The other day an absolutely riveting little contretemps erupted on Twitter between Will King, King of Shaves supremo and a member of staff from Porter Novelli, a company that represents arch-rival Gillette. A wonderful Twitter bitchfest (who says men aren’t catty?) it was an example of macho posturing and feather fluffing at its absolute best and an example of how febrile the current ‘Blade Wars’ have become of late.
Will King, I suspect, rather fancies himself as leader of The Rebel Alliance squaring up to Gillette’s evil Empire (his Azor razor being a X-Wing fighter pitted against Gillette’s mighty Tie Fighter Fusion). And in typical insurgent fashion, the King of Shaves founder isn’t one to miss an opportunity to take a pop at his opponent. This particular digital duel (how terribly modern?) ensued after the Thierry Henry handball debacle, with King tweeting:
@kingofshaves Gillette stick with Henry. Many others not sticking with Gillette, but going to King of Shaves, Azor. Good!
Provoked by such shocking schadenfreude the person from Porter Novelli (who I suspect innocently thought he was sticking up for one of his clients) chipped in with …
@charliedm Well done for turning the misfortune and misery of as entire nation into a publicity drive. That’s not at all cheap”.
Now, I must say, I’m on the side of the Empire here. As someone who’s on Twitter myself and who follows Will’s tweets religiously I have to admit he is rather provocative. In fact, he’s like the Simon Cowell of Social Media – annoying beyond belief but utterly compulsive at the same time. Not even Katie Price can top him when it comes to blatant opportunism and self-promotion. But then, I don’t suppose you get where he has by hiding your light under a bushel (or your blade under a shaving brush) and as I said, it’s so shameless you can’t help but love it. In fact, of all the people I follow he’s one of my favourites. But I digress… back on the frontline, the war of words was escalating ….
@kingofshaves “Don’t Porter Novelli look after Gillette’s PR…?”
@charliedm “It’s great for the kind of razor you might get in a Christmas cracker…
Sorry, but I did laugh at this. It must have stung Will, too, because….
@kingofshaves “Um, you would say that given you handle Gillette’s PR. The King of Shaves Azor is a GREAT razor
All credit to Will here – to bitch and product place at the same time is no mean feat.
@kingofshaves “Surprised that as chief strategist you make such a negative, public comment. wait until you see our october sales – bit worried?
Now, with all due respect this is a wee bit naughty of Will given that he could probably teach The Republican Party a thing or two about negative campaigning (and even they’d be coy about some of his tactics). Anyway, clearly offended, The Empire struck back with this….
@charliedm “Does a lion find a dormouse worrying? Anyway, this isn’t work – this is jousting”
Good jibe but I know Will and there’s nothing he likes more than the David and Goliath/Tortoise and Hare/Jordan and Jodie Marsh comparison so this was a red rag to a bull. In fact, at this point things had got so silly I was seriously expecting “Well, your mum stinks!” to be used as a line of attack. But no, a business history lesson was lobbed in to the battlefield and a gauntlet thrown down…
@kingofshaves “BA used to think that way. And learned the hard way. Joust away, my friend”.
@charliedm “Interesting. That’s just the kind of thing XL Airways used to say…”
As always happens in public brawls, it was now time for some annoying busy body to chip in with their two penneth worth …
@shedmenshealth Playground bitching on twitter? :o/ Charlie,consumers can read! You should know better in PR. Will, stay strong fella!
Then it was time for the obligatory voyeur…
@peterdean1 “*enjoying* @kingofshaves tweet jousting with Gillette PR’s > @charliedm.
Sensing that they were now being watched by a baying crowd (or perhaps just realising that they had work to do) both parties withdrew from the fight, with the poor fella from Porter Novelli probably wishing he’d have Tweeted about I’m a Celebrity instead, attemped to diffuse the situation by saying he thought they were all just having a bit of fun (which is a bit like Darth Vader saying he only thought The Death Star would cause minor damage). But that’s just as well really because who knows what might have been said in the heat of the moment?
So what happened next? Well, later on the MD of Porter Novelli, issued an apology to King (which was duly Tweeted of course) stating that criticising the competitor’s products was in violation of their company’s Social Media policies and was the agency’s – not the client’s – responsibility. In other words it was an apology to Gillette as much as it was to King of Shaves.
You may see this as a victory for King. Personally I do not. At least Porter Novelli explicitly oppose rival-knocking. The whole King of Shaves Azor campaign, on the other hand, has been based upon it. I’m not judging the merits of negative campaigning (it’s a staple technique in politics after all and is a strategy that has so far worked in increasing the Azor’s market share) nor am I going to come out and say who was right and who was wrong in the row over razors.
What I will do though, is draw everyone’s attention to the obvious dangers of such public spats (seemingly the whole incident will be immortalized as part of Porter Novelli Social Media training now). It’s all too easy to get carried away when you’re tweeting and to forget that rowing with someone on Twitter is the equivalent of having a slanging match in the street. That’s all very well if you’re Gail and Eileen from Corrie but just isn’t dignified if you’re professional, responsible grown-up men. Frankly, nobody comes out a winner. So come on guys – from now on play nice, okay? If you don’t I’m gonna send my friend Boba Fett round to kick your butts.