.

More and more brands are fighting the good fight

Abortion rights have been a recent issue for brands to take a stand on, but there are plenty of opportunities for companies to show what they’re made of. Xbox wasn’t having it when a follower tweeted dislike for its Pride support. Star Wars isn’t tolerating rudeness or racism in the replies

A Social Media Newsletter by Jack Appleby

I’m keeping a running thread of brands walking the walk. Feel free to reply with any other clapbacks you see in the Twittersphere.

Should your brand clap back at followers?

This’ll seem antithetical to everything you just read—but no. You probably shouldn’t clapback at followers, because 99% of the customers tweeting frustrations at you probably have legitimate company complaints.

Take this Delta tweet. A customer-service rep replied to an upset passenger with “Can you calm down and allow me some time to work please ??”

Sure, those 35,000 likes make it the most-engaged Delta tweet of all-time, and it’s never okay for customers to be disrespectful to customer service, but flyers sure seem to have a reason for complaints right now. Thousands of flights are delayed daily now across all airlines. Delta CEO Ed Bastian even publicly apologized, saying “this level of disruption and uncertanity is unacceptable.” If an entire industry’s facing unprecedented challenges in serving your paying customers, a brand loses the right to be snarky back to customers...which is weird to write, because...brands should probably...just...never be rude to their customers.

There are specific moments where it can be helpful for your community and social causes, which we’ll talk about next.

Should your brand clap back when trolls challenge your brand purpose?

I think so. If your brand is willing to take a stance on a social issue, continue that stance when you’re challenged. Don’t let bad eggs silence those values your brand and community believe in.

Brands should be willing to back their beliefs in company culture, content, and community.

Look at Bungie’s replies one more time. I guarantee you gamers in need of healthcare probably felt more comfortable participating in Bugie’s communities after those replies. No, it doesn’t solve the misogyny that happens in gaming, but Bungie’s continually showing up encourages better behavior. It’s a way to demand great behavior from inside the belly of the community, not just through content.

Should your brand get snarky in their cause-based clapbacks?

Listen, I know everyone dreams of firing off the perfect snarky clapback, but it’s not my favorite. It’s also probably not how your brand wants to represent itself. Remember, Bungie’s a video-game developer—that’s a specific type of audience. A snarky tone of any kind is wrong for 99% of brands.

Besides, there are plenty of clapback styles, from sternly standing up for a brand’s beliefs to more wholesome humor. I don’t love that brands use other people’s bad behavior as an excuse to fire back. Rise above.

A Social Media Newsletter by Jack Appleby