As an avid follower of Buzzfeed, I've been watching as their success has attracted more and more corporate sponsorship of what is essentially recycled content.
For example, recently Virgin Mobile posted "The 14 Best Pinterest Boards For Crazy Cat Ladies" and "13 Tasty Twitpics That Prove Fall Is The Most Awesome Season" and "23 Wildly Inappropriate YOLOs"all of which follow the Buzzfeed formula of numbered lists of inane content that reference current memes.
The first time I noticed this was when Arby's started posting sandwich-related content, to promote their new Reuben. Other brands have been on there with more-or-less brand-relevant content as well. Other corporate brand Buzzfeeders include Samsung Series 9 and Starbucks Doubleshot, which like Virgin, have their sponsored posts peppered into Buzzfeed's "Just Launched" feed to pick up views and engage fans.
But something strange is going on in the Starbucks feed. While there is the occasional "double" or "coffee" post, many of them are more about the espresso brand attribute of waking you up and getting your complete attention. Which I guess is why they sponsored actress Sofia Vergara's exposed bum last night.
To be fair, it wasn't your typical paparazzi invasion of privacy. (The Colombian "Modern Family" actress shared it herself.) And Starbuck's didn't choose the post for their own feed. Instead, as part of their Buzzfeed strategy, Starbuck's also sponsored the "Bold" reaction button that appears (along with other reactions) at the bottom of each post:
By reacting to stories, Buzzfeed readers democratically attach these tags to posts and share them with their networks. So, when enough people decided that Ms. Vergara's bum was "bold," Starbuck's automatically got their logo in the header. Above a bare bum. That "looks like boobs".
This, coming from a brand that removed the breasts from their logo to go mainstream, then refused to stock Bruce Springsteen's Devils & Dust CD in 2005 because of the lyric "up the ass" in reference to negotiating sex with a prostitute. Now they're accidentally sponsoring lurid celebrity wardrobe malfunctions.
Hey, I'm all for brands loosening up and getting more personal. But I'm not sure this is the wisest direction for corporate brands to go in. They might just end up making an ass of themselves.