Meme Thievery Goes Corporate

The newest strategy for marketing to young people is stealing their jokes.

For a company that sells fancy skin-care products, Drunk Elephant’s Instagram account tells a lot of jokes about carbohydrates. “I miss the 90s, when bread was good for you, and no one knew what kale was,” the brand posted in August. Two weeks later, the brand exposed carb trickery: “Raisin cookies that look like chocolate chip cookies are the reason I have trust issues.” A few days ago, Drunk Elephant was thinking about the much-maligned nutritional unit once again. “You know who’s always there for you?” the post asked. Sorry for spoiling the punch line, which is “Carbs.”

The skin-care brand’s quippy, Cathy-comic-esque thoughts on eating—as well as dog ownership, procrastination, and the gym—are a fixture of its Instagram marketing. They’ve popped up on the account every couple of days for years, all rendered in a black, all-caps font against a white background with a colorful frame that mirrors Drunk Elephant’s product packaging. To people scrolling by, Drunk Elephant might look like a friendly, slightly exhausted young woman, or maybe a nascent comic, not a company selling $68 tubs of moisturizer at Sephora.

There’s a reason Drunk Elephant’s Instagrams don’t look like marketing or have anything to do with its products: Many of them were written by unsuspecting Twitter users with no affiliation with the brand. Those writers might not be alerted until a friend notices and tips them off to their zombie joke, newly appropriated by a brand recently acquired for $845 million by a beauty-industry conglomerate. The practice might be called “aggregation” or “curation,” but in the case of a company using others’ work without payment or permission, it might also be called “stealing.” (Drunk Elephant did not respond to a request for comment.)

Read more at The Atlantic

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