In today’s saturated market, brands have to go big (or go weird) to make an impact. As well as creating an effective online presence, brands want to show personality, engage with their audiences, create conversation and ultimately increase sales. Whilst the majority of these endeavours end up reading as gimmicky, disingenuous or just plain out-of-touch, there are moments of pure genius in brands’ social media personas. Or villainy, depending on how you look at it.
Speaking of, the language-learning app Duolingo has managed to carve out an entire personality online, thanks to its part-cute, part-concerning, fully-pushy owl mascot (called Duo). What started as a way for the brand to express personality in a tangible form has developed into a fully-fledged evil.
Primarily taking to X (Twitter) and TikTok to cause mayhem, Duo developed from a digital reminder to use the app for 5 minutes everyday (and maintain your Duolingo streak), to a physical entity that attends red carpet ceremonies, kidnaps other mascots and can be mailed straight through your letterbox. Innocent enough until it informs you that it knows where you live.
Inserting itself into every major moment of pop culture is a tactic that seems to have worked for Duo – as the green owl has become one of the most recognisable brand entities on social media, famed for its quick clapbacks and dark sense of humour. Scaring is caring, after all.
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