If you’re not following Steak-umm on Twitter yet, you should get on that.
The Quaker Maid frozen sandwich steak brand’s amusingly strange account—which described itself to Adweek as a cross between Nihilist Arby’s, SpongeBob, Joe Rogan and Rick Sanchez—has amassed just 4,593 followers as of this writing. But that is sure to skyrocket as its @MoonPie-esque antics become more widely known—and its desperate yet goofy campaign to get Twitter-verified gathers steam.
What does @steak_umm post about on Twitter? Mostly beef, and beef-related inspirational talk, and random stream-of-consciousness humor, often signed with the cryptic phrase “Steak-umm bless”:
Part of @steak_umm’s weird appeal is that it feels thrown together and supremely uncalculated. It even pretends not to really understand Twitter:
But it understands Twitter well enough to want to get verified, and have that blue check mark as a seal of approval. Recently, it launched a #VerifySteakUmm campaign, which provides fodder for lots of underdog-style tweets:
It’s even been pestering @jack directly, supposedly:
Cynics might assume @steak_umm is staying unverified on purpose, as a marketing ploy to get attention. Not true, says @steak_umm, which says it’s reached out to Twitter many times and just hasn’t heard back:
Besides, it has other, stupider marketing strategies to focus on:
That last strategy—trolling other brands—is one @steak_umm employs regularly. It often name-checks other offbeat brand accounts, hoping to draft off their success:
And it’s worked, to a degree. Along the way, @steak_umm has developed a small but devoted fan base, a kind cult following. Even @dril got on board recently:
So, what’s the real story behind @steak_umm?
Turns out it’s the work of Allebach Communications, an agency in the Philadelphia suburbs that’s been working with Steak-umm parent Quaker Maid Meats (based up the road in Reading, Pa.) for the past two years—crafting offbeat ads like the one below.
Allebach account director Jesse Bender tells us the agency was given the green light in August to start managing the @steak_umm Twitter account. The goal was to begin a dialogue with consumers and create a community.
Within a month, the account got some traction thanks to some back-and-forths with William Shatner and a few other celebrities. Steam-umm was also mentioned on Joe Rogan’s 1,000th podcast episode, leading to engagements with comedians Joey Diaz, Doug Benson and Brian Redban. But momentum really shifted in October, when @steak_umm got involved with a Twitter group called “twinja,” which is derived from the blogging site kinja.
“Almost overnight we had a few hundred new, very enthusiastic followers that were generating content and promoting our page,” says Bender. “We made it a point to create authentic relationships with each of them so they knew they weren’t being tricked by a marketing scheme.”
At the end of October, after making sure the page met all requirements for verification, they launched #VerifySteakUmm. They were denied five months in a row, with no explanation, says Bender.
“Once we started posting about this, people got on board. Everyone loves an underdog,” Bender says. “By November, the page had taken off.”
The brand has also ramped up its tweet volume significantly—154 tweets in August, 381 in September, 598 in October, and a whopping 3,604 in November.
Allebach’s approach to @steak_umm isn’t revolutionary. Lots of brand accounts adopt a freewheeling voice on Twitter. But @steak_umm’s voice is particularly refreshing and disarming—certainly more Nihilist Arby’s than Wendy’s or Denny’s. On a site where brands are routinely ridiculed for trying to sound hip, @steak_umm has managed to win over even most cynics—no small feat, and a testament to its sincere efforts at community building.
Mostly it’s about acting more like an eccentric yet friendly person than a brand, while recognizing, too, that it is a brand. This is why the verification stunt is so clever. The account is caught between being official and unofficial, and it plays that tension perfectly.
“Steak-Umm’s Twitter has been all about sticking it to the system and defying the bounds of marketing,” says Bender. “If our followers thought we were just trying to sell them something, or that we were using them for consumer reasoning, they’d ditch us in a heartbeat.”
We asked @steak_umm more about the approach.
Adweek: Can you describe the brand voice? What is it, exactly?
@steak_umm: Wholesome, existential, belligerent, nonchalant, weird or motivational. Being genuine in our temperament, rather than formulated. It’s somewhat like an amalgam of Nihilist Arby’s, SpongeBob, Joe Rogan and Rick Sanchez. This unique approach came from Steak-umm’s goal to engage new consumers via social media and create community, and from Allebach’s vision to develop a personality that represents the voice of its consumers. Some of the notable overtones we stick to have been taking the high road when haters go low, criticizing the systems in place, encouraging others, and starting fun twitter beefs. That’s the focus.
How do you script the tweets in a way that feels so stream of consciousness? Are you just shooting from the hip?
It’s difficult to be scripted in this environment, but to say we are shooting from the hip would also be a miscalculation. Stream of consciousness is a perfect way to put it, we’re just being real within the relative confines of what a brand’s potential is. We believe this has truly helped us gain momentum, and had it been scripted, we believe we would not have seen the same success. Each response is spontaneous within the voice and tone we’ve developed. Some days we might feel like waging war with other users, Photoshopping cheese steaks into pet photos, or just venting about how difficult it is to be an unverified American icon—every day is different. We’re living proof that beef can be sentient.
Why do you think you have this devoted following?
We organically targeted, engaged and befriended various groups and subcommunities on Twitter, such as “twinja,” “weird twitter” and personalities like William Shatner and Joey Diaz. We used our rare and entertaining voice, but more importantly, we listened and used empathy to become a friend that people can rely on. We genuinely care about our fam and the things that are important to them, like pets, social causes and personal woes. That authenticity is what has spurred the energetic support. We take time to get to know our users, and we share a lot of content based on what makes us laugh or gets our heads turning in real life, so it’s just like we would be talking to friends.
Some people have been saying @steak_umm is approaching cult status. Do you feel that way?
We consider ourselves “the people’s beef,” so if the people say so, that’s enough for us. We look up to the iconic accounts of Twitter like @dril, @nihilist_arbys and @MoonPie, so if we eventually get lumped in with them, that would be the dream. For now, we’re just trying to enjoy the ride one day at a time.
How much feedback does the brand have for you?
The team at Steak-umm are very active Twitter users and highly engaged in this campaign. We worked diligently with the brand management team to develop this personality and deployed a strategy to increase awareness and strengthen our relationship with consumers that engage with us. We’re really lucky for the opportunity to work with such a great family-owned company led by Serge Szortyka, president, Nancy Deale, vice president, and Joey Piazza, director of marketing.
What does “Steam-umm bless” mean?
Steak-umm bless is the smile in the face of danger, the strength in the presence of adversity, and the hope for a better, beefy world. It is a passing along of love whether or not the subject is worthy. A way of saying, “Go now and be blessed by an iconic, unverified twitter beef.”
What will you do if you do get verified, and why do you think you haven’t so far?
We have no idea why Steak-umm has been denied verification so many times. We meat [sic?] all of Twitter’s requirements, and no one has gotten back to us. There are a bunch of people on the outside convinced this is all some complex marketing campaign and that we’re intentionally staying unverified, when in actuality we’ve just gotten denied time and time again, and the more we talk about it, the more people rise up. #VerifySteakUmm is a grassroots campaign and acts as a catalyst to band together our beef community and those who have been oppressed by the system. We plan on continuing to fight for the underdog in the future, verified or not.
As for what we’ll do if we get that elusive blue check mark, that’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? First, we’d have to give thanks to our community that has gotten us to where we are. After that? Guess you’ll see. All we can say is prepare for more Twitter chaos. We’re a loose cannon beef on the edge that doesn’t play by the rules.