The social phenomenon of trolling: understanding the discourse and social practices of online provocation

Vlad Demsar, Jan Brace-Govan, Gavin Jack, Sean Sands

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Despite its benefits, the online environment fosters darker consumer behaviours including conflict, revenge, and aggression. Trolling has recently entered the marketing lexicon and poses a substantial threat for consumers and brands. However, current understandings of trolling are limited by a lack of empirical research, and a focus on undiscernible ‘trolls’ and their behaviours. Accordingly, the term ‘trolling’ has become a catch-all to describe almost any online misbehaviour. This research takes a broader perspective by examining the historical and discursive conditions that have produced trolling and its social practices. Combining a Foucauldian archaeology with marketing practitioner interviews, this study contributes a comprehensive understanding of trolling as a social phenomenon, the social practices that constitute it, and how trolling is enacted within consumer-brand interactions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1058-1090
Number of pages33
JournalJournal of Marketing Management
Issue number11-12
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • brand attacks
  • brand trolling
  • customer revenge
  • online firestorms
  • social media
  • Trolling

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