Is Trolling an Online Audience Ever a Good Tactic for Branded Content?

March 9th, 2017

A couple of weeks ago a colleague alerted me to a recently launched Twitter account by a person called Figgy Poppleton Rice. I clicked on the page and met Figgy who looks every inch the archetype of a late 20something food/parent blogger.

However, it struck me that something was a little amiss when I read her bio where she describes herself as;

“Clean-eating fanatic, development chef, cauliflower connoisseur. Proud mummy to Julian, the micro-teacup Pomeranian”

Somehow it all didn’t seem authentic, especially after I noted that in spite of only being online for a few days she had already amassed around 8000 followers. The content of the tweets was little dubious too. Sample tweets included ‘Unless you are bringing me Kale don’t bother me’ and ‘This is what #heaven must look like. #Kale #Life #KaleLife #Greens #MustBeHeaven #Love #Food #Recipe #Inspo.’

It was pretty clear to me that someone, somewhere was spoofing clean eaters. However it was still a bit of a shock when a few days later Figgy announced that she was working with fast food chain KFC on ‘a clean burger’. By that she meant a burger ‘made from a chia-seeded cauliflower bun, unsweetened almond yogurt, ice cube relish, spiralized chicken breast, and 100% British kale.’

Image result for Figgy Poppleton Rice.

On this occasion I got it bang on as a video appeared in which she was describing the clean burger only to be muscled out of the way by KFC’s latest creation – the Louisiana Dirty Burger which is quite possibly as far removed from clean eating as possible.

From a content marketing perspective, it was fascinating. Figgy has a blog which to be fair is a little bit half-baked (every pun intended!) and an Instagram account too. It was all run by KFC in collaboration with its partners BBH and the PR company Freuds.

I did keep an eye on the Twitter account and noted that after the reveal the number of followers was about the same as it had been a week or so ago. On Instagram Figgy has 20k followers but in reality, her posts don’t garner anything like the number of comments that an account that size would normally attain.

Controversial tactics?

Also after the big reveal you might have expected clean eaters to have been up in arms. This didn’t seem to be the case. If KFC and its partners were hoping for a bit of controversy they will be a tad disappointed. It might well be that the social followers were bought or possibly not real.

So, what did KFC really achieve from the campaign? Well the main thing is that it attracted a ton of press coverage, including Mashable, The Sun, Business Insider and many others.

While it was amusing (even to the veggie) and doesn’t seem to have upset too many people the clean burger campaign does pose one very serious question. Is it ever right for a brand to use content in way that takes the mickey (or we could even use the word troll here) an audience? In some ways brands, have already done this for years. Take for example the Yorkie advert which implied the bar was too much for the female sex.

The lack of response to the ad perhaps shows two things. Firstly, Figgy didn’t connect with the clean eating universe. Even if a person didn’t make the KFC connection it was clear that she was no ordinary clean eater.  If it was meant to wind clean eaters up it didn’t really work. However, that might not necessarily have been KFC’s intention anyway.

Secondly it shows that brands can get away with producing this type of mickey taking content online, providing that they don’t alienate their own audience. The campaign worked because quite probably KFC lovers view clean eaters with a degree of suspicion. It played to their prejudices.

“In the U.K., food is becoming a lot more moralistic,” Jack Foley, brand manager, KFC U.K. and Ireland told PR Week.

“We saw in January that eight out of the 10 top-selling books on Amazon were about clean eating. Our whole positioning around this was challenging that joylessness of clean eating that we’ve noticed through social listening and covered as a hot topic in the press,” he said.

Given the way a successful marketing campaign often inspires similar approaches I don’t think it will be the last time we see this kind of light-hearted trolling from a brand. There’s an irony too that in age where online readers don’t seem to be able to work out what is true and what is false, a brand can successfully make a fake campaign work.

What did you think? Would you consider a fake content campaign for your brand?

Commissioned by The CMA


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