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Unhinged Marketing: What works in 2024

Gabby Connacher and Danielle Townsley

💡The ultimate goal with your social media strategy should be to make your audience feel like you get them.

Over the past few years brands that we know and love have become more edgy and even unhinged in their marketing strategies—but what is unhinged marketing? 

Unhinged marketing leans into bolder, unconventional strategies to connect with your audience. From trending memes to funny brand voices, this type of strategy goes against the grain when it comes to traditional marketing. Is unhinged marketing a sustainable strategy when it comes to growing our business? 

In this episode, we’re joined by social media managers Gabby Connacher of HoneyBook and Danielle Townsley of Planoly, where we sat down for an honest conversation about whether or not unhinged marketing is here to stay, along tips for independent business owners on how we can show up more boldly in our own marketing. 

The Independent Business podcast is powered by HoneyBook, the all-in-one clientflow management platform for independent business owners to streamline their processes and create remarkable client experiences. Book clients, manage projects, get paid faster, and have business flow your way with HoneyBook. Use the code PODCAST to get 20% off your first year as a new member.

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Is unhinged marketing on its way out?

Both Danielle and Gabby believe that unhinged marketing–the practice of doing bold and unconventional things on social media to grab attention–is on its way out. While it was fun while it lasted, as more brands jump onto the bandwagon, the less authentic it feels. 

Some brands, like originators Wendy’s and Ryanair, may continue to use unhinged marketing because it is authentic for their brands. However, it’s gotten less interesting now that everyone is doing it, and it’s not a strategy that people can continue to rely on being foolproof. 

However, audiences will always appreciate a brand that doesn’t take themselves too seriously and isn’t afraid to be witty. Even if unhinged marketing is on its way out, it’s given tons of brands permission to be more playful with their audiences, and that is hopefully a trend that won’t go away.

The origins of unhinged marketing

Unhinged marketing was spearheaded by Wendy’s, and Ryanair and Scrub Daddy quickly followed suit, which inspired more brands like Duolingo to jump on the trend. It took off because it was unexpected and something that other brands weren’t doing. It broke all the marketing rules of “sticking to your brand voice,” and audiences responded well to the realness of it.

Social media marketing strategies to implement in 2024

Regardless of the latest social media trends, everything you post should be an attempt to understand your audience. You need to figure out what they want, what their problems are, and how your brand can help them. Next, you need to know how they actually use your product and how they talk about it. 

To figure this out, you need to use your products for yourself to see it from your customer’s perspective. You should also spend time online seeing what they are saying about your product. 

The ultimate goal with your social media strategy should be to make your audience feel like you get them. The deeper you understand them, the more relatable you are to them. Part of the success of unhinged marketing was that brands developed inside jokes with their audience. You can utilize your sense of humor to connect with your followers without going fully unhinged.

Another aspect of this is paying attention to the pop culture that your audience is consuming and connecting with them over it. For example, for Valentine’s Day, Planoly recreated cheesy “be mine” cards in Comic Sans font using inside jokes from popular TikTok creators. 

How to determine which social media trends to engage with and which ones to skip

If you want to stay on top of every single social media trend, you need to consume a lot of content and see what your target audience is doing. However, some trends may not be right for your brand. Your entire social media strategy should not revolve around the trends.

Instead, when you do engage with trends, you need to find a way to put your brand’s unique spin on them. Before you engage, ask yourself if this trend actually resonates with your brand. If it doesn’t, it likely won’t resonate with your target audience.

Trends are fleeting, so your focus should be to have fun with them when they align with your brand. Audiences today are laser-focused and can see through inauthenticity, so it’s important to give them content that is authentic to your brand’s voice and what you offer.

It’s also important to remember that your engagement will speak for itself. When you jump on a trend of post content that pushes your usual boundaries, your audience will tell you whether or not they like it. You can gather that data and use it to inform your evolving strategy.

The benefit of having an experimental platform

If you want to try out new content styles that you aren’t sure will work, it’s helpful to have a social media platform that’s more experimental and doesn’t have to feel as curated as others. For example, Threads and Twitter are more conversational platforms. You can try things out on those platforms that you wouldn’t do on Instagram right away. For many brands, TikTok is more experimental while Instagram is more intentional.

Pushing boundaries on social media can look like a lot of different things depending on your brand. For some business owners, peeling back the curtain and showing the behind-the-scenes of your business and real life will feel like new waters to test out. Whatever it looks like for you, don’t be afraid to post content that doesn’t work. The important thing is to continue experimenting and adjusting based on the feedback you get from your audience.

Go where your audience is

For Honeybook, Threads has become a major part of our social media strategy. The platform is more experimental and limited (there are no analytics or ads yet), and the future of the app is uncertain. However, it’s been a great place for Honeybook to connect and build community with our members.

The social media apps that are right for your business depend on where your audience spends the most time. You don’t have to be in all places all at once if your audience is not there because your ultimate goal on social media should be to build community with your audience. Going all in with one or two social media platforms is better than spreading yourself thin across every single platform. 

Leveraging what makes you unique on social media

The best social media advice for independent business owners is to use what makes you and your business unique. As an independent, what makes you unique is you. Showing up on your stories is a great way to show off your unique personality and connect with your audience. 

Peel back the curtain and show your customers aspects of your real life and who you are. Additionally, give them a peek into your processes in your business. 

Moving forward after a social media “miss”

The longer you are on social media, the more “misses” you will have where your content does not perform as well as you expected it to. However, having “misses” means that you’re experimenting with your content, which is a good thing. You don’t want to become so stuck in your social media strategy that it becomes formulaic. It’s better to experiment and miss so that you can learn from it and move forward.

You should also go straight to your audience and ask them what they want to see from your brand. 

Don’t force content that doesn’t feel natural to you. Instead, experiment in an authentic way and gather data from your audience about what works and what doesn’t. The key is to stay true to yourself while taking risks. 

Additionally, when your content falls flat, it doesn’t mean that the content isn’t good. It may mean that the way you shared it didn’t work. Experiment with sharing your content in different ways, such as in posts, stories, static photos, videos, etc., and see how it goes over with your audience. You don’t have to abandon your message; you may need to pivot in how you communicate it instead.

This technique also utilizes repurposing content, which is an amazing time saver for independent business owners and social media managers. 

The biggest differentiator between the businesses that succeed and the ones that fail

Gabby and Danielle believe that the biggest differentiator between the businesses that succeed and the ones that fail is authenticity and adaptability. Today’s audiences have a ton of fatigue around ads, sales, and promotions. You need to find a way to connect with them that is authentic. Stay adaptable, especially on social media, instead of getting stuck in the same processes. 

Important sections of the conversation

  • [1:36] Is Unhinged marketing on its way out?
  • [6:20] The origins of unhinged marketing
  • [7:28] Social media marketing strategies to implement in 2024
  • [13:11] How to determine which social media trends to engage with and which ones to skip
  • [16:59] The benefit of having an experimental platform
  • [22:44] Go where your audience is
  • [28:09] Leveraging what makes you unique on social media
  • [33:13] Moving forward after a social media “miss”
  • [42:04] The biggest differentiator between the businesses that succeed and the ones that fail

Connect with the guests


HoneyBook’s Instagram:


Planoly’s Instagram:

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