In Marketing, you have the 5 Ps – Product, Place, Price, Promotion and Pettiness.
Earlier this year, the fast food franchise, Wendy’s regaled us with a series of interesting tweets which I like to call “The Chronicles of Shade”. The company has taken to answering the tweets of their customers with a twist. Just in case you’ve missed it here are a few tweets from some of the more popular exchanges (Images courtesy RUNT):
And those are just four of the dozens that exist on Twitter. Needless to say, people caught on and followed them. Not sure if it translated into sales but it sure gained them a few more followers. People were lapping it up. Praises were coming in left and right and the spotlight was on Wendy’s for the month of January. It was really something to see. Wendy’s seemed to have an affinity to shooting down McDonald’s with one of their tweets stating when asked by a patron what they should get at McDonald’s “Directions to Wendy’s”.
But after Wendy’s 10 minutes of fame, other companies seemed to pick up the slack.
SouthWest Airlines after the United Airlines fiasco:
Digicel Trinidad and Tobago (find out the embarrassing details here) (Digicel and TSTT are phone carrier rivals):
And with the help of Twitter, Coca-Cola (cause let’s face it, they never actually objected) after the Pepsi ad backlash (I do accept that this may not be a good example):
The reaction to these cheap shots has brought in a lot of social media attention, which any company would be absolutely thrilled about. But this kind of experience is revolutionizing marketing in all the wrong ways.
Marketing is slowly (and extremely slowly) losing its focus. At first, it was cute and to some extent, I think that it is genius, but now, as more and more companies are joining in, I’m beginning to get worried. For me, it signifies that companies are focusing more on trends and what is popular culture than making a good product and developing it on its own strength. I get that they’re doing this so that they can attract a younger customer base. In this way, they can get them to be hooked to their brand from a really young age and get their customers to form loyalty to that brand. That means a greater lifetime value per person for the company.
But since when is this okay though? Since when is being passive aggressive a marketing strategy? How trash is your product that you have to use the top company in your niche to get business? I don’t mind friendly rivalry but the trend that is forming here is in no way friendly.
There are two things that I have a problem with. Number one, the manipulation of younger people via trends. Remember that this particular generation is heavily influenced by social media. It’s safe to say that anything that is put on there shapes them in some way. The thought of these companies seems to be “If we can get to them through what they already like and form some sort of bond with them, then they would be in a greater position to trust us and trust our product.” They buddy up to them, in other words, to get their patronage as quickly as possible without being completely aware that their small part on social media is influential as a company. There is no excuse for using customers (especially younger ones) as collateral damage. None.
Number two is the fair play part which I kind of talked about above. If your product is quality, you wouldn’t need to compare yourself to anyone else by using shade. It’s a wide enough field with many opportunities to capture clientele. That is what a brilliant marketing team does. But if your team is not witty enough to come up with something original and you have to resort to negative behavior just to get social media exposure, then you have some serious internal issues.
What companies really need to work on is either their product or price. Sometimes, your price may be too high and it’s inaccessible or it is too low and doesn’t seem appealing. Sometimes, your taste, design or services may not be as great. It could be your promotional tactics as well but there are companies who barely promote and don’t need to promote because their quality is just there. Think Apple. How often do you see an ad for an iPhone with the exception that a new one is coming out? Barely ever, right? Promotion is not the issue in most cases.
This low blow strategy of marketing is turning the art for the worse and besides that, all it gets you is extra follows and retweets. It may not translate to sales in the long run. What it does do is encourage a culture of passive aggressiveness and cowardice where it’s okay to indirectly confront issues and have this firestorm of drama. It’s just not healthy.
I have a feeling that we’ll be seeing some more of it though because social media users seem genuinely excited by it all. As long as companies get that encouragement, it will happen more and more and it will not be pretty…….but it will be fun to watch 🙂
Let me know what you think in the comments below. Should Wendy’s tone it down or is this brilliant marketing? Do you think that other companies will catch on? Do you know of any other companies that have done this? Let’s have a conversation.
Until the next article!