Recently, jewellery brand Tanishq released a beautiful advertisement featuring a Muslim family celebrating a traditional South Indian baby shower ceremony for their pregnant daughter-in-law. The ad was specifically for their Ekatvam (Oneness) jewellery line and was a celebration of the harmony between religions in India – a harmony that has faced numerous obstacles ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi rode to power in 2014 on an anti-corruption wave.

To nobody’s surprise, the ad was viciously trolled online with certain Twitter users (reportedly 17,000 tweets) calling to #BoycottTanishq. Following this, the brand pulled the ad “keeping in mind… the well-being of our employees, partners, and store staff.”

“The idea behind the Ekavatam campaign is to celebrate the coming together of people from different walks of life, local communities, and families during these challenging times and celebrate the beauty of oneness. This film has stimulated divergent and severe reactions, contrary to its very objective. We are deeply saddened with the inadvertent stirring of emotions and withdraw this film keeping in mind the hurt sentiments and well-being of our employees, partners, and store staff,” the brand said, in a statement.

Actress Kangana Ranaut claimed the ad glorified “love jihad and sexism”. ‘Love jihad’ is a derogatory term used to describe interfaith marriages.

Richa Chadha, found the ad “beautiful” and actress Divya Dutta, who did the voiceover for the ad said that she was sad that it was taken off the air.

“Such a massive company, such a fragile spine,” wrote actor Swara Bhasker on Twitter while author Chetan Bhagat asked the brand not to worry about the trolls as those attacking the ad “can’t afford you anyway and given where their thinking will take this economy, they soon won’t have jobs and hence definitely won’t able to buy anything from Tanishq in the future too.”

According to The Daily Switch, Titan, the brand which owns Tanishq also felt the effect of the social media hate in the stock market. A day after #BoycottTanishq trended, Titan’s share price fell by 2.58 percent. “Titan, which has a market cap of Rs. 1.09 lakh crore, saw its collective shareholder wealth be eroded by Rs. 2700 crore,” the news website reports.

A Tanishq jewellery showroom in Gandhidham town of Gujarat’s Kutch district was made to put up an apology note after receiving threats.

“Two people came to Tanishq store in Gandhidham and demanded to put up an apology in Gujarati. The shop owner fulfilled the demand but he was getting threat calls. The news about the store being attacked is false,” Mayur Patil, a police officer, told news agency ANI.

Advertising associations back Tanishq

Meanwhile, advertising associations have come out in strong support of the brand.

“The events which led to the recent Tanishq advertisement being pulled back are very unfortunate. While we respect the opinion of every individual on subjective matters, these should not descend to illegal threats and anti-social behaviour,” said the India chapter of the International Advertising Association (IAA).

“The threats against Tanishq as well as its employees, which led to the withdrawal of the advertisement, are a matter of great regret and concern,” added the Advertising Agencies Association Of India (AAAI).

Remember Zomato?

This sort of trolling is not uncommon on Indian Twitter, especially when it comes to matters of religion.

In 2019, a Zomato customer had canceled his order as it was being delivered by a non-Hindu rider. Mighty proud of his decision, he took to Twitter to announce the news.

“Just canceled an order on @ZomatoIN they allocated a non-Hindu rider for my food they said they can’t change rider and can’t refund on cancellation I said you can’t force me to take a delivery I don’t want don’t refund just cancel (sic),” he wrote on the microblogging site.

Zomato had taken a firm stand then and responded to his tweet succinctly. “Food doesn’t have a religion. It is a religion,” the company’s official Twitter handle tweeted in response. Zomato’s founder Deepinder Goyal had also stated that “we aren’t sorry to lose any business that comes in the way of our values.”

Brands get trolled in the West as well. Take Nike, for instance.

“Nike’s ‘Dream Crazy’ campaign would be a great example of this, where they went against the establishment. Initially, when the campaign was launched, President Donald Trump’s followers started burning Nike shoes which led to a drop in their stock rates. Nike still didn’t take down the campaign and showed spine which eventually led to a rise in their stock rates. Nike succeeded in executing one of the biggest campaigns that the ad world has seen. I think brands should do campaigns that they believe will have a positive impact on society and stick by it. Just doing it for shareability and pulling it down won’t really hold that brand value,” says Rikki Agarwal, Co-founder, and Chief Business and Operating Officer of Blink Digital, a digital marketing agency that works with the likes of KFC, Cadbury, ICICI, Amazon, Audi, One Plus among others.

So should Tanishq have stood by their ad and refused to give in to nameless trolls on social media?

“We have seen previous companies in the past where the stock prices have gone down due to negative sentiments from society. The Indian stock market is driven a lot by emotions and sentiments. In 2015, we had seen a similar issue when Maggi, our popular noodle brand, was banned due to high lead content in their products. The share price of Maggi crashed more than 10 percent in that period. As soon as the ban on Maggi was lifted, Nestle stock price shot up from Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 7,155 giving investors a 43 percent gain on their investments,” says former investment banker and CFO of Avalon Meta, Shashank Udupa.

“It is important to understand that the fundamentals of the company are very important when it comes to stock analysis. Short term dips in revenue due to negative market sentiments will only lead to a short term fall until the controversy lasts. As soon as things go back to normal, we have noticed the share price of a company shooting back up to its normal levels,” he adds.

There you have it – the trolling would not have affected Tanishq in the long haul. But what does it say about the state of the country when a major group like TATA gives in to nameless, faceless trolls on social media? You already know the answer to that, don’t you?