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What about us little guys, huh?

One of the surprising results of brands adopting social media as a marketing channel is the creation of an unpredictable little corner of Twitter known as ‘that weird thing that happens when brands talk to each other’.

As a child of the 80s and therefore a survivor of the Cola Wars, it feels inexplicable that two corporations would even acknowledge each other’s existence, let alone engage in friendly banter with each other in a public setting.

Bitter rivals, divided by capitalism, hurling rocks at each other from behind the safety of multi-million dollar television ad campaigns is what we’re used to. 

Not this…

What the hell is this? A next generation console manufacturer pausing briefly to congratulate its next generation console manufacturing rival? It’s disgusting and wouldn’t happen in my day.

You can almost feel the twisting of Sony's arm and grinding of teeth behind this tweet sent in reply a week later.

Microsoft won the PR war by being the 'better man' first. Especially after Sony's wilfully sarcastic jab in Microsoft's ribs from six months prior.

This brand interaction has also led to another bizarre little trend. An entire category in the recently announced Shorty Awards (as if an awards ceremony devoted to the best celebrities on social media isn’t already a tenuous enough proposition) called Best Use of Social Media by One Brand Responding to Another Brand.

There are three nominees. The above Microsoft tweet and the following...

Snack attack by Honda

Honda introduced a new minivan in 2014, the primary selling feature apparently the introduction of a built-in vacuum cleaner. 

Honda felt this would be the perfect opportunity to achieve some cheeky cross-brand marketing and tweeted the following shots across some innocent brands’ bows.

I’m not sure what LEGO did to deserve that.

The tactic was a winner though. Most brands reacted fairly swiftly with their own responses, therefore spreading the reach of the campaign exponentially. Oreo, the kings of agile social marketing, reacted with this…

Which prompted further smack-downs from Honda. 

Rival brands have so far shied away from using the fact that hundreds of thousands of Honda minivans have just been recalled due to a fire risk as artillery.

Again, I’ll repeat my very first question at the top of the article. What exactly are we as followers getting out of all this? Entertainment? Novelty value? Some sort of reflected acknowledgement of worth?

Here are some of the responses to the Honda campaign from us mere mortals.

She probably has a point there.

Perhaps I shouldn’t expect an unbiased opinion from someone called HondaProJason.

Maybe we just think that by interacting with a brand we’re going to get free stuff. Tweeting two brands doubles our chances.

Of course the above examples are merely playful. There’s nothing genuinely snidey about any of these tweets. Inter-brand tweets are more often than not an exercise in schoolboy cheekiness. Sure there’s a cynical aim in extending a brand’s reach towards an audience outside of its own demographic, but this is definitely a mutually beneficial tactic if the other brand responds.

There’s still the seamy side though. The side that indulges in news-jacking, march-stealing and glory-dampening. The side that makes a brand scream “hey no fair, that was our turn to shine!”

This is the other Shorty nominee for Best Use of Social Media by One Brand Resp… you get the idea…

The most retweeted brand tweet ever by Nokia

At the very moment that Apple announced its first ever vibrantly coloured range of iPhones, Nokia, a company that has been offering a similar range of colours for a while, tweeted this at the exact same time.

Nokia’s tweet hijacked the #Apple hashtag, stole the conversation away from the iPhone announcement and became the most retweeted brand tweet ever, doubling the previous record set by Oreo’s ‘You can still dunk in the dark’ Super Bowl tweet.

As of today, the tweet has 40,085 retweets and 11,257 favourites. That’s over 50,000 people saying a great big “up yours” to Apple. 

I can understand the logic of followers engaging with this tweet. Despite Apple’s loyal army of brand ambassadors, it can be a very divisive company. Plus we as humans can be a petty, spiteful bunch when hidden behind the relative safety of social media.

It’s comparatively tame compared to other Nokia missives. 

Now THAT would have beaten the retweet record if it hadn’t been swiftly deleted by Nokia.

The above tweet does however prove that there is indeed a human being behind a social media channel. A human being who may be having just as bad a day as you.

Something about throwing rocks in glass houses… blah blah blah

Well it would be remiss not to highlight some of our own ‘branded conversations’.

Perhaps brands just interact with other brands for the simple reason that a head of social media is in need of some company.

For more branded social media marketing fun, check out David Moth’s 16 social media fails of 2013. Some of them aren't even his own.

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 26 March, 2014 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

686 more posts from this author

Comments (2)

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Nicole Kohler

Great post! I think there are two things that users get out of it: amusement and a reminder that there is a human element to social media.

I laughed pretty hard at Oreo's response to Honda. I don't think their tweets were designed to be jabs, but the response they got from other brands was probably exactly what they wanted. Oreo's response amplified Honda's messaging/campaign even more, and perhaps brought it to a different audience.

about 2 years ago

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Gary's Carbinated Widgets

This sort of thing is so incredibly hideous. I've had to block a bunch of 'wacky' corporate accounts to stop idiots retweeting them into my feed. There's nothing more teeth-suckingly cringeworthy than a 'zany' back and forth between 'brands'.

John's Shoe Co.
We stock ten billion shoes. Bet even @xlstoragesolutions couldn't find the space for all of them!

XL Storage Solutions
.@johnsshoeco You'd be surprised. We're bigger on the inside.

John's Shoe Co.
@xlstoragesolutions So we've heard.

Barry's Waste Compactors
Hey, stop flirting, @xlstoragesolutions and @johnsshoeco!

Etc. etc. Kerazy corporate social media personalities. Kill them all with fire.

about 2 years ago

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