Navigating the Digital Landscape: 3 Tips To Avoid Being Cringe

Navigating the Digital Landscape: 3 Tips To Avoid Being Cringe

Ever seen this meme float around your social media feed?

Source: TheVerge

If you haven’t, no worries! Here’s a brief backstory. 

Pictured above is Steve Buscemi in the serialised comedy drama, 30 Rock. Buscemi plays Lenny Wosniak, a private detective hired as a strike buster poorly masquerading as a high school student, thanks to his grizzled appearance in contrast with his silly approximation of high school attire.

Usage of this image is now plastered around advertising or social media posts that are deemed as ‘cringe’ or ‘tryhard’ with the intended audience, where this sentiment mainly is prevalent in a younger demographic, where ‘meme culture’ is prominent. This photo is also the profile picture of r/FellowKids, a subreddit dedicated to showing advertisements and media that are intended to appeal to the youth, but end up seeming disingenuous, forced and out of touch.

However, being out of touch is not exclusive to those that try to cater to a younger generation, it also applies to advertisements that were poorly done such as AmbiPur’s poor photoshop attempts in 2015 and a slew of meaningless Chinese New Year commercials by Mercedes-Benz Malaysia back in 2017.

Source: Marketing Interactive

In this context, try imagining your experience with social media and stumbling upon advertisements that made you feel off. Have you ever watched an advertisement that makes you physically recoil? Sometimes forced to watch an unskippable YouTube Ad that makes you wince? Stumbled on content that made you retort due to how out-of-touch it might be? Now reflect these questions back to yourself, are you a perpetrator?

How do I avoid being a perpetrator of cringe?

Here are 3 tips you can consider before proceeding with that ingenious marketing campaign idea.

Source: GSC’s Facebook

Tip #1: Just be your brand’s authentic self

When trying to appeal to the masses, many end up losing their identity along the way, and when campaigns are out of touch within their core values, the audience will be the first to notice. When it comes to average consumers, particularly millennials, the truth behind a brand matters even more than ever. By lifting the veil and being authentic to your values and core beliefs, trust will naturally be built between your company and customers.

Yes, it sounds tacky and corny, but this principle is proven to be an absolute game changer for your brand if you choose to apply it. 

A home-run example of how letting it all hang can work wonders is Golden Screen Cinema’s social media persona that targeted young and middle-aged Malaysians. If you’re unfamiliar with the Malaysian giant of social media that is GSC Admin, the whole persona sarcastically appeals to Malaysian millennials because the narrator is not shy at reacting in a way that will engage and resonate most with the audience. The target market reacts well to this kind of interaction because of its relevant localisation, authenticity and appeal to local Malaysian culture.

One of their viral marketing campaigns involves capitalising on the iconic “Hello. Cannot” tagline by selling merchandise related to it. Speaking of viral internet trends…

Source: Malay Mail


Tip #2: Try and keep a close eye on trending internet culture

Not many realise how important pop culture knowledge is to being a top-rate marketer. Everything in marketing comes down to people and their behaviour ,  and nothing is more indicative of what people are actually up to and interested in than internet culture.

Successful viral marketing campaigns usually build off of current issues that are relevant with the local community, while also already having a certain level of build-up amongst various social media channels. Timeliness also matters a lot, as tapping into a topic no one’s talking about anymore can cause your brand to appear lame and removed. 

In Malaysia there are a couple examples such as the RM460 burger fiasco in 2020, and certain viral postings that built on the rise of Netflix’s viral Korean drama Squid Game in late 2021 that nailed both relevance and timeliness on the head, resulting in more engagement, visibility and brand recognition.

Taking a few minutes per day to see what’s trending on social media can do wonders in providing you ideas on ideas that resonate with the audience. Scroll through and read what the majority of users are saying about the topic to get a general idea of what the public sentiment is around it.

Source: Syed Saddiq


Tip #3: Run it through the relevant channels, multiple times

From misspelled names to phrases that double as innuendos, we’ve all seen a marketing or content writing mistake at some point in our lives. We all do it at some point, but when writing in a hurry, it’s easy to miss mistakes. Last-minute content also runs the risk of rambling. Where there is rambling, there is the potential for saying something you did not intend to say. Instead, try to give yourself at least a day to let the piece “cool off.” It’s easier to catch mistakes when you come back to a piece with fresh eyes.

At best, such mistakes are embarrassing and require a quick retraction or apology. At worst, such mistakes can cause lots of cringing, defamation to a brand, or job loss for the writer. If you’re relying upon a stereotype (i.e. Dads being generally clueless when it comes to child-rearing or the sexy video gaming woman), it is time to rethink your strategy. Such campaigns (like Watson’s disastrous Raya campaign in 2017) are not only cringe-worthy but also have the potential to destroy a career (and brand).


Closing Words

Avoiding cringe is key to properly navigate a constantly evolving digital landscape. It all boils down to how true you are to your authentic brand identity, how on point you are with trending internet culture and how meticulous the content creation process is.

The best digital agencies in Malaysia make the right moves, write the right words, create the right visuals and post at the right times, thus helping do wonders for any brand’s visibility on social media. If you need help in doing so however, you’ve come to the right spot. Just drop an email to to see if we can collaborate!