Can a Twitter War Help Build a Brand? Lessons From Piers Morgan and Charlie Daniels

Last week, amid the controversy caused by Phil Robertson’s comments during a GQ interview, Piers Morgan took to Twitter to condemn the Duck Dynasty patriarch. Morgan, a known advocate for gay rights, called Phil a racist homophobe, and then reveled in the backlash his views caused. Some praised him, some insulted him, but he garnered attention either way.

Then Charlie Daniels spoke out directly against Piers Morgan in a number of tweets.

Charlie Daniels' Tweets

Morgan countered, replying in kind.

Piers Morgan's reply

This brief Twitter war certainly provided entertainment for the masses, but it also importantly served to more fully endear each celebrity to his fan base.

As brands, the war was a good idea for them both.

Who Are They Talking To?

Think about it. Piers Morgan’s fans and followers are probably more typically left-leaning folks with similar views as Morgan’s. They too probably found Robertson’s comments offensive and cheered Morgan’s outrage.

Further, consider this: Morgan’s first tweet about the subject was retweeted over 1800 times and favorited by over 1400 followers. It was really only after his tweets were picked up and subsequently broadcast on Twitchy and elsewhere that the negative reactions really started (which he seemed to enjoy anyway).

Prior to the greater broadcast of his tweets his audience was limited to mostly his followers and fans: people who agree with him.

Likewise it is safe to assume that the followers of Charlie Daniels are his fans: people who buy his albums and enjoy his music. They also probably have the same ideals and values. We could further assume they are more right of center in their politics.

So in other words we have two fan bases. On one side are those sympathetic with the plight of gay people as they struggle for acceptance and rights. On the other side are gun-toting conservatives who most likely agree with Phil Robertson’s original statements and respect his right to say them.

What better way to make these groups more loyal than to pick a fight with the figurehead for the opposite group.

And that’s exactly what Daniels did.

The war was brief, but it was all that was needed. Daniels quickly became the champion of the right and Morgan solidified his position as leader of the outraged left.

In this example, this brief Twitter war was good for the respective brands involved, but this isn't always the case.

Not For Every Type of Brand

Twitter wars are dangerous. Recently Walmart found out the hard way not engage in a fight with a celebrity when Ashton Kutcher nailed them about their low wages. Likewise, it would make no sense for retails brands to get in fights with each other.

But in some contexts, Twitter wars make sense. In the weird world of "celelbritydom" it can work—as I think it did in this case.

Likewise in politics, these types of brief interactions can serve to strengthen a leader’s position among his or her followers.

While I doubt that Charlie Daniels sat down and thought about getting into a Twitter war as a means to create more loyalty or attention from followers, that is what happened anyway. In Morgan’s case, howerver, I think he’s a savvy enough self-promoter to see the great opportunity it gave him.

The lesson for brands and marketers is to first consider who your followers and fans are and what their values are. If there’s room for controversy then look for opportunities to create it. However, consider the dangers of getting into a war and looking like Walmart did—clumsy and arrogant.

About the Author

Dr. Clinton R. LanierDr. Clinton R. Lanier is a researcher, author and digital media theorist and consultant. He is the owner of Word One Consulting, a small digital marketing firm in Las Cruces, NM.

Contact him at clint@wordoneconsulting, follow on twitter @ClintonRLanier or connect on LinkedIn at

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