Brands calling each other out in advertising is nothing new. The ’70s and ’80s were chock full of side-by-side comparison ads–paper towels, cleaners, tampons, you name it–the most famous being the Pepsi Challenge. It’s often a quick, effective way for a smaller, challenger brand to outline why we should consider its products over the leading brand in its category. Even top brands get in on it from time to time, like Bud Light’s Super Bowl swipe at Miller that’s turned into a full-on, multimedia (and court) battle.
But social media kicked the discourse between brands up a notch, forcing marketers to distill their arguments down to snappy one-liners.
— Wendy's (@Wendys) March 6, 2018
This week, two snack bar brands went at each other with a different social strategy—long-winded earnestness.
It all arguably started when Clif launched its first-ever TV ad:
Then Kind Snacks posted a new spot that directly calls out Clif Bar for its sugar content:
Clif Bar promptly responded on Facebook with this zinger: “Hi! We just heard we’re in your ad! You left out, though, that Clif Bars actually aren’t a snack like Kind Bars—they’re the ultimate energy bars, crafted for sustained energy during physical activity. They’ve fueled world-class athletes for 27 years. Plus, they’re made with organic ingredients.”
Naturally, Kind responded: “So you’re saying people shouldn’t eat Clif Bars as an everyday snack because of all the sugar?”
To which Clif Bar replied: “We’re saying people should eat Clif bars when they want sustained energy to get through physical activity because Clif bars have a nutritious balance of proteins, carbs, fats, and, yes, sugar. But since you brought up snacking, we also have great products for that as well, like our Whey Protein bar (that has 5g of sugar) or our Nut Butter Filled bars, which, gram for gram, have less sugar than your nut butter filled bars . . .
“But we’re a little confused. If sugar is such a big deal to you, why did you sell 40% of your company to Mars Candy, the makers of Snickers, Skittles, and M&Ms? We’re still independent—employee- and family-owned—because we’re on a mission to feed people, nourish the planet, and make it good for all.”
DAAAAAMN! Kind then quickly shot back: “We’re not against sugar, we’re against misleading people by passing off brown rice syrup, a form of sugar, as healthy. Since day one we’ve been an independent and team-member owned company and still are.”
Oh, but there’s more. This thing is like the Buckley-Vidal debates of better-for-you snack bars.
Clif didn’t take that lying down, taking another swing: “So if you’re against misleading people then we have another question. Your bars are made with ‘glucose syrup.’ That’s typically just another name for ‘corn syrup.’ If it is corn syrup, why not just label it ‘corn syrup.’ Or are you willing to say that NONE of your products contain corn syrup? And if not, since you are not sourcing organic, is the corn you use made with GMOs? Wondering . . . ”
Kind wasn’t going to let it end there, oh no. It brought down this hammer: “The key difference is that every single KIND snack leads with nutritionally dense ingredients while the overwhelming bulk of Clif sales comes from products whose first ingredient is some form of sugar.”
Okay, honestly, it’s like watching two old relatives who totally respect each other’s point of view debate municipal politics or the best bird-watching spots on Facebook.
When asked about its approach to responding to competitors on social, a Kind spokesperson said, “Our approach is to spark and sustain a dialogue around important nutrition issues, which sometimes requires having tough conversations.”
A Clif Bar spokesperson also responded, “People deserve to know what’s in their food – and why. We start all our recipes, from our performance foods to our organic snacks, with a nutrition purpose. Every ingredient plays a role. CLIF Bar is a performance energy bar that delivers a balance of carbs, proteins and fats for active nutrition. In this case, it was important to respond directly to their Facebook post with those facts.”