Some brands should allow themselves to be 'jacked'

Some brands should allow themselves to be 'jacked'

Summary: Essentially, brandjacking is the unauthorized use of a company's organization or brand. It happens more often than not but in some cases, is it always bad?


Ever since "Janet" fooled us all into thinking she was the official voice of Exxon Mobil the socialsphere has been atwitter with the newest buzzword -- brandjacking. Essentially, brandjacking is the unauthorized use of a company's organization or brand. It happens more often than not but in some cases, is it always bad?

I say no.

Case in point, AMC's "Mad Men". Over the last couple of weeks several of us fans were thrilled to find the characters of the popular show using Twitter to communicate with the shows fans. One of the comments I made in an earlier blog post:

Some brands should allow themselves to be ‘jackedÂ’Now, I have no idea if these character Twitter feeds are AMC-sanctioned or not (I DMed Mr. Draper but I did not hear back) but it doesn’t matter. All of them are tweeting completely in character. There is no break. There are no sneak-ins of the true personality of the user(s). I actually feel like I am interacting with the characters on the show and, as silly as this may seem, I almost feel like I am there with them at Sterling Cooper when I am reading their tweets. Never mind the fact, of course, that I don’t think Don Draper would ever be bothered with Twitter even if they had it in the 1960s… If this was sanctioned by AMC it is simply brilliant marketing. If it’s not, I think the channel should promote the feeds anyway.

Well, it turns out these antics were not sanctioned by AMC and the cable channel issued a DCMA takedown notice that forced Twitter to temporarily suspend many of the in-character accounts. This created a lot of backlash among the show's fans and newly converted Twitter followers.

Clearly, AMC thought better of this and it was reported late last night that the characters' Twitter feeds were reinstated. A very smart move by the cable channel. And I was pleased that I would continue to see the smiling face of Paul Kinsey on my Twitter feed.

What fascinates me the most about this little Twitter escapade is how receptive people were to being followed by a brand. Most of us shun companies who blatantly try to promote their brands through unsolicited Twitter adds. The "Mad Men" characters, however, were embraced by its fans. I also firsthand saw these efforts convert TV watchers who previously didn't even know of the series' existence into fans. As evidenced...

Some brands should allow themselves to be ‘jacked’

This got me to thinking... is brandjacking always negative? While public big business corporations (i.e. Exxon Mobile) need to especially be careful in policing their communications streams, perhaps private companies, some consumer brands and entertainment companies could benefit from having overzealous fans spreading the word and endearing themselves to other users. "Mad Men" certainly did.

What do you think?

Topics: Hardware, Mobility, Networking, Telcos, Social Enterprise

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  • Allowing your brand to be jacked

    I think the primary concern for an organization would be that of control. It's a win-win as long as things are going well, of course, but what happens when the unpaid maintainer decides to go completely rogue? This could either be intentionally, baiting and switching to a more hostile personality, as a trolling mechanism, or it could even be unintentional. Imagine a case where the creators of a show have plot points and other secrets with which they want everything to remain consistent.

    This brought up the idea in my mind of a more malicious form of brandjacking, with a sharp bait and switch. What if your competitors (or someone hired by them) takes up your brand on a social network, acts within reason for a period of time to build a following, and then proceeds to drive it into the ground?
    • Very good points

      There are definite risks. In the case of "Mad Men" they need to watch it closely. Perhaps what a brand could do is closely monitor it rather than initially react with a DCMA, but then could react if something got out of hand.

      I pondered the idea that this could be used as a marketing tactic. "Apparent brandjacking." But seems a little unethical.
      Jennifer Leggio
  • RE: Some brands should allow themselves to be 'jacked'

    brandjacking sounds like borderline piracy. if it were allowed as a norm in business practice and upheld in court the brand owner can also be held liable for not taking reasonable measures to protect from brandjacking
  • Oh, noes! I've mis-represented myself as a <i>fictional character</i>

    Actually, I could easily see some corp or other getting upset over bad representation, but the <i>Mad Men</i> blogging sounds more like fan art. Personally, I'd want to identify any brand-jacking as just that. Perhaps only once, and let the gullible think as they will.
    It's <i>War of the Worlds</i> all over again.
    For legal reasons, businesses should seek to protect their brands, but they should also avoid being @n@l retentive about harmless fun or information. It's free promotion.
    • Yup

      I couldn't agree more.
      Jennifer Leggio
  • Its all very well... allow the use of a device by unauthorised persons when it promotes the holder of the device, but...

    Doesnt that create a viral 'monkey see, monkey do' culture?

    Its a bit like one of those moronic Coors ads where the guy does the deep cinema advert voice, gets rapped by his mate for doing it and then they both laugh because some blonde bikini does it too.

    Thats great, every time someone imitates the real advert, it promotes the product or brand.

    But when the brand IS the product it fails badly and misrepresents - much like all the teenagers quoting 'am I bovvered' making the original tedious and irritating within a very short space of time. It is the very mechanism that drives viral video on YouTube for example, and it is already being manipulated for monetisation.

    So in my opinion, only brands that represent a product or service should allow a certain amount of aping as it promotes rather than spreads the concept.