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The term brandjacking refers to the act of a person assuming the online identity of a company. For example on Facebook, anyone can set up a page with almost any type of name and if a page or a profile is created by using a brand’s trademark protected material in the profile picture and/or having a similar page name it may be hard to identify that it is not the real brand. Brandjacking on Facebook usually happens through a fake profile commenting on the real brand’s page answering customer questions tricking users into believing that it is the actual page responding.
Brandjacking means a brand’s trademark and identity is mimicked to deceive the recipient. When a person abuses a company brand especially for a longer period of time, it will undoubtedly raise the question of the effectiveness of the business in general. Last August, the case of a man posing as a Target customer service rep on the brand’s Facebook page went viral. Under the name Ask For Help, with a bulls-eye profile pic (Target’s logo), this man sarcastically replied to around 50 posts and it took around 16 hours until the fake account was subsequently shut down.
If brandjacking comments are inappropriate it can severely harm brand reputation. For example, @BPglobalPR is not an official voice of BP on Twitter, but it was set up during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill to satirize and criticize the situation. One of this fake profile’s tweets that went viral read: “The ocean looks just a bit slimmer today. Dressing it in black really did the trick! #bpcares”. By following the trend, the fraudulent account attracted more followers than the real BP account did (200,000 followers for the fake BP account versus 20,000 followers on the real one). While BP was dealing with this disastrous crisis, this act of brand impersonation did add oil to the fire burning BP’s reputation.
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