It’s very easy to forget to live life offline. When you have everything you need at the touch of a screen, it becomes harder to unplug and take in the world around you. Food and drink brands seem to have forgotten about offline life as well, trying to appeal more to influencer culture and TikTok, and doing way too much to try to keep up with Twitter trends. But two humble fast food locations in Missouri remind us that sometimes the best way to get noticed is with a good old fashioned funny sign.
McDonald’s vs. Dairy Queen
Things kicked off in Marshfield, Missouri, when a McDonald’s across the street from a Dairy Queen posted on its marquee “Hey DQ! Do you wanna have a sign war?” TODAY reports. Then, things really got rolling with some solid back-and-forth signage:
DQ: We would but we’re 2 busy making ice cream
McDonald’s: That’s cute our ice cream makes itself
DQ: You mean it actually works shocker
McDonald’s: Wow, salty, like our world famous fries
DQ: Why dine w a clown when u can dine w a queen
Some other local businesses even got in on the battle, as documented on the Marshfield Chamber of Commerce Facebook page. A local bank’s digital sign soon read: “Ice cream machine broken? We have a loan for that.” (You have to love any time McDonald’s gets roasted for its infamous ice cream machine debacle.) The fast food restaurants managed to start a movement that really brought the whole town together, something that wouldn’t happen if the tussle took place online.
The benefit of IRL brand jokes
In the digital age, brands try so hard to sound human that it ultimately backfires. When cringe posts are being sent out via Instagram in an attempt to connect with followers, it somehow feels even more like a bot is just firing off random combinations of words collected from the algorithm. When a physical sign changes, you can’t help but consider the human component: the person who works directly at that location came up with some witty repartee and climbed up a ladder with a stack of letters to put the humor in place for all to see.
Physical signage also stands out more than a single silly tweet in an endless sea of meme-able content. There’s something delightfully charming about doing a double take as you’re driving past a McDonald’s, or joyfully stopping to take a photo while walking past your neighborhood DQ.
And in this day and age, nothing exists solely in person—as evidenced by this Missouri sign war, a physical display that went viral in its own right. Austin-based restaurant El Arroyo has basically built its entire brand around creating these funny signs and posting photos of them online; they come across as much more genuine and, quite frankly, human than anything else that gets circulated on the internet.
So to anyone who works at a chain restaurant, keep up the funny signs! They bring us joy! And to chain restaurant owners and marketing managers, throw some bonuses to those who do come up with these clever IRL moments—they may be doing more to endear customers to your brand than you think.