13 of the absolute best and worst brand trolls in recent history
It's Troll Week on Mashable. Join us as we explore the good, the bad, and the ugly of internet trolling.
Anyone who's used the internet knows that brands have a complex relationship with trolling.
From restaurant chains and airlines to dictionary social media accounts and more, brands can only resist the urge to troll for so long. When they finally give in, the trolling attempt might end up a surprising success — or a face palm-worthy failure.
A troll has the power to increase respect for the brand and build a positive, lighthearted reputation. But when brand trolls cross the line from online pranking to harassment, or simply miss the humor mark to an embarrassing degree, the backlash can be fierce. Trolls can make or break a brand.
Here are 13 of the best and worst in recent memory.
The mortifying misses
Brands are notorious for killing memes and taking internet jokes too far. Here are some of the absolute worst.
Remember when IHOP tried to troll the world in 2018 with a confusing name rebrand?
The pancake house attempted to maintain an air of mystery by drawing out the reveal of "b" in the new acronym, IHOb, for weeks. In the end people got fed up and wound up uncovering that the marketing campaign meant "burgers" before the official announcement.
But before that, IHOP relentlessly teased followers with misleading polls like the one below, and painfully trolled everyone by switching the letter "p" to the letter "b" wherever they could.
In the end, the company wound up changing its name back to IHOP. What a waste!
It must be pretty shitty (LOL) trying to run the social media for a toilet paper company, but a good tip is to avoid trolling at all costs. You're literally a toilet paper brand, why are you trolling people?
Exhibit A: Charmin, the official toilet paper brand of animated bears in the forest. Oftentimes when the brand attempts a troll, such as with this anti-pumpkin spice toilet paper PSA against "basic" people, it comes across as a desperate attempt to become relevant.
Toilet paper has nothing to do with pumpkin spice, Charmin.
3. Keebler Elves Twitter
Ah, the Keebler Cookie Twitter account. A true enigma.
Tweets come from the perspective of head cookie-making elf Ernie Keebler. While the account aims to maintain an innocent voice, many of the tweets come across as perplexingly mature, which leaves followers with mixed feelings.
Others, like this troll about internet trolls, are a little too embarrassing to be considered successful. Seems Keebler was not made to play the trolling game.
4. Qatar Airways
Every so often a brand troll is done in extremely poor taste. This Qatar Airways troll is a perfect example.
When United Airlines went viral for violently dragging a passenger off one of its flights, people on social media responded with outrage. Then United failed to successfully apologize and take responsibility for its actions, and the social media meme-ing and trolling began.
Qatar Airways attempted to hop on board the United trolling train by updating its app to include the promise, "Doesn't support drag and drop." Rather than spark laughs, the troll seemed to insensitively make light of the serious situation. Sometimes it's best to simply remain quiet.
After developing a confusing "woke" stance on everything from millennials to consumerism, this brand's trolling voice evolved so far beyond what one would imagine a frozen steak's to be that it's honestly a bit stressful.
Speaking of Steak-umm, the brand recently managed to drag Pop-Tarts, known for some genuinely good zingers, down with them by getting into a weirdly meta discussion about ~brands~ on Twitter.
While attempting to troll other brands — you know, like bad ones — Steak-umm and Pop-Tarts pulled off one of the most mortifying Twitter exchanges in history. Congrats!
The respectable hits
Though it's a rare sight, there are some brands out there that have perfected the art of trolling, executing harmless trolls that are both fiercely witty and just gentle enough not to drastically offend the troll recipient's fan base.
Wendy's has been dominating the fast food troll game with blunt clapbacks against customers and competitors for years. But perhaps the most memorable Wendy's troll took place in 2016, when Burger King tried to shade the brand's "4 for $4" deal, and Wendy responded with this absolute burn.
Though the trolling mastermind has since moved on from the company, Wendy's still makes a respectable effort to troll on Twitter.
2. The dictionaries
From throwing shade at Trump's common misspellings to calling out Neil deGrasse Tyson for being a grump, dictionaries have mastered the small but powerful troll of sharing a simple definition or top word search in wake of controversial news.
Over the past few years Netflix has fully transformed into a meme account, and in the process, learned how to successfully troll.
Though the streaming service once creepily trolled 53 people who watched A Christmas Prince 18 days in a row, the brand also specializes in light trolls. For instance, Netflix continually trolls fans for their love of Riverdale star Cole Sprouse, which is basically as innocent as a troll gets.
Over the span of several months, Netflix has trolled Cole lovers with photos and memes, even joking that he was the person in charge of running the brand's social accounts. It's a cute, low-stakes troll.
The circular snack cake consistently dishes out the most embarrassing of trolls, but they're so harmless you can't help but be charmed. I mean, just look at some of these. Pure and wholesome AF.
The tech company remains relatively quiet online, but when Tim Cook trolls, he trolls with all he's got. Minutes before the 2018 Apple event, Cook, who rarely tweets, decided to troll the world with a fake Twitter DM fail.
To his 10.9 million followers, Cook tweeted "No. Who can get it here quickly?" a confusing question that appeared to be meant as a direct message. He quickly deleted the tweet to keep up the "accidental" facade, but minutes into the event, the world realized the tweet-and-delete maneuver was intentional.
The event's opening video featured an Apple employee sprinting across campus to deliver a box to Cook containing his "forgotten" clicker. Turns out Cook just wanted to drum up some excitement before the big iPhone reveal. Well played.
6. Denver International Airport
For years people have spread some utterly wild conspiracy theories about Colorado's Denver International Airport, but in 2018 the tables were turned.
The airport took the bizarre theories — about everything from the devilish horse statue outside to underground tunnels and bunkers — and created an ad campaign to troll airport attendees amid construction in the building. Now that's some next-level trolling.
7. Brands trolling IHOB
Though IHOP's attempt to troll customers with a new name was a disaster, one good thing came from the effort: Other brands started trolling IHOP's troll.
From Burger King and Wendy's to Whataburger and more, restaurant competitors didn't hold back on scathing responses to IHOP's temporary pivot to burgers. And they were all thoroughly entertaining.
There's no doubt brands are great at messing up trolls, but when a brand's troll game is strong, the world gets a little bit brighter.
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October 22, 2018 at 11:02AM