Do You Know Jack?

I was recently reading an interesting blog post on the topic of ‘Brandjacking’, and what it means for public relations professionals in terms of how they manage the online presence of brands they are working with.

This struck me as an interesting topic as it encapsulates all of the potential issues PR faces when working with Web 2.0. Is is an excellent demonstration of the democratic nature of the internet, especially on Web 2.0 platforms, in that a single person has as much potential influence and sway as a billion-dollar multinational brand. It also demonstrated very clearly the how the internet is so unpredictable and difficult to control.

The example of brandjacking (a term that was only coined 7 years ago, again showing how quickly the influence of social media has arisen) that the author used was of @BPGlobalPR, which arose in 2010 during the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

I thought this case study was a special one as the brandjacker was so successful in reaching an enormous number of people (@BPGlobalPR had 16,500 followers after 10 hours, 26,800 followers after 24 hours), which further damaged the image of BP, which was in a critical condition thanks to the oil disaster. The user now has 135,000 followers and is still active.

However this was just one person, acting either to publicize his or her own anti-oil views, or doing it just for a laugh and a bit of attention. Another kind of brandjacking I’d briefly like to mention is brand-to-brand.

Again from the oil sector, this example was perpetrated by Greenpeace, who made a fake website called ‘Arctic Ready’ to look exactly the same as Shell Oil’s site, ‘Shell in the Arctic’. On the site they published blatant anti-environment messages and allowed users to make their own fake Shell advertisements.

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This is an example of one brand piggybacking on the internet traffic of another, that has totally opposing values, in order to promote their own values. The fake site is still up and running and regularly updated. It also holds the highest Google page rank for related search terms.

The best way to avoid this happening to your brand is to already have a firm hold on your own online intellectual property. A person isn’t going to believe a faked Twitter account spreading negative press about you if they are already following your legitimate account. It is also extremely important to monitor your online presence and what is being said about your brand, so that if you find that you have been brandjacked, you can respond to it quickly. It is important to correct anything false that has been said about your brand, making clear it is a fake account and that nothing published on it is from your brand. However, if you find that you have been brandjacked, it’s probably too late to escape completely unscathed.

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