Brands use it to interact with customers, maintaining real time conversations, employing memes and one-liners that have the capability to go viral. Brands (and their reps) aren’t taking your shit anymore.
It’s morning in America, and Target has announced that they are phasing out gendered signage in their kids departments. Panic ensues, because Target has abolished gender, I guess? The threatened villagers grab their digital pitchforks and descend on Target’s Facebook page to leave a nasty comment for all to see. It’s kind of like the electronic version of “I’d like to speak to a manager. Well then I’d like to speak to your manager.”
People with confederate flags as their profile pictures threaten to never grace Target stores with their presence, much preferring to buy bedding at stores that acknowledge the sex of their children. Alrighty! From over the horizon comes a mysterious figure, clad in the familiar red and white circles of Targeé, who goes by the name “Ask ForHelp”
This profile is, in actuality, some guy named Mike Melgaard posing as a Target Customer Service Rep. He leaves biting remarks, personal insults, and quick comebacks, with that frustratingly detached and eternally perky client-facing tone.
These responses go viral, racking up countless shares and mentions. Actual Target representatives delete Ask ForHelp’s comments, but by that point, every single one has been screenshotted and catalogued. Target releases a generic apology and the entire incident seems to have wrapped itself up.
Until Target drops this later that day:
The caption! The dated Titanic reference! The fact that troll dolls themselves are inherently ungendered! Target’s getting its shady, shady groove back!
This troll response to the original troll responses goes viral. It’s like inception for trolls. Or Jurassic World, when Chris Pratt and the dinosaurs join forces. The trolls and the brands are working together for the greater good. What an exciting time to be alive.
Obviously, certain brands can get away with this kind of attitude. These corporations are huge, their profits are huge, they sell products that consumers, well, consume endlessly. They can afford to make fun of a few lone complainers if the payoff is a swath of the internet deeming them “cool” and therefore elevating their brand. Other companies will be hesitant to jump on this bandwagon, and that’s probably for the best. I fear the day that walking into a store to return something risks you becoming a Snapchat meme.
As for me, I probably won’t be sending disparaging tweets to big brands anytime soon (not that I ever really did) but I will be eagerly watching from the sidelines as others do. I’m going to be busy going after that Gender Neutrality Engineer position at Target. Beige, shapeless robes for all!
Tim Singleton is an intermediate designer at 88 Creative. You can troll him on Instagram here.