Expert Take on brands, bullies, and social media trolls

brands bullies

Marketing mavens deconstruct the ‘cancel culture’, the intent of bullies, how, when, and why brands should deal with it, and its impact on the social media presence and offline activities of a brand.

Are the bullies highly sensitive? Or are they just causing nuisance and spreading hate to seek attention t0 fulfill their ulterior motives? Should a brand deal with it or stay silent till they pass on to the next one? There are more questions than answers that surround brands and bullies.

Social Samosa in collaboration with a few of the industry stalwarts attempts to break down the trolling culture.

The Experts

The Cancel Culture

In the age of the cancel culture, when at least one brand is boycotted every other month, and this expression of protest losing its essence and reducing the value that actual concerns hold, the experts analyze and opine where it all stems from.

Lloyd Mathias says today in times of social media virtually everyone with a smartphone is an activist. We are living in an increasingly polarized world, whatever you put out there can be misinterpreted.

Karthi Kumar Marshan states there are no doubts that this culture has generated hate, but the brands need to differentiate between signal and noise.

He also believes, there is no reason why brands knowingly engaging in activities only to gain publicity shouldn’t be called out. “Doing cheap stunts (for attention) is shooting oneself with the gun. Activities for cheap attention should be trolled”.

Karthik Nagarajan mentions that we’re in a different world and here bullying is different from trolling. He cites examples such as Mr. Bajaj sharing his opinion on the Government Of India is normal in normal countries, as his company and him, both are involved in the Indian Economy.

He feels the difference between trolling and bullying is big. To threaten a brand or its store manager or to malign the brand is uncalled for.

“If you speak to someone on the street the same way you did on Twitter, you will get arrested in most countries”.

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The Action

Several brands contemplate over whether they should act on these situations or not, as in a heated situation there are more chances of making things worse when you try to make them right.

Vani Gupta Dandia believes whether you should speak up or not depends on the issue, and consider whether it is instigated by competitors or nuisance makers. As a brand custodian, it is one’s responsibility to stand up when unjustified attempts are made to defame a brand or the quality of its products.

Marshan adds that all of us who use mass media have the capacity to brutalize, and the responsibility to shape society. But one can’t bet the farm on their personal religious and political ideologies, the responsibility can be ingrained in the overall strategy of communication such as dismissing gender-bias, and more of similar practices.

One should analyze the situation when a customer is abusing, and gauge whether it’s real pain or mischief. “If it is real pain then put yourself in their shoes and deal with it, if it’s mischief then there are other ways to deal with it”.

Nagarajan reckons nine out of ten times a brand should ignore it for the time being, from a data standpoint, all of them have a shelf life of 7-8 days and a few peaks for a couple of days. And others that cannot be measured, and hence cannot be managed.

The Reaction

Marshan recites a quote by Maurice Saatchi, quite apt for the subject, “If you stand for something you will have people for you and people against you. But if you stand for nothing you will have nobody for you and nobody against you”.

The reaction of any action that brands take to act on bullies or social media trolls are going to be a polarized response on a general level, is what the experts have gauged.

Although Nagarajan also mentions that brands who stand for something certainly reap the benefits in the long term. He cites examples such as Nike’s share price dropping after the Kaepernick incident but eventually experiencing a boost in sales with the ‘Believe In Something’ campaign.

Dandia adds a brand should be prepared for a reaction, as everybody is looking for attention, but “If a brand chooses to take a stand, then the brand must do something about it. We’re not one-way communicators, we’re moderators, it’s not us who are mass communicating, everybody has a platform”.

The experts also believe that the power of trolls and bullies can be harnessed positively by brands, but it is going to be in the moment, and in the 365 days, such opportunities will arise once or twice, but this action will need courageous leaders and a presence of mind.


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