Look Mama, I’ve Been Trolled!

Years ago, it was every marketers’ worry that their brand will be the butt of the jokes by trolls. Today, however, trolling is almost a part of every marketing campaign there is out there. If you are thinking of trolling your own brand to get the marketing attention, read on!

Urban dictionary has it that trolling is, ‘the act of deliberately, cleverly, and secretly pissing people off, usually via the internet’. Most often, the ones annoyed are usually the brands on the receiving end and their devoted followers. Try trolling K-Pop boyband, BTS and witness the kind of wrath that follows

Nonetheless, the trolling culture has found its way into the hearts of many, marketers included, as a form of engagement and entertainment to lighten the ‘sales-y’ objective. And this is all in the efforts to stand out as a brand against competitors.


While the concept of trolling has been around since before social media days, it has become more apparent, now with the convenience of digital platforms. Brands are especially eyeing on the kind of attention it brings.

Last year, a verified but fake twitter account of McDonald Singapore tried to get into the ring with Wendy’s. Unfortunately, the thrill was short-lived and the page was eventually taken down after the McDonald Singapore put the account up for investigation. Good news is that the page got media coverage because it was like a celebrity replying to a ‘commoner’. 

Wendy’s, as the no.1 social media troll account, truly knows how to play the social media game. On top of being witty with their communication, with them actually taking the time to acknowledge the tweet by (fake) McDonald Singapore, it allowed them to surface on Singaporean’s timeline, expanding its fanbase – smart move on their part.

Over time, brands have also learnt to serve the trolls back a taste of their own medicine, instead of 100% accepting defeat. You see, the ultimate tip when it comes to trolling, is hitting your rival back where it hurts. It’s all about going for that loophole while highlighting your strength. And what have both sides got to lose, really? With the amount of attention the ‘drama’ can gain, some businesses are all for it. 

An ad by Mercedes that got trolled by Jaguar

Sure, some would advise to not fight fire with fire. The amount of damage that it could lead to could be irreversible. But then again, people live for the drama! Why else do you think Keeping Up with the Kardashians is on their 17th season and MTV actually brought back The Hills, even though we all know the reality show sort of died the minute Lauren Conrad made her exit? 

An example of two brands going at it with trolling one another


The thing about troll marketing is that it enables brands to stand out like a sore thumb amongst competitors. The sarcasm and witty liners add value, having the business come across as hip, creative and relevant. And what’s not to like when you get to mock your competition – AND have other people laugh at them too while you’re at it? 

Apart from trolling other brands, some have stepped up the game by trolling their customers. This is moving on a very fine line but oh-so-good if you are able to pull it off. Remember the SGMobile campaign? The supposed fourth telco in Singapore and their large billboard ad that was vandalized by two local influencers? The act was recorded and the two influencers posted the video on their platform, dissing the ridiculous offer from the SGMobile ad.

Upon gaining enough traction, it was then revealed that everything on SGMobile was not real and the company responsible for it was another local telco, Circles Life. The ad was meant to highlight the phone plans available out there and how Circles Life offers the best in the market. At the end of it, not only did they manage to troll their customers, but also their rivals.

So how did they do it? 

Riding on the fact that everyone nowadays records everything controversial and sharing online for the ‘likes’, they got two local influencers – who would likely pull off pranks as such – involved in the campaign. To make it more believable, they actually planned the entire “campaign” right down to the T – complete with a press release, micro website and fake social media pages, the campaign was refreshing to Singaporeans.  

If you think about it, the publicity stunt is a massive amount of effort, but it sure seemed to be worth it with the buzz created. So, in case you are considering troll marketing for your next project, you should also know the risk behind it all. The last word you would want your brand to be associated with is ‘lame’.

The tweet that got Wendy’s its first backlash.

The thing about having a reputation of trolling, apart from being consistent, is that others are waiting for their turn to get back at you. Even the maestro, Wendy’s twitter, have experienced a downfall

With troll marketing, it is important to maintain authenticity and still retain the persona that represents the brand for consistency. You need a team of daredevils, fast thinkers and a perfectionist who would have done all the background check to ensure facts have been checked. Trolling your group of 6 friends is not the same as the entire nation, or another brand where the public have set eyes on. 

At the end of the day, the objective of marketing has always been to trigger an emotion or action from the audience; making troll marketing a great alternative clickbait. 

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