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#ConsumerCorner: Got Yourself a Stunt? Is the ‘Mob Wife’ aesthetic a fun viral trend or a perfect PR stunt?

Mob Wife Aesthetic
By Ciara McCrory
20 February 2024
Consumer Industries
Fashion & Retail
Consumer Campaigns & B2B

As communications specialists, we all dread the moment when a client asks if our campaign can “go viral!”. 

It’s increasingly difficult to strike a balance between creating content that people resonate with, and ideally want to share, and telling a brand story that meets those all-important KPIs. 

In what some are alleging to be the perfect publicity stunt, HBO have struck gold ahead of the 25th anniversary of The Sopranos – with the rise of the suspiciously timed, hugely viral “mob wife” aesthetic. 

TikTokers have been glorifying the patron saint of mob wives, Carmela Soprano, sharing their leopard print, French tip, faux fur and heavy eyeliner looks for the last few months, even lip-syncing her most iconic fights from the show. 

Although not confirmed, if the rumours are to be believed, the team at HBO planted the trend to drive viewers to the show. 

Going beyond TikTok, mob wife aesthetic has entered the real world. From Miley’s bouffant to Jennifer Lopez’s giant fur at this years’ Grammy Awards – it’s clear this trend is making a serious impact.  

Is the mob wife movement suspiciously timed, or a masterclass in marketing? If the latter, it’s clear that viewers will be driven to the trials and tribulations of Carmela and Tony once again and KPIs have been met. Even if not, it’s a win for HBO.

While not all campaigns are destined to be viral hits, there are a few things to bear in mind when trying to break the internet: 

  1. Meet your audience in their natural habitat 

Ultimately, you want your campaign to spark cultural conversation and organically bed itself in the environment your target audience engages in. Mob wife resonated with TikTok users used to viral trends like ‘coastal grandma’ and ‘quiet luxury’ that dominate fashion and thinking. 

  1. Target your audience 

Think about exactly who you want to target and allow the message to grow from there. The perfect home for viral trend pieces, TikTok allowed mob wife to flourish and introduced millennials and Gen Z to the 1999 show they may have otherwise missed. 

  1. Play it cool 

HBO has been very tight lipped about whether it’s behind the trend, avoiding an overly branded, inauthentic promo story. As such, media has jumped on the trend with news stories appearing in the New York Times, Vice, Harper’s Bazaar, CNN and more. 

  1. Have fun  

Remember that guerilla style digital marketing is an alternative to traditional tactics. Be creative and have some fun with the campaign. The appeal of mob wife is animal print and matching sweatsuits, a welcome reprise from “clean girl” motifs of 2023.