When Life Gives You Lemon Ice Sandals…

June 24, 2024
By Olivia DuCharme

It’s a tale as old as time. I was scrolling on TikTok when I saw an influencer ad. But not just any ad (famous last words, right?). It was a familiar format, as far as fashion and lifestyle content goes. A woman stands on a New York sidewalk, shoulders hunched over her phone, hands flailing with excitement, “I wanna show you guys my outfit today!” The outfit in question is a bright, fluffy yellow sweater paired with statement gold accessories and dark wash denim shorts. The woman, Brigette Pheloung (also known as @acquiredstyle), bends down to slide off her yellow sandal, which matches her sweater perfectly, of course. Now, I see her vision: a sweater matched to a sandal, and a sandal matched to a cone of sorbet.

@acquiredstyle Still not over the new ice cream colored Miller sandals from @TORY BURCH ! #toryburchpartner ♬ original sound – ACQUIRED STYLE

Here’s where the TikTok starts to get different, though. Pheloung continues talking in her influencer accent, a staccato of over-enunciation and uptalk: “I matched my new Tory Burch Miller sandals to my ice cream co—.” A passerby bumps Pheloung from behind, sending her cone to the ground with a splat — just as we’re being convinced that we need these $200 sandals.

A look of shock. A stare into the camera. A crouch to the ground.

“Oh my God! Thank God my cone is okay!” she exclaims, emerging in a scalloped pink dress, strawberry and vanilla cone in one hand, Neapolitan-inspired sandal in the other. “Anyways, as I was saying, the new Tory Burch Miller sandals are inspired by ice cream flavors. Look how cute this one is! Obsessed.”

I was impressed. The transition was smooth. The acting was plausible enough (it fooled me on the first watch, at least). I wondered whether the video was part of the Miller sandal campaign, so I did some digging on Tory Burch’s TikTok page. Several videos featured creators matching their clothing to their sandals — and their sandals to their cones. Others were very aesthetic, including one of a metal ice cream scooper dipping into a sandal’s insole like it was a carton of ice cream. I didn’t see a TikTok quite like Pheloung’s, though. It seems that her video was of her own design.

@toryburch Replying to @fatii 🐾 meet the Neapolitan Miller from our new ice cream inspired collection 🤎🍦🍓 #ToryBurchSandals #desserttiktok ♬ original sound – TORY BURCH

Pheloung’s ad feels like a breath of fresh air because it’s human. It’s creative, well-executed, and realistic — what creator content should be. Although that sidewalk collision was clearly orchestrated (this is social media, after all), its premise is relatable. We’ve all been bumped out in public. We’ve all dropped something — yes, even dessert. “Oops” storylines like this one draw audiences in more than brand-scripted influencer ads — and even more than hyper-curated, highly produced content — because they’re relatable. And relatability is hard to come by these days.

Now, more than ever, when our feeds are filled with filtered faces, deepfakes, and yes, AI-generated content, people want to engage with something authentically human, perhaps a little flawed, but nonetheless sincere. Pursuing this kind of storytelling doesn’t mean contriving elaborate ways to destroy things (cough, Apple) or go viral (like ruining your sister’s $10,000 prom dress to gain a TikTok following). But when we’re making content, we should think about the real ways people might interact with our products and services, not just ideal scenarios brainstormed in boardrooms. Maybe, just maybe, to connect with our audiences, we need to make a tiny pivot from the aspirational (I wish that was me) to the actual (That’s so me).

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