The first shots of a social media revolution happened on Twitter this week. Old Spice said something about Taco Bell’s hot sauce, THEN Taco Bell fired back about Old Spice deodorant and people loved it. Stuff White People Like-style loved it: ”All brands should use social media like this,” “keeping it real on Twitter,” “greatness.” Brands everywhere are ceasing with the civility and morphing into professional wrestlers.
The truth of the matter is that the Taco Bell and Old Spice Twitter spat was a tepid, milktoast novelty. It didn’t differentiate either brand from their competition, it opened up a conversation that allowed people to make snarky remarks about the brands, and it didn’t put either brand in the best light. They generated a little bit of cheap buzz and that’s all. The consequences of this may be that more brands will use this tact to generate their own cheap buzz (as a few users suggested), and most likely someone will get Rebecca Black- type ridicule for it.
I saw a commercial for Progressive insurance the other day with their iconic “Flo,” and they (being Arnold Worldwide) have done a fantastic job of framing Progressive’s services through that character. I couldn’t tell you what was on a Taco Bell menu, and I’m only familiar the scent “Swagger” from Old Spice because that’s the sample that came free with my shampoo, but I do know that Progressive does business insurance because I saw Flo working alongside a bunch of people in a commercial. And I’ve only seen that commercial one time. The Flo campaign has been around since 2008 and substantiates the value of a consistent brand identity versus cheap buzz. Progressive won’t be calling out Pier 1 Imports on Twitter anytime soon, because they don’t have to.
Point being, all press may be good press, but resources are finite. My argument against the Taco Bell / Old Spice social throw-down is that it’s fairly worthless in how it perpetuates the brand story. The reason that a throw-down works so effectively in pro wrestling is that IT IS the brand story, so even by pro wrestling standards this is bad brand marketing. For those people who feel differently about this that me I propose two questions: #1 – If more brands chided each other on Twitter, would their tweets cause you to consider using their product more? #2 – Is this the most effective thing in the social space that you can imagine brands engaging in?
If you answered “Yes” to either or both of those, then we’ll have to agree to disagree. Brands in the social space have an unprecedented opportunity to touch consumers in a meaningful way. There has to be a better way to go about it than beating up on a deodorant (especially one that gives me such “Swagger”). And there are much funnier things to read on Twitter than Taco Bell’s tweets (see below).
Brands (and people) shouldn’t act like this:
@OldSpice Is your deodorant made with really old spices?
— TACO BELL (@TacoBell) July 9, 2012
Unless you’re in the business of being really funny. Like this:
Get off the toilet and go back to your families. Twitter doesn’t love you back.
— Jenny Johnson (@JennyJohnsonHi5) July 3, 2012
Had a nice long talk with the Taco Bell cashier last night. I think he was scared to ask me to leave because I was crying so hard
— Mary Charlene (@IamEnidColeslaw) July 12, 2012