Following in the footsteps of mid-’90s Baz Luhrmann, SparkNotes—y’know, the people who sell English class study aids—is trying to make classic literature “hip” and “cool.” Now that it’s 2019 and, alas, turning teens on to Shakespeare via Hollywood dreamboats emoting to Butthole Surfers songs doesn’t do the trick anymore, the company has taken another route: a social media account that posts non-stop literary memes.
Despite the strong wafts of calculated branding that stink up aspects of this marketing strategy, a lot of what SparkNotes tweets is actually, in its own very specific way, pretty funny.
Take, for example, the many, many Romeo And Juliet-focused images.
All of these are groan-worthy, but the sheer volume of them indicates a long, intense commitment to an ongoing bit that’s ultimately kind of endearing. The Hamlet memes, continuing in the same vein, insert Shakespeare references into well-known meme formats and appeals to pop culture.
There are others, of course, all of them centered on a wide array of staples from high school and undergrad required reading lists. Whether it’s The Odyssey or Pride And Prejudice, Moby-Dick or Frankenstein, the format remains the same.
If brands are going to keep adopting internet culture as a sales tactic, they could do worse than tirelessly work an angle like SparkNotes. Balancing always on the line between hopelessly corny and genuinely funny, the company has turned its Twitter into the corporate embodiment of the English teacher trying anything possible to show kids how relatable classic lit still is to their modern lives. If this tactic works, and it sparks interest, great. If it doesn’t, at least a bunch of book nerds can enjoy the fact that there’s an account out there trying desperately to make them laugh.
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