Companies Are Out Here Appropriating Gang Culture
By: Kayla Pasacreta
When iHop started their grand marketing plan to flip the ‘p’ to a ‘b’ to promote their new line of burgers, they started replacing b’s with everything. “Pancakes” became “bancakes”. “Promise” became “bromise”. Corniness aside, the company, whether they realized it or not, started using gang slang to appear cooler on Twitter to garner more retweets and reposts.
Gang culture has never been, and never will be, a joke. When brands attempt to turn gang lingo mainstream, not only is it a form of cultural appropriation, it can potentially put lives at risk, when unaffiliated people start switching up letters and unknowingly end up offending gang members.
Vince Staples said it perfectly:
Bloods are known for replacing letters with B’s – so why are companies now hopping on the wave? The new trend of unknowingly using gang marketing is just another example of how companies never fail to profit from black culture to appear more “down” and appeal to the masses. The irony is almost funny – the same hood culture that black people are often stereotyped for (and ahem, even jailed for) is now what white-owned companies are using to become a trending topic. The sad part? It’s working.
The food companies with the most noticeable social media presence – iHop, Wendy’s, and Ledo’s - have all mastered using black culture for a marketing scheme that makes their brand look funny, relatable, and even edgy. Take Wendy’s for example – the fast food chain company dropped a diss mixtape to their competitors titled “We Beefin?” that many Twitter users crowned as “hard”. The other ironic thing about it? Wendy’s visual branding is literally a white woman – but their social media branding is all about drawing social ques from Black Twitter.
There’s nothing wrong with paying homage to Black Twitter or black people. The problem begins when companies do this without giving credit where its due. Additionally, these companies have the power to turn words and phrases that black people get called ghetto for into funny humor that turns black culture into one gigantic laughing stock.
There’s no denying that black culture is the go-to for brands looking to monopolize their social media presence and come up with the most retweet able-tweets. In theory, companies using slang and cultural references on their social media pages doesn’t sound like a huge deal. However, this monopolization of black culture by companies has come so far that now companies are freely using gang slogans and gang culture as a fun way to get more attention. Gang culture is not a joke, and corporate America needs to do better to stray away from trying to appropriate it and downplay the very real struggles and consequences that can come with it.