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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Kenyon chapter.

Spoiler alert, they’re not.

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Not too long ago, I took a trip to visit a friend of mine from my hometown who happens to go to The Ohio State University. I did what anyone who drives a car must do when running out of gasoline — I went to a gas station. Now, what I encountered on this perilous journey forty-five minutes to an hour away from Kenyon College would scar me for life — I kid, I kid. However, it did “wake me up,” so to speak, to the weirdly personal advances of corporations to seem as though they are their customers’ friends.

At the Sheetz gas station in New Albany, Ohio, I was made aware of the fact that Sheetz, a multi-million dollar corporation, now refers to its customers as “Sheetz Freakz” in an advertisement on a little screen attached to the gas pump. This might be the strangest marketing ploy I have ever heard, and this is when I consider Duolingo’s marketing strategy to be in the running for the number one strangest ploy to gain customers. There’s something so strange about calling a customer who might fill up their car with some gas or grab a sports drink from a fridge a “Freak.” Don’t get me wrong, I do love rhyming, but this left me dumbfounded as I tapped my debit card to the card reader.

I know that this is the point. The point is that Sheetz, along with many other corporations and agencies will put out some strange and off-putting marketing in order to catch the attention of their customers… and it works! It works and I am not a fan, or should I say a “Freak.”

As of April 14th, 2023, Wendy’s, the fast food chain, has the following as its Twitter bio: “We like our tweets the way we like our fries: hot, crispy, and better than anyone expects from a fast food restaurant.” I believe this is a perfect summation of what it is like to scroll through their social media and pick out various statements that not only draw your attention, but make you question the sanity behind the person that is in charge of cracking some topical-yet-bonkers jokes online.

In an attempt to grab their audience, Wendy’s sent out “Put out garlic fries and didn’t even think about how it would make the vampires feel. My bad, y’all. That one’s on me” on January 31st, 2023. As an English major and massive nerd, I think it’s important to emphasize the fact that not only is a brand trying to come across as funny and likable, but it uses “my bad” in order to create a sense of camaraderie with its consumer-base and audience, when in reality, Wendy’s is a corporation made of 14,000 employees — ranging from those that work in the storefronts to those working for its corporate office. It’s this false sense of friendship and accountability from the statements that are put out on social media that make people laugh. I can openly admit that I chuckled a bit when reading the message from January 31st, yet I have to think critically about what this means about my own susceptibility to marketing… and I am a “Level Seven Susceptible” in the words of Jim Rash’s character Dean Pelton in S6E7 of the hit show Community.

While we might take a second to chuckle or let our jaws hang to the ground when witnessing some attention-grabbing, mind-confuddling marketing ploys, it’s critical to think the following:

1) What do these corporations want our responses to be?

2) What are the meanings behind the words or images we come across?

3) How can we make sure that the decisions we make next are going to truly benefit us, rather than complying with the marketing we are subject to?

By making smart and informed decisions, we can save ourselves the hassle of feeling guilty after we purchase a certain product or spend time and money on things that we don’t need and may not even want. In a world that is consumer-based and corporation-run, it’s necessary that we are critical of our surroundings and the attempts of others to sway us in the direction they wish for us to go in.

We’re rational beings and it’s important that we treat ourselves and keep ourselves as such!

Carlin Steere is a writer and poet at Kenyon College. When she's not on campus, she can be found on the beaches of Connecticut with a notebook in hand.