Peak vs Dano: When a Company behaves like an Internet Troll
It might sound hard to believe, if you missed the banter, but a few days ago Peak Milk decided to troll a competing company, Arla Dano Milk. Yes, the beloved Peak Milk that gave us the inspiring and endearing “papilo” ad of the 90s, the motivational “It’s in You” campaign of the 2000s, the same company that became synonymous with the Nigerian Super Eagles and their success streak at the time which saw a surge in national pride, that same Peak that found a special place in the heart of many became one of social medias ugliest, a troll.
According to The Urban Dictionary an internet troll is someone who is “typically unleashing one or more cynical or sarcastic remarks on an innocent by-stander, because it’s the internet and, hey, you can.” Wikipedia defines it as: “someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as a forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.” If nothing else, Peak’s response to Dano’s tweets were meant to be sarcastic, but were also inflammatory, with their primary, and perhaps only, intent being to provoke. Psychologists are now studying the behaviour of trolls and their research shows how easy it is for banter to become something darker, like, say, harassment and even worse. Trolling, essentially a form of cyber-bullying, is the preserve of those with ulterior and perhaps sinister motives. One wonders what the handler of the Peak Milk Twitter account had in mind when trolling Dano.
Let’s look at what happened.
A lot comes to mind as two companies, knowingly or not, affect their social presence and their overall brand with just four tweets. Peak’s clapback was hailed by some followers as witty and funny. Peak agreed, and proudly retweeted it’s badge of honor: the take-down of Dano.
But is it truly all just fun and games? Harmless banter? Did Peak take Dano down? Or did they unwittingly undo themselves?
- A basic course in Business Communications would tell the handler of Peak’s account that one of the 7 Cs of Business Communications is “courtesy.” It pays to be courteous and respectable as that breeds trust between a company and its customers which leads to brand loyalty and much more. Peak’s tweets sends all the wrong signals of business communication and is undoubtedly not courteous.
- Successful companies employ strategy to deliver the most value to their customers. One of such business strategies is to “focus on the customer and not the competition.” For Peak to busy itself with the contents of its competitors adverts, and to express its negative opinion publicly shows that it clearly is more worried about competition than it is customer-oriented. Being that Peak has projected itself as a family brand shouldn’t their focus be on the positives and not negatives?
- Speaking of negatives, a few “careless” tweets may just have painted Peak in a negative light towards the potential customers it should have been focused on when it decided to attack Dano.
- What the social media manager for Peak seems to have succeeded in doing is making his firm appear unprofessional and generally putting the entire company and its many hardworking staff in a bad light. In different circumstances, this episode could have been picked up by the media and may have blown up in Peak’s face, costing them untold resources in an attempt to fix a social media gaffe. What’s even more defaming is the snide reference to Onitsha, arguably one of the largest commercial cities on the continent and host to hundreds of Peak Milk wholesalers and distributors, as being the only “abroad” Dano could have traveled to. Isn’t that a shot in foot, if ever there was one? Imagine the backlash and boycott that could have followed if the traders in the Main Market had taken Peak’s insult personal!
- These tweets are also inconsistent with their brand. They are in stark contrast with the creative and positive energy that has fueled Peak’s previous campaigns. Which makes one wonder, is there no oversight of the social media department at Peak? Is there no social media strategy, campaign, plan? Where Peak demonstrates a haphazard approach to brand consciousness and management, Dano maintained an image of a professional, positive brand. Peak’s response to Dano’s last tweet came within minutes, whereas Dano took a few days to craft an appropriate, nontoxic response, which alludes to an organizational structure within Dano that ensures all communication is vetted by relevant parties as being brand worthy.
- Perhaps the most ironic thing in this episode is that if the handler of Peak’s account had actually studied Dano’s ad with a positive frame of mind, the whole debacle would probably not have taken place. The attempt to discredit Dano’s ad for referring to garri as Garium Sulphate falls flat when you notice that in the picture accompanying Dano’s tweet, “garri” is written clearly! Which calls to question, again, the motive behind Peak’s response to Dano, especially where none was required nor even necessary.
It can no longer be argued that social media is a new phenomenon and thus the rules guiding conduct are not yet clear. Taking the same rules that guide communication on all other media and applying them to social would avoid such irresponsible behaviour. One can’t imagine this episode playing out on, say, TV. For a company that has spent decades operating as one of the top in its field, Peak should know and do better, it should be setting the example of proper conduct for others to follow not behaving like a schoolyard bully. What is especially worrying is that this is not an isolated incident. Other companies are using negative marketing tactics on social media, too, playing towards the darker side of the web.
If I were a fan of Manchester United, I’d most certainly not do business with PenOpNg. If I were from or do business in Onitsha I don’t think I’d be using Peak Milk anytime soon. If I were a decent person, I don’t think I’d like to be associated with either of the two brands. They would have lost me, and any others like me, as customers all for the desire to either look cool or to generate likes/retweets/views on social media at all costs that they suspended reason and acted uncivilized.