The bigger they are, the harder they fall… plus they’re likely to move a lot slower too
Large name brands face a dilemma, the bigger they become the harder it is to protect their brands, gone is the time when they simply bought every URL iteration of their name to protect themselves online. With the advent of Web 2.0 & social networking, intrinsically built around two way communication, a whole new range of problems has opened up for the “brand police”, plus, with the speed of their development, they’re having a hard time keeping up… so how do they protect their brands?
ExxonMobil had a rude awaking recently when a new profile named Janet identified herself as ExxonMobilCorp on Twitter. Janet proceeded to discuss the corporate affairs of ExxonMobil and had a following of over 300 users. Often Brand-Jacking is carried out by someone with monetary gain in mind or with a grudge against the brand they’re jacking. Thankfully for ExxonMobil, Janet appeared to be a loyal employee, trying to represent them as best she could, or was she? Her identity & goal is still unknown at present, if she was an employee trying her best, then ExxonMobil were lucky, but if she were someone that was subtly giving misinformation about ExxonMobil and it’s policies then the Brand-Jacking may have had a far more damaging effect had it gone unnoticed.
Another case to hit the headlines recently was when artist Nadia Piesner created an image of a starving child holding a small dog in one hand with an Louis Vuitton bag hung over the other. This was her take on how the media glorifies the likes of Paris Hilton with massive coverage & air time, while the starving of Darfur hardly get a mention. LV were not best pleased, they immediately sent a Cease & Desist letter to the artist, to which she returned a letter stating, that this would be a violation of her right to free speech & her artwork was not a direct attack on LV or infringed their identity, to which LV returned a lawsuit claiming $20,000 a day damages. Whether LV’s course of action was correct or not is up for debate, but this case highlights the seriousness of brand-jacking and it’s impact on the business.
Another form of Brand-Jacking is linked with “phishing”, were the user is duped into thinking the message or communication is official. Spam is an obvious method, but more & more social networks are becoming targets. As explained in this Wired posting, Facebook users were duped into entering their details into a fake website. OK you think, so they can see my photos and my friends photos, no biggie, but as the post highlights, many users use the same log in & passwords for social networking sites as they do to access their bank accounts. Those that use different log in details shouldn’t be complacent though, as once the hackers compromise the facebook account, they can install Trojan Horses that track key strokes and thus bank & credit card details.
So Brand-Jacking doesn’t just steal the identity of the company & it’s brand, it can steal our identities too.
UPDATE: 9 Dec 2008
A new phishing virus named Koobface has been playing havoc on Facebook, more details here.
For further information:
Save Darfur Campaign