Say It Like You Meme It: What Pizza Rolls Can Teach Us About Marketing to Millennials


by Madison Butler

The millennial generation gets a bad rap for a number of things: for being entitled, overly invested in technology, for being lazy and jobless. But as a generation with rapidly growing purchasing power, it’s important that companies and the professional writers creating copy, blogs, and advertising for these companies understand this expanding market.

Despite spending around $600 million a year, Millennials are a difficult sell. Two of the biggest challenges companies face when marketing their products are overcoming a lack of disposable income and creating an authentic campaign that will make Millennials want to spend. Bloomberg says that the success of a campaign is determined by its authenticity.

Merely adopting the language and blogging habits of young people won’t make a product “#relatable.” To win over Millennials, professional writers must strike the balance between age-appropriate and genuine marketing.

What makes or breaks a campaign?

One example of an upizzamemensuccessful campaign is the blog run for Totino’s Pizza Rolls. The company is trying too hard to connect with a younger generation by using slang and memes that fall flat. This image was originally posted on Tumblr, where a successful post can have hundreds of thousands of likes and shares. This post has 72.

The main issue with this blog’s postings is that they’re trying to capture a Millennial attitude without creating a branded message. The caption “#TBT to my fave summer camp memory, canoeing on Lakey McLakeFace (yes, pizza rolls need sunblock.)” is bogged down by slang and nonsensical references. (See Boaty McBoatface.)

Advertising and…memes?

Totino’s Pete Zaroll pizza roll character is meant to be relatable, but seems disingenuous. Internet success is fickle, but one way to tank potential is to bombard the audience with ad after ad featuring a character trying to emulate millennial behavior. The idea of using memes to advertise isn’t a new one, but what most companies miss is that memes cannot be forced. Trying to intentionally create a meme will surely end with Millennials mocking your company on Twitter.

dennysOne company that has successfully marketed itself to Millennials is Denny’s. While blogs can be a great resource for companies to go in depth on their products or share news about upcoming releases and events, Denny’s has used its blog to connect to a younger audience. The Denny’s blog is also hosted on Tumblr, but their posts have a much wider reach, with at least a few hundred likes/shares per post and at most, thousands.

Where Totino’s posts are contrived-weird, Denny’s posts are truly bizarre. The most successful of their posts embrace the strange, surrealist humor prevalent among Tumblr’s users. This post from the Denny’s blog has over 12,000 likes and shares and shows a clear understanding of the audience.

Denny’s also shows an understanding of the importance of interacting with users and the types of interactions users expect. The posts with the most likes and shares on the blog are the ones where they have responded—not with information about their restaurant, but with comments that are similar in style to other comments. The brand is cohesive throughout each post.

While not every blog is going to be as strange as Denny’s, advertisers should take away that marketing to a millennial audience should be treated with consideration. The success of the Denny’s blog is twofold: understanding the audience and using professional writing skills to match that audience while delivering a message.

In advertising, genuinely weird is better than pandering. Otherwise, your audience will mock the campaign as something they could do, but can’t get hired for.

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