Brands and the Dolly Parton Challenge: the good, the bad and the seriously confused

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When a new viral meme takes off, brands are often super keen to get involved. Partly to prove they’re down with the kids, and partly because they’re excited they might finally have something else to say, other than “buy our products, please…”.

On January 21st, country music legend Dolly Parton posted a collage of her four personas – one for each of the four main social media platforms: LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Tinder.

Smartly dressed for LinkedIn, casual and fun for FaceBook, an artsy picture for Instagram, and a sexy pose for Tinder. The post itself read “Get you a woman that can do it all.”

It went viral almost instantly – as everyone from Mark Ruffalo and Janet Jackson, to Jennifer Garner, Miley Cyrus, Kerry Washington and even The Jonas Brothers did their own versions.

It soon became known as the #DollyPartonChallenge – and like moths to a flame, the world jumped on the band wagon. Celebrities, military units, community groups, dog rescue centres  – and of course, brands.

Some of these brands absolutely bossed it. Others – well, let’s just say they missed the brief.

(We get it – it’s not easy to react to a trend at lightning speed without a hive-mind of 30+ comedy writers in your back pocket. So for anyone we’ve named and shamed below who wants a helping hand – drop us a line, and we’ll work up a Dolly Parton Challenge post for you that actually entertains, and engages. And we’ll do it free of charge).

So anyway – without further ado – here they are.

Brands who took on the Dolly Parton Challenge: The Good, The Bland, and the Seriously Confused

The Good

Mars Curiosity Rover – Stripped Bare.

Great effort here by the Curiosity Rover team. Brilliant pictures which are nice to see anyway, but then they have a ‘naked’ version, class!

The Design Museum – Take a (sexy) seat!

Fantastic work by Design Museum. Brilliantly funny and weird, and it uses only chairs!

Durham Constabulary – Have you seen this man?

What can I say, except well done! This is how you turn a passing trend into workable content. Light-hearted, and still gets the message across. Fantastic!

World Book Day – Social Bookmarks!

These guys have the right idea. Simple, but effective.

Dublin Fire Brigade – getting hot in here!

Well done Dublin Fire Brigade! Making light of a stereotype has worked well here.

Monterey Bay Aquarium – the early bird gets the… worm?

I have no idea what this thing is, but I know what it looks like. Fantastic job at using something relevant to create a comedy piece. 6k likes later, and their brand visibility has rocketed.

The Tower of London – Knights of Tinder

Brilliant job by the Tower of London! Got all the boxes spot on, including the shiny macho bulge for Tinder. Love it!


The Bland

Nissan – our car’s electric

Good for you, guys. Good for you…

Parcelforce – Bored!

I’m bored, and so it seems is everyone else who scrolled by. The emptying of a sack, a parcel going into a letterbox, anything else really!

British Transport Police – Good dog!

Well done BTP. We know you’ve got dogs. Couldn’t you have put a bit more effort in?


The Seriously Confused

Better cycling alliance – Sexy Bike Stands?

Maybe it’s because I’m not a cycling enthusiast that this effort escapes me, but what?? Is it supposed to be sexy because the bike is in the slot?

Zyeta – we refuse to try, but we still want your approval

Maybe they should have stuck to the rules and people may have noticed. Just saying!

What can we all learn?

For brands, jumping on board a viral trend isn’t as simple as it first seems.

It’ll be a damn sight easier, though, with a bit of careful planning.

Start with your brand message, and find a way to make its case – in a funny way, that also obeys the unwritten “rules” of said viral trend.

Want help making your brand message funny?

Download our free E-Book “5 Foolproof Ways to Make Your Brand Funny”. You also get our free email mini-course “writing jokes that sell (in 280 characters or less)”. Two for the price of none. Bargain!

Brad Holcombe

Brad Holcombe

A brilliant father, wonderful husband, and an all-round amazing guy - Brad also writes for White Label Comedy, The Comedy Crowd, Comedywire and Write Label, and a local comedy theatre group. Credits include BBC’s Breaking the News (TV and Radio edits) – with more to follow (hopefully)

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