When websites first became available companies had to do with the issue of cyber squatting, where individuals with no connection to an organisation nevertheless registered obvious names for corporate websites and then sold them back often at exorbitant prices. This practice was eventually stamped out through legal channels and in some countries with the introduction of new laws.
More recently companies have had to deal with ‘brandjacking’ where an individual or individuals hijack a company’s identity and pose as representatives of that organisation within social media environments. The very nature of these environments allows ordinary individuals the same access or even better access than corporate bodies.
One example of this was the arrival of ExxonMobilCorp on Twitter last year. For a few days this was heralded as an attempt by the oil giant to engage with customers at a very personal level and to invite public debate about their business practices. The author of the post was called Janet and her profile carried the Exxon logo and a background of wall of corporate images.
The twitter biography contained the company slogan “taking on the world’s toughest energy challenges”. Although the feeds were not malicious they were not from Exxon; Alan Jeffers, spokesman for Exxon Mobil said that “Janet” wasn’t of Exxon’s public relations machinery and they no idea who she was “She is not an authorized person to speak on behalf of the company. There are several inaccuracies. We take great care in having authorized people speak on behalf of the company. We want to make sure anyone who is speaking for the company is doing so accurately.”
In case you were wondering about the image it is part of an internet craze (or meme) for reinventing logos in a Logo 2.0 style. Even the core brand identity is no longer safe from the brandjacker.