Why Does Duolingo Comment on Everything On TikTok?
Out of all the social media marketing trends and surprises to come out of the past two years since the start of the pandemic, perhaps the least expected out of all of them was popular language-learning app Duolingo’s meteoric rise to fame on TikTok.
So why exactly do you keep seeing that giant green owl mascot suit on your For Your Page, who exactly is “Dula Peep,” why does the Duolingo page comment on everything, and how did Duolingo as a brand pull off becoming one of Gen Z’s favorite influencers? We’ll go over everything you need to know about our chartreuse feathered friend and what your brand can take from Duolingo’s success in this blog post.
Duolingo’s memeable history
The Duolingo app and website have been teaching its users over 41 different languages since 2012, but Duolingo has been subject to the memes and jokes of the internet since only about 2017 – long before its TikTok fame today.
Duolingo first took social media by storm when people began to poke fun at the app’s daily, persistent, and almost flat-out guilt-trippy push notifications and emails delivered by Duo (yes, he has a name), the adorable, green cartoon owl who serves as the platform’s mascot.
The app takes a “gamified” approach to language learning, encouraging users to keep up their practice by implementing a “streak” feature. Due to the almost threatening nature of these app notifications juxtaposed with Duo’s cute face, phrases like “Spanish or vanish” and “French or trench” were bound to be born.
Duo the owl had been inadvertently assigned his personality thanks to the internet and those who embraced his intense love for foreign languages. Most brands would fear the wrath of the internet, using their poor, innocent mascot for meme fodder. But then, a twist – Duolingo themselves embraced what the masses had done to Duo, and then some.
Duolingo on TikTok
Like many brands, Duolingo is on TikTok. They started posting in February 2021, but the infamous large, mascot suit-ified version of Duo did not appear until a few months later in July. Their first big hit on the platform came shortly after.
With over 3 million views, the video features the Duo mascot suit and a reference to the previously established lore of Duo’s menacing nature when anybody fails to complete their language lessons. Duolingo leaned into what the internet had created for it, and users absolutely ate it up.
Brand self-awareness has long been a thing within the world of social media marketing. It’s the way of the future in terms of how you can connect with a growing audience of digital natives who can tell when brands are being tacky or “cringe”. So it’s no surprise that Zaria Parvez, the 23-year-old intern-turned-social media coordinator behind Duo’s TikTok presence (she’s also the one in the suit), has taken it to a whole new level.
Duo as a lovable character
On top of chasing down those who dare use Google Translate for their language learning needs, Duo as a character now has an entirely fleshed out personality and voice: he’s sassy, sinister, and a little bit too unhinged for his own good.
Duo frequently ignores his “legal team”, he’s inclusive, a fan of Taylor Swift, and he really, really, really loves pop singer Dua Lipa – sometimes known as Dula Peep, stemming from a clip of talk show host Wendy Williams misspeaking – due to the similarities in Duo and Dua’s names. He's also got lots of friends, most of whom are other huge brands with a notable social media presence, like Scrub Daddy and the Minions.
All this adds up to a totally new and unique way of marketing to the masses – and Duolingo’s TikTok is only one piece of the puzzle.
Duolingo’s unique approach to marketing
It’s not uncommon to see the Duolingo account (as Duo) replying to average users or other brand accounts under their own videos or even in the comments of other, completely unrelated viral trend videos on TikTok. This is one way Duolingo keeps up both engagement and brand recognition – they know repetition is key to getting their name out there.
It also catches people off guard when they see a brand genuinely invested in interacting with its audience – it signals that a brand like Duolingo is one that cares and listens to what people have to say about it. The Duolingo Instagram and Twitter host “Fanart Friday”, where fans’ own art of Duo and the rest of the app’s bright characters (yep, it’s not just Duo) can be featured.
Having a genuine love for their fans and what they bring to the proverbial Duolingo company table as well as a strong commitment to diversity, inclusion, and representation are what make Duolingo successful outside of TikTok – and where it counts, in their app and on their website both of which saw 42 million users in 2020.
What your brand can learn from Duolingo
So what can your brand take from Duolingo? How can you replicate their success, especially in social media marketing? Well, these tips may not send you soaring to new heights like Duo (we don’t think he can fly anyway) right away, but they’re absolutely essential to keep in mind when tackling your brand’s social media.
- Be genuine (or a little chaotic) – a little self-awareness goes a long way.
- Interact with your audience – it shows you care and increases your audience’s trust in your reliability as a brand.
- Embrace the memes – even if the internet comes up with something completely out of left field, it might be for the best!
- Take a risk – Duolingo certainly took a chance by letting a Gen Z intern run their social media and post “unhinged” content, and it turned out to be one of their best business decisions yet. You’ll never know where things could’ve gone unless you take that risk in the first place.
Ready to get started in transforming your brand’s social media to be just as successful as Duolingo’s? Check out Power Move Marketing and request a quote today, or learn more about our social media management or content creation services to help your brand grow.
Author: Louise Irpino