Brandjacking & Social Web Imposters

20 05 2009

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.



Brand on the Run

5 12 2008


Coca-Cola bottleThe growth in the power of brands in the 20th Century was partly achieved with the use of iconic visual imagery.  

A sugary brown drink became one of the most powerful brands in the world using visual cues.  There is a simple but distinctive colour palette, an immediately identifiable bottle and a logoscript so individual that you don’t need to read it.  The brand guardians at Coca-Cola ensured that nothing was ever displayed in a way that fell foul of the brand guidelines.   Brand guidelines are part of the culture in large organisations.  Rules on the use of the brand logo,  colour references, and how it should be displayed in monotone are ubiquitous. 

An  interesting ‘craze’ has arisen in recent years.  People looked at how brands in the digital world were copying the brand rules of the past and also how the web was impacting on the newer net-based brand logos.  For example the use of the word ‘Beta’ as a way of demonstrating how new a site was or the use of   unusual names corrupted by say dropping a vowel as in ‘Flickr’. 

People were starting to invent their own spurious logos or were using design programmes to reinterpret the logos iconic brands as if they were new web brands.  Logo 2.0 interpretations take iconic identities and play around with them.  My favourite is the one for ‘Quakr 2.Oats’.

This is harmless fun but what  is interesting is the ease with which anyone can go to the heart of what brands spend fortunes trying to protect and overturn all of the rules.

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