The purpose of advertising is to communicate with your potential or actual customers, but national brands are taking to Twitter to talk to themselves – or, as an August 30 Advertising Age report put it more grammatically, "they're also increasingly talking to each other."
Some of this tweeting is not only incestuous, but also inane, as in who cares?
- For some reason known only to themselves (maybe because colonel and navy captain are equal ranks), KFC decided to zing Cap'n Crunch by tweeting, "@clayburn The Cap'N [sic] is officially a has been [sic]. Wonder what that's like." @RealCapnCrunch replied, "@kfc_colonel@Clayburn You'll have to excuse me, I'm dealing with the @USNavy right now. No time for small potatoes. Or boneless chickens."
- Using similar marketing logic, Old Spice snarked Taco Bell by tweeting, "Why is it that 'fire sauce' isn't made with any real fire? Seems like false advertising." After Taco Bell snarked back by tweeting, "@OldSpice Is your deodorant made with really old spices?" Red Bull decided to get into the act by tweeting, "No bull: the original Energy Drink [sic] is not made of wiiings [sic]."
- Bud Light Platinum, extending its self-destructive ingredients-and-attributes 1950s strategy, self-servingly tweeted to congratulate Samsung on the looks of their Galaxy Gear smart watch: "We see you Samsung with that smooth finish..." [punctuation in the original]
- Some interbrand tweeting is neutral, as when Oreo tweeted AMC Theatres [sic] asking whether people ever brought their cookies to a movie theater, and the theater chain tweeted back, "NOT COOL, COOKIE" [original capitalization] – or when Kit Kat challenged Oreo to an online game of tic tac toe.
- Other interbrand tweeting is mutual admiration. After Honda posted a Vine video showing "a white SUV sandwiched by two black ones," with the cars vanishing one at a time, Oreo tweeted, "IF I WAS A CAR I WOULD BE A VAN." To which Honda tweeted back, "Hey @Oreo, If our cars were a cookie [sic], we know what they'd be..."
- Rice Krispies and Bounty also belong to a Twitter mutual admiration society. The cereal tweeted a picture of a toddler in a high chair with more Rice Krispies in her hair than in her bowl and messaged, "#thatmomentwhen a simple breakfast becomes a not so simple mess, but a big mess...(@Bounty, you've got this covered, right?!)" "[W]e've always got your messes covered!" Bounty tweeted right back.
- Between Procter & Gamble brand siblings, the mutual admiration tweeting is also incestuous. Linking to a story about bathrooms for dogs, Charmin tweeted, "Hey @IAMS, looks like our furry friends can enjoy the go now, too!!!"
Now, it's not just us saying that these brands are all talking to themselves rather than to consumers. Consumer measurements say so, too. With most of these Twitter exchanges, retweets and favorites are in the single, or at most double, digits. The most popular of these examples – the Oreo-AMC exchange – drew all of 1,905 retweets and 830 favorites. That's an infinitesimal proportion of people online. And retweets and favorites aren't quite the same thing as sales.
But sometimes – just sometimes – interbrand tweeting talks to consumers and actually does not only the consumers, but also both brands, some good.
After Polar Seltzer tweeted inviting vodka brands to mix with it, Smirnoff suggested trying the seltzer with their vanilla vodka. "Ur absolutely right," Polar tweeted, "and some Vanilla Polar Seltzer would go great in that Root Beer Vodka cocktail you get there!" "Sounds like we just invented a new drink!" Smirnoff replied, along with a twitpic containing a recipe for the Vanilla Chiller.
There's next to no downside to using tweets as marketing tools, since the media cost is free. But before you tweet, think about your audience and what benefit and interest your message will have to them. Otherwise, all your tweets will be worth exactly what you paid to send them.