There seems to be an unlikely TikTok celebrity — and it is a big bird that will threaten people if they miss their French lessons.
Duolingo, the furry icon that reminds language learners to complete their daily exercises every day, is making a big splash on TikTok by featuring a life-size Duolingo owl in humorous, tongue-in cheek — and sometimes unhinged — videos.
From twerking on a conference table , to a remix by Adele’s “Easy on Me”, or calling artist Dua Lipa mommy, the adorable and stoic green owl is fluent in a language that many brands have failed to master: social media.
Zaria, the social media manager behind TikTok, said that her team was inspired by the mascot costume when they returned to work in September.
” Our mascot is right next to our marketing team. We thought, ‘Maybe it’s something there,’ Parvez explained to NBC News. “Duo the owl meme has been known for being persistent and pushy. We wondered how we could make it more relatable for ordinary people and still make it funny. ‘”
In early 2019, Duo the owl became an internet meme in which the “evil” mascot stalked and threatened users if they did not keep using the app. Everyone sees Duo the killer so why not have Duo chase everyone? She said.
Duo chases employees to use Google Translate in one video. The background is Florence and the Machine’s song “Dog Days Are Over”, with the sound of “Squid Game” playing. This video has been viewed more than 5.5 millions times.
Another video — captioned with “when all you can say in French is ‘bonjour'” — shows a crowd of people cheering and clapping to a snippet of Rich Mullins’ “Awesome God” before the iconic green bird walks out and reveals itself to the audience. This video has been viewed more than 4.7 millions times.
The language-learning app’s success, according to Parvez, is due in large part to its commitment to “just have fun. “
” We are happy to get people to register for accounts. But that was not our goal,” Parvez said. We just wanted to be there and be with people. “
” It gave us the freedom and confidence to take risks, be bold and be relatable. This was not intentional. We need to be authentic. She said, “We need to be relatable.”
Some owl fans say that these risks paid off.
Madelyn Ross, 30, said she first came across the owl on her “For You” page and thought its content was hilarious. You see TikTok businesses trying to sell you products. But with Duo, it’s the owl doing bizarre, funny things on a profile.
At one point, Ross, a Los Angeles-based teacher, said she even Googled teaching positions at Duolingo because “it all looks like so much fun.”
Mae Karwowski, CEO of Obviously, an influencer marketing agency, said Duolingo’s TikTok account amassing more than 1 million followers within a short time span must have been “incredibly difficult. “
“It’s super irreverent. She said that TikTok users love this kind of content and it’s what they most enjoy. It’s difficult for most brands to convince the organization to do this. “
Karwowski also attributed Duolingo’s success to its ability to stay on top of trends.
” They’re dancing to Dua Lipa and singing to Adele. I think it is a very fun and well-done account. … “This brand understands it, they get it, they joke, they are creative and having fun with their teams and letting them just do it,” she stated.
Duolingo’s mascot is a cute winged animal, Karwowski said.
Because she is a Gen-Zer herself, Parvez, 23, said she felt particularly adept at navigating TikTok, engaging with the social media platform’s language and incorporating trends into its videos.
Duo the owl has to be a good sport and not get too excited.
” We don’t want to encourage hate or degrade any ethnicity or race.” she stated. “Duo isn’t actually violent so we wouldn’t show him with a knife and blood on his hands. “
Duolingo’s real-life mascot was only introduced in September. Parvez stated that it was too early to determine “growth and more quantitative figures,” but she said there has been a “increase of people hearing about us via social media.” “
On TikTok, searching #duolingo brought up more than 230 million views and #duolingobird brought up more than 5.7 million views.
Parvez stated that learning a new language should be enjoyable.
“If you want Duo to love you, you just have to do your lesson,” she said.