Can social media trolls be good for business?

Art and Social media combine-Finnish artist Jani Leinonen uses big global brands in his art

Social media trolls are generally a species to be reviled but at Cannes International Festival of Creativity, delegates were being urged to embrace a particular sub-sect of the species – the Corporate Troll.

The Corporate Troll, a campaigner, artist, or group who calls companies out on their ethics in innovative and disruptive ways via social media, should not be closed down by brands but used as a force for good within business to drive change and aid self regulation, brands were told.

Finnish artist Jani Leinonen, who became famous worldwide when he “kidnapped” a Ronald McDonald statue and threatened to behead it in a video created by his self-styled “Food Liberation Army” told Cannes Lions that his continual use of brands in his art is because they resonate brilliantly for everyone globally.

“They are like building blocks of our identity, “ he says. “We were all raised with them. It’s a global identity.”

Leinonen pointed out that brands should try to look at the troller from an opposite view than they do now. Why, he questioned, can they not look at them like a best friend? “I love it when I am behaving badly if a friend will step in and say: Jani you are out of order – stop that.”

Most brands’ default response to the corporate troll is to shut down disparaging content and ignore or not engage in a dialogue but at Cannes the message was, it’s time for a different approach.

Eka Ruola, Chief Creative Officer of Scandinavian-based ad agency Hasan & Partners, said: “Once you put yourself out there as a company it is like swarm intelligence. People are going to point at product flaws or bad behaviour, so why don’t you use that for good?”

His advice is to be prepared for the disruption from Corporate Trolls when it comes, listen, embrace the criticism and never hide.

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