Andrew Tate and Greta Thunberg: Lessons to Learn

A picture can tell 1,000 words they say, but a social media post can reveal even more. Former professional kickboxer and antagonistic media personality, Andrew Tate found this out the hard way. 

Tate has been a controversial figure ever since being ejected from the Big Brother House in the UK 2016, when Endemol’s researchers discovered homophobic and racist tweets, a video of him apparently hitting a woman with a belt and a then-ongoing police investigation. He rose to prominence within far-right circles through association with other known personalities of that realm and after multiple appearances on independent, online, right wing, conspiracy theory news channel, Info Wars. 

The social media influencer has since built an impressive brand as a self-proclaimed misogynist and conspiracy theorist, styling himself as “the king of toxic masculinity” and promoting the concept of an “ultra-masculine, ultra-luxurious lifestyle”.

A Brand Built on Contention

Building a brand around contention in a definite strategy that has proven to be effective by the Alex Jones, Jeremy Clarkson and Ye (formerly Kanye) Wests of the world. The issue of course is that your content has to constantly become more and more explosive, in order to maintain your audience engagement. 

In this vein, Tate decided to take on a beloved, global personality. One equally as powerful in terms of following, and yet potentially the antithesis of everything he stands for – Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg. 

As a social media strategy this is a completely sound move. Get Gretha’s attention and incite a Twitter war, and you catch the eyes of her 5.8 million followers, and beyond. But how? 

The 36-year-old influencer attempted to provoke the Nobel Peace Prize nominated teenager, with a tweet on December 27, 2022, reading: “Hello @GretaThunberg. I have 33 cars….Please provide your email address so I can send a complete list of my car collection and their respective enormous emissions.” 

The no-nonsense 19-year-old gave a simple reply: “Yes, please do enlighten me. Email me at smalld**[email protected]”. 

Getting the Right Attention

Debate arose around whether this was a childish retort from a young woman showing her age or one of the best responses to ever grace Twitter’s platform. Either way, it got the attention of the media far and wide, which one can only assume was Tate’s plan. 

Whether or not this was the right kind of attention is, again, debatable but Tate should have probably stopped then and there. Instead, he made the decision to continue the feud by releasing a two-minute video filled with jokes that went against Thunberg’s environmental messaging.

He begins the video blowing cigar smoke proclaiming, “release some greenhouse gasses” and describes his “extensive car collections” as “running on dead dinosaurs”. He continues by making a crack at the young woman’s appearance, stating that he doesn’t want “to assume her gender, I mean obviously it’s 50/50”, before calling for someone to “bring me pizza and make sure these boxes are not recyclable”. Pizza boxes are then brought into the camera shot, to add effect.

The following day, Tate was arrested by police in Romania on orders of the Directorate of Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism  (DIICOT), along with his brother and two women, on charges of human-trafficking, organized crime and rape. Many speculated that the authorities knew he was in Romania and were able to find him due to the pizza boxes used for the gag in the response video, which came from Romanian restaurant chain, Jerry’s Pizza

On hearing the news, Thunberg’s simple reply to the video read: “this is what happens when you don’t recycle your pizza boxes”.

Lessons Learned for a Branding Perspective

Regardless of the details of the situation as a whole, and irrespective of personal political or moral viewpoints, there are many lessons we can learn from a digital marketing, social media and online reputation management strategy perspective. 

Within “social media wars” there is always a balance of power and it’s important to know when and how to respond to criticism. More often than not, it’s important to face negative posts against your brand head on, but it’s vital to respond in the right way. Will your response endear you to your target audience or make them disengage?

In this example, Thunberg as the respondent was seen by many as the winner, because her answer was not only witty but short, sweet and to the point. She displayed and aire of calm nonchalance and turned his mocking on its head. Meanwhile, Tate’s long video insulting Greta personally presented him as aggravated and petty, and ultimately the weaker of the two – not a good look. Even for someone whose brand is based on controversy. In terms of numbers, Greta’s two tweets received a total of 447 million views – nearly twice as many as Tate’s. 

Of course, over 200 million views are not to be sniffed at. Even for an influencer with 4 million followers, this is a substantial achievement, but of course there are two sides to this coin. On one hand, that’s a huge amount of engagement. On the other, the antagonist of the story ended up in a foreign prison cell, potentially facing a sentence of between 15 and 20 years – so was it worth it? 

Details Can Be Everything

It’s vital to know where and when to make this opening gambit. Arguably, goading a fellow influencer to try to reach your audience further is not the best thing to do when you have been involved in a criminal investigation for the past eight months. 

Additionally, if you’re in the country where that investigation is underway, perhaps its best to avoid using an item that places you in that region at that time. In fact, this opens up a wider issue that needs to be considered when broadcasting anything on any platform: always be aware of your surroundings. 

In 2021 BBC Wales viewers were shocked and amused during an interview with guest, Yvette Amos who was displaying an ‘adult toy’ on the shelf behind her while she spoke earnestly about issues with unemployment during the Covid-19 lockdowns. 

Always check. See what posters and pictures behind you say in case slogans are against your brand. Be sure that the products you use are from companies which share your values. Don’t use a pizza box that places you somewhere you perhaps shouldn’t be. 

Be Clever and Courageous, But Be Careful

Social media professionals and influencers are often applauded for quick, witty responses. Being sharp and funny can gain you a lot of respect and if it goes viral it can create an impressive following. 

Yes – it’s important to respond as soon as possible but don’t let yourself panic. There should always be time to sit and ask yourself the important questions before reaching for the keyboard. 

Is it really worth responding?

Should it be in text, image or video form? 

Is what you’re saying going to garner the correct response from the correct people? 

…and isn’t it just better to put the pizza boxes into the recycling?

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