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With a number of brands falling into the trap of online trolls many a time, as seen in quite a few recent instances, leaders and experts—during a discussion on the topic ‘Art of making troll-proof content’, as part of the BuzzInContent Conversations—discussed if brands must be mindful of such social media police. 

Speaking during the discussion, Rahul Welde, EVP, Digital Transformation and Digital Business, Unilever, said social media and technology are big enablers for brands to win the hearts and minds of the consumers. “A key aspect of marketing is to play a relevant role in popular culture. What it means is that we must be able to participate in what’s happening at the moment, what’s popular and leverage it to make the brand stronger. Therefore, content must resonate, must inform, must entertain but most importantly, it must leverage social media technology, which is a big enabler for brands to win hearts and minds.”

Resonating with Welde’s words, Raj Nayak, Founder, House of Cheer, and Former COO, Viacom 18, said one must not be bothered about trolls as they are mostly paid and are not organic. He said a brand must have a social responsibility, which should be reflected in communication.

“If you’re a brand, you must not only take advantage of the popular culture but as a brand, you also have a social responsibility. I think some brands have taken a decision that they will impact society through their messaging. I think it’s a good thing. Brands today speak about brands with purpose, organisations speak about having a purpose and I think it’s important and needs to reflect in the communication too,” he said.

When the moderator, Hamsini Shivakumar, Founder, Leapfrog Strategy  Consulting, asked if brands are dividing their user base instead of uniting them by taking a stand, Santosh Padhi, Chief Content Officer and Co-Founder, Taproot Dentsu, said advertising is nothing but a reflection of what is happening in society. He said brands must be courageous and provide content that resonates with the viewers.

“If you see in our country, every month three or four religious things are happening and if this is the flavour of the nation, how can you not communicate it? If you don't communicate it, you won’t resonate with the audience. You will not be able to connect; it will look like you are talking to a foreign country. I think after 4-5 decades, we have come back to our communication by which we can communicate with the people in a much more cultural way, which will cut across all barriers and speak to them. I don’t think we can stay away from all these things; it is as good as not communicating with the people. So, brands always try to do something courageous that resonates with the consumers, and if we stop doing that, brands will stop existing and consumers will forget who you are,” he explained.

According to Nayak, one should focus on the intent of the communication. Giving examples of the Tata Tea and Google ads, he said these ads intended to bring people together. He said the brands must stand by what they communicate.

"I have been at the end of being trolled many times, especially with my last show Bigg Boss. So you have to ignore it and the moment you ignore it, it lasts for 24 or maybe 48 hours. I think brands overreact sometimes. The Twitter universe is not real, it’s not reality. It’s nice sometimes and creates an impact but if you don’t want to get there, I’m not saying you should, you can play it safe. If you take an issue and say this is what you stand for, then you must have the courage and conviction to stand through it," he said.

Adding to this point, Welde said there are millions of people who would not even be aware of the conversations on Twitter.

"From marketing and a brand’s standpoint, it’s important that you move into the real world. Not to say that Twitter is not the real world, but just having our ears to the ground in the real world will help us distinguish between what is trolling at the moment or something that is genuinely troubling the nation or people. I think there is a difference between these two things and just getting carried away by a few who can make a lot of noise."

According to Padhi, while many brand briefs emphasise the need for viral content, brands must engage the audience with interesting narratives and stories. He said if brands do want to change the world, they must also focus on groundwork.