Myntra’s recent post on KL Rahul crossed a line and marketing gurus said online that brands shouldn’t be a part of troll culture. Social Samosa speaks to experts to find out how to tread the line between humour and trolling.
A few years ago, it was not a frequent sight that you would witness a brand or organisation bullying a person or celebrity. While brands have been engaging in harmless rivalry for eons, which is cherished by the audience online, now some brands have been accused of becoming a part of the ‘trolling culture’ and adding fuel to the fire.
On November 11, Myntra shared a Tweet that took a dig at seasoned cricketer KL Rahul. While the cricketer would have expected to see the wrath of the public coming his way after his unfortunate performance, brands such as Myntra and ScreenPatti also tried to mirror the public sentiment.
Myntra saw a lot of backlash from people, both experts, and sports fans, online and deleted the post.
So, can the brand’s tweet be called trolling?
Are brands becoming trolls?
Wikipedia defines a troll as a person who posts or says inflammatory, insincere, digressive, extraneous, or off-topic messages online.
While the audiences often react to poor movie plots and badly played sports games on Twitter and share their pent-up anger, they often forget that trained professionals have a bad day, too. However, when brands and organisations join this bandwagon, they intentionally or unintentionally normalise trolling culture.
“Some brands do really cross the line. You can nudge, you can tease, you can rag and you can rile; these are the 4 degrees of trolling. In the current case of KL Rahul, brands have tried the first three to date. This is unfair. Not a nice trend really,” said Harish Bijoor, Brand Guru & Founder, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.
“But when was marketing nice?” he asked.
“Marketing uses opportunities and moments. Today, in a very digital manner of speaking, brands are just waiting to catch a moment to get mileage for themselves. They seldom think of the star they are riding on, or their feelings and emotions,” added Bijoor.
Bijoor said that there’s ‘moment marketing vulturism’ at play here and brands need to draw the line.
“Humour is ok, sarcasm is not, riling is not and subliminal trolling is a sin of commission,” Bijoor said.
Sanjeev Kotnala, Intradia World, Brand, and Marketing Consultant said that Myntra could have given a positive spin to this setback.
“The mood was against KLR, and the anger was up within the cricket-loving-following audience. That was not a license to push the outrage. When the brand has not applauded the past performance, it did not give them the license to play in their rough patch. The message on the T-shirt could have been far better. A motivating message would have been better and maybe would have done the job better. Even if Myntra wanted, the message could have been on the front of the T-shirt and another positive at the back. KLR is the star of the country and vice-captain who had a bad day- or a bad tournament. So, what?” said Kotnala.
Brand expert Shubho Sengupta, on the other hand, said that it was a post in bad taste that went with the pulse of the audience.
“I see nothing wrong in making fun of a cricketer’s performance, at a personal level. We do that all the time. In this case, it’s a brand that did it.
But then a digital brand does not follow analog brand rules framed 50 years ago. It tries to keep a finger on the pulse of the audience and rises and falls with the flow. Bad taste? Who trolled Kohli for spending too much time with his wife? Same mamajis of morality,” said Sengupta.
This takes us back to this old debate, when does moment marketing cross the line?
The Fine Line
In the pressures of not missing the moment that has a limited shelf life, brands often cross the line. In the past, even experts in moment marketing such as Zomato, Swiggy, and Amul have failed momentarily and been at the receiving end of the public’s wrath. Brands and their advertising agencies make mistakes too.
Kotnala said that moment marketing is a twin-edged sword for brands.
“When the brands make these sarcasm-filled comments masquerading as humour, I do not consider it Trolling. Trolling, an individual does when the person is angry or happy, and it is far more acceptable. Social media is about expression- emotions, and entertainment other than information sharing. Brands trying to be agile in commenting on something topical is an open-eyed conscious decision that has passed the internal test of approvals. It then reflects internal thinking and culture. It can be appreciated or go flat against the brand,” said Kotnala.
So perhaps, Myntra’s Tweet was just another post that fell flat but has sparked an important conversation that brands need to have with agencies and marketing teams: Do’s and Don’ts of moment marketing.
The Do’s & Don’ts
Kotnala shared a checklist that brands can follow to keep them safe from controversies.
“To the brands, I consult, I recommend three things. One, keep away from Region, Religion, Politics, and Porn, along with anything that is not their category or purpose (if there is one). Please remember that Cinema and Cricket are two other religions in the country. Two, if the brand does not have anything special and worthwhile to say- DON’T. Three, check it out with the audience- like other control panels- have a panel of social media users check it out.”
Bijoor shared a simple thumb rule that brands can follow in the future.
“Brands must use positive moments. The idea should be to leave a positive feeling all around, rather than leaving a snarky feel,” he shared with Social Samosa.