By Matt Pigott - April 14th, 2015
Last week, we looked at the ways brands are partnering together to pull off big stunts that build traction on social.
Last week, we looked at the ways brands are partnering together to pull off big stunts that build traction on social. For brands without multi-million dollar endorsement deals on the table, getting a bit rock ‘n’ roll and throwing a few rotten eggs at the competition still works as a strategy, albeit a risky one.
Still, that hasn’t prevented numerous companies from ignoring the unwritten rules of marketing chivalry and taunting other brands.
Often, it’s playground stuff: such as when, on Twitter, Old Spice suggested that Taco Bell was guilty of false advertising for not having ‘real fire’ in its famous fire sauce. Taco Bell retorted with: ‘is your deodorant made with really old spices?’ (For more insight into building and maintaining your brand on social, check out the upcoming Incite Summit: West, May 18th and 19th in downtown San Francisco.) And sometimes it’s a consumer that gets the sparks flying.
In one amusing incident, a woman confessed she might be hooked on chocolate because she was following both KitKat and Oreo on Twitter. Nestle was listening, and KitKat was first on the draw—literally. They challenged Oreo to a game of online tic-tac-toe, posting up a sketch of the game with two KitKat fingers forming an X in the center square.
Rather than engage directly, Oreo did something quirky and unexpected: instead of placing a round biscuit in a different square, it ‘ate’ three quarters of the KitKat fingers, tweeting back: ‘couldn’t resist’. Genius! This sort of lively, timely engagement—while not driving sales on its own—is one easy way of encouraging the retweets and shares that help build brand equity.
But what about when things get nasty? When Taco Bell (yes, again) turned on McDonald’s in true David and Goliath style, the ensuing battle became known as the BREAKFAST WARS.
It all started with a series of Taco Bell television ads in which men of all ages–all sharing the same name Ronald McDonald–extol the delights of Taco Bell’s various breakfasts. It ended when McDonald’s posted a cunning riposte on Facebook in which the real Ronald McDonald pats a Chihuahua–Taco Bell’s then mascot–next to the tagline: ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.’
Taco Bell’s TV ads got millions of hits on YouTube while McDonald’s more low key response got thousands of likes and shares. But was Taco Bell’s campaign a success? In terms of visibility and exposure for its brand, yes. But, it also boosted McDonald’s exposure. The latter didn’t have to pay a cent, and a year later Taco Bell still has a beef with fast food’s big cheese.
Taco Bell’s s latest campaign is a long-form advertisement depicting a totalitarian “burger state” in which two inmates (a brooding young man and willowy young woman) escape together to Taco utopia. “Same breakfast, same routine…” drones a brainwashing female voiceover as hundreds of prisoners, under the watchful eye of evil-looking clowns, shuffle down the line to get their ‘same-same’ burger-breakfast.
“Circle is good, hexagon is bad,” says the voice, “Routine is delicious. Eat only our breakfast, because happiness is eating the same breakfast...’ It’s Taco Bell’s way of differentiating itself through attack and trying to get a bigger piece of the market pie. But is the Mexican fast food chain both punching above its weight and below the belt?
However you choose to slice it, since appearing on YouTube in the last week of March 2015, this mini-film has already attracted half-a-million views. But the big question that hangs in the air when the three-minute ad finishes is: “Do I feel like eating a Taco or a burger?” If you’re in Drew Nessier’s camp, it’s the latter. The CEO of social agency Renegade said in an interview:
“I found the Taco Bell ‘my name is Ronald McDonald’ ad amusing, but a day later I just remembered McDonald’s and not Taco Bell.” Which is what makes attack ads so dangerous–it’s almost impossible to measure how much of your budget you’ve actually spent boosting your rival’s credibility, instead of your own.
Is it worth starting public spats or engaging in battle? It depends on two things: how deep your pockets are, and how strong your nerve is. Still, it’s probably best–and safest–to keep your nose clean and stick to engaging in some light-hearted banter with non-competing companies online to boost brand equity.
Big battles are the preserve of the giants, but giants beware, for as the saying goes: the bigger they are, the harder they fall. For more insight into building and maintaining your brand on social, check out the upcoming Incite Summit: West, May 18th and 19th in downtown San Francisco.
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