It is? Hot girls are here? Now?
If you’re a fan of rap and pop culture, you’ll know all about #hotgirlsummer. If not, and you’re thinking, huh? Here’s a quick recap…
#Hotgirlsummer is a hashtag that came out of the 2019 song “Hot Girl Summer” by rapper Megan Thee Stallion.
It started as a song, and has now become a huge social media trend to take selfies and talk about body positivity and female empowerment.
You may have seen this tag floating around for the last couple of years—and it’s back again this season. Whether you rolled your eyes at it or posted a #hotgirlsummerselfie yourself, there’s no denying people are paying attention.
In fact, it’s become so ubiquitous, it’s moved beyond your average Instagram user and caught the attention of big brands eager to capitalize on the popularity. It even made an appearance in Congress in July on behalf of a climate agency called FERC.
Wendy’s picked it up early on to market products like lemonade, and other big brands have followed suit.
But what does #hotgirlsummer really mean?
At its basic definition, the phrase “A Hot Girl Summer” conjures up images of beautiful, carefree young women living large, probably with a pool and White Claw or Truly somewhere in the selfie. When it’s used in a song, like the one from Megan Thee Stallion, “Hot Girl Summer” presents a more complex message….And if you do a deep dive on Google, you’ll be met with even more variations and meanings.
Rapper and #hotgirlsummer creator Megan Thee Stallion says the phrase is intended “to be you, just having fun. Turning up, driving the boat and not giving a damn about what nobody’s saying.” From there it’s turned into an anthem for women everywhere. Suddenly HGS is a lifestyle choice of being authentic, of body positivity, and affirmation.
Which is, well, nice. But as a company trying to benefit from its popularity, the message gets muddled. Should only hot girls drink lemonade from Wendy’s this summer? What if you’re a mediocre-looking dude or someone who doesn’t identify with gender-norms? Are we all allowed to go back to drinking lemonade in the fall?
And it’s not the first time a company has made a head-scratching marketing move.
A few years ago, Starbucks launched a similarly #hotgirlsummer type campaign for their new blonde espresso. It was released with this cryptic blurb:
And in their store windows, banners proclaimed “Blonde breaks Rules.”
Was this meant to be a riff on “blondes have more fun”? Blonde = better? Brunettes = too intense?
Millions of rule-abiding intense brunettes worldwide were suddenly alienated with one fell stroke of the keyboard. Gosh, Starbucks, this got personal very quickly. (*Sorry you woke up and smelled the coffee after 43 years and deemed it extra–but, um, that’s your midlife crisis. Good luck?)
Anyways. The Marketing Moral of the Story is thus: what is your message really saying?
At Blue Flamingo Marketing, we relate everything back to a clear core message.
Make yourself memorable. But make sure it’s for the right reasons! Your branding is going to feel confusing, unauthentic, and possibly offensive if you’re just doing it because it’s popular or trendy. Customers will resonate with a message YOU believe in.
When Starbucks tried to be catchy and witty, it backfired and ended up alienating and confusing customers. If they’d gone in a different direction and given an honest shout-out to their client base craving a lighter espresso, it could have felt more caring and less impersonal.
And as for Wendy’s, the same holds true. By borrowing a popular slogan/meme of #hotgirlsummer, they limited their lemonade marketing to attractive girls and offended people in the process. Did they do it just to get views? Maybe. But whatever the reason, it isn’t in line with their usual company marketing message (which is, ironically: “You know when it’s real”) .
Luckily, you can learn from #HotGirlSummer and #BlondeBreaksRules. When crafting your latest marketing campaign, ask yourself:
Is this in line with our company’s core message?
And if the answer is no, take a step back to identify an authentic one for you and your potential clients.
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