he Gen Z vs Millennials battle continues on TikTok with a term that encompasses all that is cringey, outdated and too try-hard. The term is “cheugy” (pronounced “Chew-Gee” with a hard G) and according to the most trustworthy dictionary, it was coined in 2013 by a Beverly Hills high-schooler who found a gap in our vocabulary to describe things that were off-trend. She posted an explainer video on TikTok back in March of 2021 and now #cheugy has been mentioned over 18 million times on TikTok alone. There’s even an entire Instagram account dedicated to defining what else is “cheugy.”
So, what is cheugy, and how can I as a marketer, not be “a cheug?”
As stated above, cheugy is anything that is off-trend. So far, TikTokers have deemed these items as definitively “cheugy”:
- suede knee high boots
- Lily Pultizer
- toe-nail art
- A-line dresses
- sun hat with cursive writing
- charm bracelets
- statement necklaces
- anything rose gold
- white nails
- around the waist flannels
- Disney adults
- patterns with mustaches, chevron, etc
- Barnes & Noble
- Maroon 5
- Panic at The Disco!
- The Lumineers
- Mumford and Sons
- bath bombs
This is just another attempt to further define what separates trendy Gen Z culture with cringe millennial culture, and not everyone is a fan.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR MARKETERS?
While this list encompasses mainly fashion trends and miscellaneous phrases, it can also apply to memes. In my professional meme opinion, here are some memes I deem as “cheugy:”
- early 2000s memes such as “One Does Not Simply” and “The Most Interesting Man In The World”
- overused templates such as Drakeposting and “I Am Once Again Asking for Your Financial Support”
- memes that include the watermark of the platform used to create the meme
- slapping Impact Font on the top and bottom of an image and calling it a meme
To avoid being a cheug, instead you should:
- (Sparingly) utilize current trending meme templates such as the Trade Offer meme. I say sparingly here because as soon as you get the creative approved by your higher-ups, the meme template may already be dead.
- Create your own branded meme inspired by a meme template. You know the distracted boyfriend meme? Why not recreate this with your consumer holding onto your old product, distracted by the shiny new product you are releasing? This same idea can be translated across various meme templates by substituting in your brand color/ logo… this will require some base knowledge of Photoshop.
- Tweet from a private burner Twitter account and screenshot on mobile to create your memes. A “burner account” is an account that you can use to post anything anonymously, but be sure to turn this on private to ensure no one gets a sneak preview of your content while it’s still in the workshopping phase.
I also suggest screenshotting your final memes on Twitter mobile and cropping out all the unnecessary meta-information such as likes, retweets, etc, as this will keep the font and sizing consistent with other viral memes you see on Instagram.
While the list of what is considered to be “cheugy” continues to evolve, you can avoid being labeled as this by keeping up with trends and following my advice above when it comes to adding memes into your content calendar. If your brand is using the same memes and strategy from when J-Lo and Ben Affleck started dating the first time, it may be time for a revamp.