I recently came across another example of meta-marketing -- the phenomenon of PR becoming the actual story. The Wall Street Journal reports on the Brew Blog launched by Miller Brewing Co. It's about beer, yes, but instead of promoting Miller's products, the corporate blog focuses exclusively on every step of arch rival Anheuser-Busch.
One may wonder whether this fixation on the main competitor shows (over-)confidence or the lack thereof. In any case, it is a bold and unprecedented move towards leading and preempting conversations about the competitor in the blogosphere. And what might easily be derided as a lame attempt to be cutting-edge, actually works. That is because the blog has a genuine voice and Miller isn't sneaky about its ownership. In fact, just the opposite: A prominent statement on the blog's homepage proudly reveals whose blog this is. Moreover, the Brew Blog introduces an element of "horse race" drama known from political campaigning into the battle of the brands. The blog doesn't have to go negative -- it suffices to leak news or to pre- or re-frame the competitor's strategic moves. Consumers may find this new playing-field refreshing and enjoyable.
tagsnds always have one big enemy," the saying goes, so why not bolster one's bravado by fighting super-transparent communication wars in the public arena? Adidas vs. Nike, BP vs. Shell, Coca-Cola vs. Pepsi, Starbucks vs. McDonalds -- who's next?
There's another thing you can take away from the Brew Blog: brands are increasingly trying to circumvent the news gatekeepers, not only traditional media but also influential bloggers. The trend goes towards fully branded infotainment. Although Bud TV failed miserably, the overriding rationale was on the mark -- many pundits predict brands will soon have their own channels (online video, radio/podcasts, TV, print) in order to get their messages to their target audiences.
Of course you can dismiss this as a serious threat to a free, pluralist society, but you could also interpret it as another twist in the saga of the "wisdom of crowds." If brands become content networks that speak about each other as much as they speak about themselves, it may indeed usher in a more balanced and transparent view that aggregates company blog, competitor blog, plus all brand rants in the blogosphere into one equalized view. Absent the media watchdogs, brands can act as brand stewards for their competitors, ultimately raising the accountability of all players in the market. Is it naive to think that more PR can lead to less PR spin?