CONTENT MARKETING

To Troll Or Not To Troll – Is That Even a Question?

24 November 2020 | Archita for Red Bangle

Marketing is hard.

In an age when consumers are faced with a deluge of ads, marketers are racking their brains to figure out how to stand out. But what seems harder than that is trying to navigate online trolls.

 Trolls need no introduction, they are omnipresent on the internet and are generally looking to mock something or someone for the sake of ‘lulz’ or the laughs. While on the face of it, this may seem harmless, and at times necessary for some comic relief, what they do to get those ‘lulz’ ranges from taking a clever dig at someone to harassment, and at times even to violent threats.

A case in point is the recent Tanishq ad – the brand that set out to sell jewelry with the heart-warming story of a Muslim mother-in-law hosting a baby shower for her Hindu daughter-in-law. Unfortunately, the ad got picked on by trolls who were unhappy about the brand showing a harmonious union of two different religions. To cut the well-known story short, the trolling episode ended with Tanishq pulling down their ad after receiving a lot of threats.

 Walking on eggshells

By now every Copywriter working on a similar theme as Tanishq has torn, crumpled, and dumped their ideas in the dustbin. And a few bold ones who decided to go ahead, got their ideas quashed by the client, because no one really wants to be on a troll’s bonfire. 

 Agreed, one does not need to be offensive to be creative, but the paranoia is making brands err on the side of over-caution. 

 When the roles are reversed

While it remains to be seen how the advertising industry will tackle the rampant trolling issue, here are some instances of brands that put their trolls on the hot seat, albeit in a fun, tongue-in-cheek way.

 It all started when a troll called an Indian food delivery company’s app ‘useless’ during the lockdown. The post caught Zomato’s attention and they instantly hit back with a witty reply.

 The troll, who did not expect to be trolled back, ended up deleting his tweet. Zomato on the other hand gained a lot of brownie points from the netizens for their savage reply.

Here is another example when Amul came in support of a controversial show that was banned, a few years ago, for its ‘offensive content’ by the protestors – online and offline alike.

Netflix and Spotify showed us how to make light of a situation the right way when they took notice of their consumers’ behavior and took a jibe at them with these ads.

The troll-style humorous post or advertisement was not meant to embarrass the people it applied to. In fact, if anything, the brands received several replies in the same tongue-in-cheek manner, giving everyone a collective laugh at our, at times, questionably silly tastes in music or movies, which we all have – whether we admit it or not.

Been trolled, have trolled

And while we are on the topic of trolling, let’s not forget that brand wars are not a new concept in advertising. We are all too familiar with brands going at each other with the best burns, much to the amusement of their audiences – from Pepsi vs Coke, Microsoft vs Apple, The Hindu vs The Times of India, and recently Xiaomi vs OnePlus.

 However, if there was ever a way of artfully taking a jab at a rival brand – one must learn it from the BMW ad. In a heartfelt ad, meant as a farewell ode to the CEO of Mercedes, BMW thanks the Mercedes CEO for many years of inspiring competition, and cheekily suggests in the end that he is now free to drive a BMW.

Yes, it made us all tear up a bit at the end, and that is exactly why it should be taken as a lesson in how one can be funny, witty, and respectful while trolling competitors. 

 Closer home, a few years ago, we have had Zomato and Amazon engage in similar banter. This time it was Amazon that decided to take a friendly dig at Zomato for changing its logo several times in a matter of six months.

 Not being one to back down, Zomato used Amazon’s trademark A-Z logo pointer backwards on their logo and replied with: ‘You should have seen the ones that didn’t make the cut.’

To which, Amazon replied with ‘That put a smile on our face’ by adding the same pointer on Zomato’s spoon logo.

And, well, that made everyone on the Internet smile.

At the end of the day, what we’re trying to get at is this: while trolling of course has its downsides, it’s fine to have a sense of humor, as long as it’s not malicious and everyone comes out on top.

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