Never, Ever Feed the Trolls

Posted by on Wednesday, March 5th, 2014 in platyBlog | No Comments »

Let’s talk about this new craze all the brands are hot on; the Darth Vader of PR, like the irritating pre-Vaderfied Anakin Skywalker in Episode III… trolling. Brands are using “intentional fouls” to spark consumer conversation and gain big media exposure.

Trolling is a term used to describe behavior in which hot-button issues are purposefully used to bait readers into the conversation, provoking an emotional response.

Remember JCPenny’s “drunk” tweeting the Big Game?


First, JCPenny tweeted this and we were all like “um, looks like someone trusted their intern to tweet the Big Game. Mistake.”

About 30 min later JCPenny tweeted this and we were all like “Go home JCPenny, you’re drunk”


Then JCPenny tweeted this. All “he-he-he we got you, look how cute and clever we are with our “Go USA” mittens”


Now, during big TV events like the Oscars or the Super Bowl, most people—including every big media outlet —are participating in social conversations around that event. Knowing this, JCPenny saw it as a huge opportunity to gain a lot of attention—and it worked. Their “intentional foul” earned around 40,000 total retweets while the #TweetingWithMittens hashtag sentiment according to Topsy was 67% positive.

More recently, Mattel teamed up with Sports Illustrated for their 50th anniversary Swimsuit Issue. On the cover, Barbie accompanied by the hashtag #Unapologetic with an advertorial for the same campaign. Of course, the move spread controversy and outrage around the hot-button issue of women and body image.




“Unapologetic is a rally cry to embrace who you are and to never have to apologize for it.” — Mattel spokesperson to Adweek


Barbie’s intentional baiting around a highly controversial topic ignited so much backlash, “Barbie” was forced to write an essay on why she chose to be on the cover of SI’s 2014 Swimsuit Issue. In it she requests women be less judgmental and teach girls to “celebrate who they are.”  The stunt gained over 12,000 retweets with the hashtag #Unapologetic at 39% Topsy sentiment.

In both instances these organizations leveraged charged topics, the power of negativity and the media’s appetite to expose companies behaving badly. Bad news travels faster than good news just as consumers are more compelled to verbalize their brand experiences if they’re bad than if they’re good.

While both stunts succeeded in pulling off a ton of media attention and consumer conversation, we can’t help but think; “um okay, how does that affect your bottom line?” We view public relations as a strategic form of communication that works to build mutually beneficial relationships between brands and their consumers in which its goal is to:

• Maintain or reshape public opinion of a company, its leadership, products or political decisions
• Manage organizational crises
• Generate interest around a company’s new product/service launch

This PR tactic is one that should be used SPARINGLY and with great CAUTION otherwise your brand, like Justin Bieber, will inspire a Kickstarter project to send you to Mars and leave you there. Forever.

Checkout our approach to client public relations:

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