Twitter Tiffs (TTs) are quite common as evidenced by Demi Moore vs. Perez Hilton; Viacom TV Networks vs. DirecTV; and Chris Brown vs. Any Sane Human Being. However, they are generally centered on one particular issue between parties with a clear interest in that subject. That’s why the most recent TT is so surprising and unexpected. Who would have figured that a Mexi fast-food company and an underarm deodorant brand would go at each other in a name calling TT?

Is There Really Fire in the Sauce or Old Spices in the Deodorant?

This latest TT may very well have marked the first shots of a revolution in social media. The infamous hot sauce coined “fire sauce” by Taco Bell was targeted by Old Spice, living up to its askew if not outright bizarro The Man Your Man Could Smell Like branding. The tweet that launched a thousand retweets stated: “Why is it that fire sauce isn’t made with any real fire? Seems like false advertising.” Taco Bell retorted with a cheap shot at the deodorant asking: “Is your deodorant made with really old spices?”

Social Media Branding Has Degraded to P.T. Barnum Levels

In his article on entitled How come more brands don’t act like Taco Bell and Old Spice on Twitter, Jim Dougherty analyzed this trend of brands that have ceased to even pretend to be civil and have instead stepped into a pro wrestling ring. Dougherty is critical of the ploy, stating that underneath it all this was merely a tepid innovation. The bottom line is that neither brand was set apart from competitors, but there may have been a benefit gained in that it created a conversation piece that let the public springboard into sarcastic statements concerning both brands. Yes, there was a time when a brand manager would try to collect and publicize positive feedback from its customers but it seems that all of that has now degraded to a purely P.T. Barnum-esque “I don’t care what they say about me, just make sure they spell my name right!”

Is This an Effective Use of a Social Media Presence?

Dougherty points out that the social upheaval that took place between Old Spice and Taco Bell is considerably useless in the sense of creating a brand story – as WWE standards are not appropriate for the marketing of brands. A “throw-down” is effective for pro-wrestlers only because that is the brand story. He asks if there were more chiding between specific brands on Facebook or Twitter, would this increase the possibility of you purchasing that product; and is this an effective use of space on the social front for brands to engage in?

How Many More Tacos or Antiperspirants Were Sold?

The crux of the matter is that neither one of the brands were displayed in a positive light. The brands became temporary buzz words and gained a truckload of retweets and cheap buzz but little more of specific benefit came of it. However, with the current conventional social media prerequisite that there is no such thing as bad buzz, other brands may follow suit in an attempt to create the same “cheap” effect. If the argument of social media’s return on investment being essentially undeterminable needed any more fuel added to the fire (sauce), let’s see who is going to be the first to determine how many more Doritos Locos Tacos Supreme or Old Spice Swagger Sweat Defense Antiperspirants were sold as a direct result of their TT.

Perhaps Keurig Coffee Brewers could attack Chevrolet’s Malibu Eco for wasting a hybrid mechanism to get about the same MPG as a standard powertrain; Kellogg’s could point fingers at Apple for gluing the MacBook Pro’s glass to aluminum, rendering it unrecyclable; or Home Depot could lambaste RIM for every BlackBerry in this decade. Are we seeing the dawn of a new era where every brand can pick on every other brand simply because they have a Twitter account, or is this wholly randomized, incongruous, incoherent and fairly distasteful meanness just the latest social media marketing flash in the pan that will soon overstay its dubious welcome?